JUNE 2011

October 1, 2011

I bought four small tomato plants at Stong’s, a local supermarket, in early June. The foxglove plants I had been growing in the bed beside the cedar hedge, third-generation offspring of the abnormally tall eleven-footer of 2009, had not come up well in the spring. Only three of the six plants from the preceding year–all of which were disappointingly average in height–had come up at all, two at one end of the bed and one at the other, with a large gap in between. So I ripped out what remained of the foxgloves and replaced them with the tomatoes.

This was the first time I had grown tomatoes–although I had sometimes watered the single tomato plant that my mother had brought home one day the previous summer and placed on the back deck, that she sometimes let get dangerously dry, to the point where I felt compelled to intervene. The plant grew quite tall, about a metre high; but it yielded only two, very small, green tomatoes, that ended up freezing during an early-fall cold snap before they were anywhere near ripe.

The four tomato plants I bought consisted of two each of two different varieties. With no real experience growing tomatoes, I didn’t know what I was buying; but I thought a little variety might be interesting, gastronomically-speaking, and also prudent, horiculturally-speaking. I didn’t know whether tomatoes of any kind would grow in that narrow bed, that received so much shade from the hedge running along it, and, by buying two different varieties, it seemed I was increasing my chances that at least two of the plants would do reasonably well. The pictures of the two varieties, on the plastic tags stuck in the little pots in which the plants were sold, seemed very similar. Both were pictures of ripe, red, tomatoes, surrounded by lots of leaves. There also was some text, including the names and basic descriptions of the varieties: I recall that one was said to be of an ‘early’ variety which, because of Vancouver’s relatively cool summers, seemed like a good choice. Yet, knowing little about tomatoes and tomato-growing, the words meant little to me, and I based by decision about what two varieties I should buy, of the half-dozen or so varieties that were being sold, mainly on the pictures.

As soon as I got home with the tomato plants, I planted them, spaced equally along the bed, with about eighteen inches between each plant, the two varieties alternating. With my nose close to the little plants as I bent over them to plant them in the bed, I noticed, for the first time, the distinct, tomato, aroma of even these little plants, with no tomatoes to be seen. I stuck the plastic identifying tags in the soil beside their respective plants. Some dowels, each about two feet in length, that would serve very well as the plants’ supports, at least initially, had been tucked away beside the shed for the past couple of years, the remains of a broken, wooden, clothes drying rack one of our former basement tenants had left behind when he moved out. It seemed all those dowels could one day be useful for something, and now they were. At this very early stage, with the plants only three or four inches tall, they didn’t yet need any external support. Still, in anticipation of what was to come, and because they helped to make my little row of plants look more like a row of tomato plants, I pushed one dowel down into the soil beside each of the small plants. (At this stage, I didn’t even bother to attach the plants to the sticks.) I now had myself a proper row of tomato plants.

The day after I bought and planted the little tomato plants, I started to look into various possibilities for the fertilization of the plants. Neither Mum nor I had fertilized the single tomato plant that grew on the back deck last year; but I had picked up somewhere that tomatoes could benefit from fertilizer. There were a couple of different kinds of fertilizer in the garage, the remains of some of Mum’s gardening efforts many years ago. Despite its colour, that initially suggested to me this substance had nothing to do with the good health of tomato plants–or with the good health of those consuming tomatoes from those plants–the blue crystalline fertilizer, in a half-empty, large, white plastic bag, at first seemed like the best bet. It said on the bag, in bold type, that this concoction was good for tomatoes–and I put my trust in our government regulators of fertilizers and such that it wouldn’t hurt me, in the process of being good for the tomatoes.

Unfortunately, when I first tried using it, I discovered that this fertilizer was, for the most part, as hard as a rock, the result of age and probably also of the dampness in the garage. The first time I fertilized the plants, I used it anyway, collecting loose crumbs from the bottom of bag; but, a few days later, seeking a better alternative, I came across Mum’s Miracle-Gro in its little yellow and green box on a shelf in the kitchen, that she still occasionally used for some of her indoor plants. It said on the box that it was “all-purpose” and, if I had any doubts that it was good for tomatoes, the Miracle-Gro was blue and crystalline, like the fertilizer in the garage–although still usable. (My logic at first seemed foolish, even to me; however, later on, I did a Google search and learned that the distinctive blue colour was not from any of the vital ingredients of either fertilizer but, rather, was from a blue dye, presumably harmless, that fertilizer producers use to distinguish fertilizers with certain qualities, to avoid errors in application. It’s basically a good idea, consistent with how we, or at least I, conceptually group things of like colour. But you’d think that, for fertilizers, especially those commonly used by home gardeners, they’d use a colour other than a colour that reminds me of toilet-bowl cleaner.) From then on, my tomato plants were fertilized with Miracle-Gro. (Mum didn’t miss the relatively small amount that I used from the still almost-full box. I did tell her about using it after the fact, and she didn’t mind.)

The instructions on the Miracle-Gro box said that, for outdoor plants, it should be used at a concentration of one teaspoon per gallon of water, and that fertilization should be done once every two weeks. For the first couple of months, I stuck to this basic regimen; but, later on, once the plants were much bigger and were bearing tomatoes, I increased the frequency to once a week, and added an extra half-teaspoon of Miracle-Gro to the water in the gallon-sized watering can. The tomato plants seemed to take well to the increased dosage. Also, my pot of mint, that I’d been growing for the past couple of years without fertilizer, and that I doused with some of the Miracle-Gro water on the days when I was fertilizing the tomatoes, loved the stuff. As the growing-season progressed, the mint had never been so tall and so lush.


One Response to “JUNE 2011”

  1. I enjoy your work , regards for all the great content .

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