11 July 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: The Case of the Barren Tomato Plant

Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there. 
~ Thomas Fuller

o you remember that Smith Barney commercial with the stately old guy who looks at the camera, leans in, and says:

“We make money the old fashioned way.  We earn it!”

Last weekend, I felt like that guy.  Only instead of earning money, I earned a tan, some burned calories, and even a buried treasure!

With Independence Day being in the middle of the week, I had decided to take some time off to relax.  Apparently, my idea of relaxation is to work in the garden, drive up and down the I-495 beltway, and help one of my best girlfriends move ~ all on one of the hottest weekends on record in the Old Dominion.

So much for relaxation!

The driving up and down and moving part of the weekend happened Friday afternoon through Saturday night.  So all day Thursday and Friday morning I was free to work in the garden. And digging in the garden is relaxing to a point, I must say.  There is something satisfying about pushing a shovel into the soft earth, pulling up weeds, and talking to the plants and any butterflies or dragonflies that may wander by.

But it’s not all cooing and sighing over green growing things.

Some of those green things are monsters that suck all the nutrients away from my precious tommy toes, basil, and rosemary plants.  Green monsters like this guy:

I don't know what your name is, but you need to leave this patch NOW!

And the bane of my gardening existence:

Hell thou name art crabgrass!!
Once I got to digging, pulling and pitching, there was no stopping me. I loaded up the wheelbarrow and started another pile just over the border of the garden.  I even accidently dug up some Paperwhite bulbs.  And then I saw it.

Buried treasure!

Didn't George Washington make bricks?  I bet he made these!
There used to be a brick fire pit in the area next to the garden.  And the base is still there ~  handmade Virginia brick from who knows how long ago.  What a perfect place to build up a little bench and water feature!  One itty bitty problem: I’m trying to be sustainable, eco-friendly, and as off the grid as I can be without sacrificing style or comfort.

So off to the garden center I went to find out more about how to build a water feature without electricity.  And what is the first thing I see? 

A magnificent fountain? 

Well, yes.  But run with electricity.  And no, that’s not what I mean.  I saw . . . .

Tomato plants.

In flats.

With tomatoes on them!

With my mouth hanging open, I pointed at the plants and said to the resident garden guru:

Me: “ You have tomatoes on those plants!”

Guru raised her eyebrows. This customer must be a city slicker. “Yes?”

Me: “I transplanted my tomato plants about 4-5 weeks ago – no tomatoes!”

Guru’s face shows relief (She's not a crazy!) and curiosity: “Did you fertilize them?”

Me: “Yes”

Guru: “Are they planted in full sun?”

Me: “Yep.  Cheerful pause. And I water them faithfully every day – sometimes soaking them for 4-5 hours.”

Light dawns in Guru’s face, as well as, what is that….pity?

“Ahhh.  They’re drowning.  Most people kill their plants with overwatering than not watering enough. 

Me: Crestfallen face.

Guru: “No worries. Just let them dry out for a couple of days.  And then only water them once or twice a week.”
So on the hottest weekend on record, I neglected my garden.  On purpose.  I felt wretched.  What kind of gardener turns her back on her plants when it’s 105 degrees!?  This must be how parents feel when they have to discipline their kids.  It’s for their own good.  But man, does it feel counterintuitive!

When I returned late Sunday morning, I raced to the garden to see how it had fared without me and water for two days.  And what do you know?

It worked!

My tomato plants had been healthy, but still kind of scrawny.  Now most of them were robust, stretching up, up towards the sun, and at least 3 of the bigger ones had tiny yellow flowers all over.  And you know that that means ~ the tomatoes are coming!

After this latest learning adventure, I will definitely be able to say that I got these tomatoes the old fashioned way.  I earned them!

By the way, my friend got moved back down to Virginia with nary a mishap and lots o’ sweat. 

Oh, and the fountain idea?  The garden guru had some interesting things to say about it.  More on that next week!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Have you ever killed a plant by watering TOO much?

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