|Why yes, yes those are pipe cleaners holding up my tomato plant.|
I bought a tomato plant at a local gardening center and installed it in the terra cotta planter. I jabbed a metal tomato cage into the dirt to support the plant as it grew. Voila! For the next few weeks I babied the plant, watering it regularly, applying tomato-specific plant food, and helpfully poking the tomatoes with my finger as they developed. Finally, a couple weeks ago, I picked a ripe tomato and proudly placed it on the kitchen counter. A few days later, I cut it open. It was green on the inside. Son of a biscuit!
Meanwhile, many of my friends and co-workers were busily harvesting beans, zucchini, squash, and so forth from their abundant gardens. And all I can manage is a single tomato plant. I'd love to have a vegetable garden but a) I don't know what I'm doing and b) I have three big dogs running around my yard. I have one small corner of the back yard, surrounded by garden fencing, where I've planted perennials. Gretchen jumps into the garden about eighty times a day (in order to bark at passing traffic), trampling everything I try to grow. I, in turn, lean out the back door every time and yell, "Gretchen! Get your ass out of my garden! How many times do I have to tell you?!" She cocks her head and stares back, unmoving, as if to say, "Who is this 'Gretchen' of which you speak?"
For the next tomato I picked, I let it ripen longer and indeed, it was not green when I sliced it. It was delicious. Shortly thereafter, a storm blew through and my tomato plant was leaning precariously to one side. Ever the quick thinker, I grabbed a bunch of my daughter's multi-colored pipe cleaners and lashed the main stalk of the plant to the deck railing. I congratulated myself on my ingenuity. However, another storm blew through and the upper branches of the plant (which was now about five feet tall) became bent. By the time I figured out I had a problem, a main branch had started to die, taking half a dozen tomatoes along with it. I desperately tried to save it. I knew I needed something straight and sturdy to prop it up. I found a neon orange Halloween pencil in my daughter's room and tied that to the bent branch. I think you'll agree that this is what any reasonable person would have done. Alas, it was too late. I cut that branch off and tossed it over the fence into the side yard so that my husband could deal with it.
Even without the dead branch, the top of the plant was still too heavy to remain upright. Had I taken thirty seconds to do a little research, I would have known that it is pretty standard to shore up tomato plants with stakes and such, and that most gardeners are fully prepared for that. There are two types of tomato plants: determinate (will stop growing at some point) and indeterminate. Apparently I have the latter, as I have every reason to believe it will take over my 'hood by the end of summer (a la Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors). Since I didn't have a stake, I rummaged around in the basement for a substitute. A-ha! PVC pipe from an agility weave pole set. I stuck three poles together into one long one and jabbed it into the planter. Again, what any reasonable person would do. I then used some additional colorful pipe cleaners to tie the plant to the agility pole. So far, so good. Tomatoes continue to appear on the branches and I, in turn, poke them and urge them to ripen faster.
Last Saturday, I took A to the farmers' market downtown. I couldn't help but notice that one can buy a huge, healthy, ready-for-slicing tomato for less than a buck. Huh.