June 8 2023
Who even wants to grow tomatoes, anyhow?
Seems like everyone and his brother grows tomatoes without even trying. My neighbour grows tomatoes. The lady down the block grows tomatoes. My teenage son grew beautiful tomatoes one year, and never even watered them. Rich tried a while back, and grew bumper crops of tomatoes with such ease that he quit because the perfection bored him.
But me? No sir. No tomatoes for me. I just can never get the damn things to work.
So this year, I thought, Right. I’m going to do this properly. I watched Monty Don’s video about how to make a bamboo framework for tomatoes. Not just canes – a whole framework! I researched companion plants. (Marigolds. Obvs. And Basil.) I read up on the best varieties. Chose. Ordered seeds. Sowed them. Had my loads of adorable plants all ready to go, right on time.
I entered the Designated Tomato Dome, my Tomato Plan carefully laid out in my head. I planted out my little tomato plants, all surrounded by basil – which quickly started to flower, but was looking so lovely that I left it. The marigolds went around that. It all looked great. This year, it was going to work. This would be my Year of Tomatoes.
And then I came back one morning and EVERYTHING WAS DEAD. Seriously. The basil was the most dead, but everything was more or less dead. Brown. Looking like straw.
Deady McDead from Deadville.
So, taking deep breaths through my nose, I ripped it all out. And replanted, because luckily I had overestimated and had spares.
And guess what? They died too. Or are in the long, slow, guilt-producing process of doing so, which makes me sad every time I go into the DOME OF DOOM.
So. Like a game of Cluedo, chasing down Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlesticks, Vic the Garden and I discuss the issue endlessly. Is it the soil? Is it just too hot in the dome? Do we need shading? Is it the mulch we used? Is it the watering? (I cut back the automatic watering system and started watering them by hand. Maybe too late.) Is it the music? I was playing them Barbara Streisand, which seems to be beloved by my cukes and peppers. Maybe tomatoes prefer Baroque?
And just to add to things… making all my hard work seem particularly ridiculous… the things that are working best in the garden all seem to be a TOTAL ACCIDENTS. For example, the border in front of the old stone dairy:
This is Geum Totally Tangerine. I absolutely adore its messy bed-head glamour. Wish I could take credit for that, but I can’t. I just stuck in a few tiny geums, two years back, to fill in an empty spot in front. Now, completely off its own bat, in a crazy example of right plant-right place, it’s gone wonderfully mad.
And the geum has managed to casually intersperse itself with honeywort, its exact complementary colour on the colour wheel. I don’t even remember putting honeywort IN that bed. And I certainly wouldn’t have been clever enough to pair the two together. But there they are together, looking fab. Who knew?
Then look at this – Vic the Garden chucked some leftover poppy seeds into the unused greenhouse, just on the off-chance, and look what they’ve done!
Another example: this flower is Petunia Tidal Wave Red Velour, which I would swear is an annual – but it came back all by itself this year, IN a container, and made an elegant S-shape up the wall – magic!
So all those things just kinda – happened on their own. But my tomatoes, that I loved and slaved over since early April – no. It’s enough to make me just chuck some packets of seeds around and leave everything to its own devices. Sigh..
Anyhow, the roses and lavender are finally starting to appear in the Compass Garden, so I can’t complain too much.
Oh, and look at this! I had harvested a pile of pond weed from around the fountain pump (in my never-ending quest to keep it standing up straight) pulled it out and left on the side, so any critters could climb back in before I chucked it on the compost. And when I finally moved the heavy, stringy lump of green stuff, look who I found lurking underneath it!
Here I’ve been complaining about how slowly the tadpoles were turning into frogs, and they had gone and abruptly grown up behind my back!
Wishing you happy accidents and magical meetings with handsome frogs…
Hugs from the garden,