There's something exciting about firsts. The first day of school, the first snowfall, the first bloom of spring and now, the first tomato! This is my tomato. This is my first ripe tomato on a tomato plant that sits on the deck at the back of our house. Now I realize that today is only May 21st, so before you start thinking that I am all green thumbs, let me tell you my tomato growing story.
I love the idea of fresh produce. In my vast imagination, I have a beautiful 2-acre yard outlined with decorative raised beds. The beds are planted with a large array of organic vegetables - enough to produce a bountiful harvest on which we could survive for the entire winter. But, alas, I live in a typical neighborhood with a suburban-sized lot. The homeowners association doesn't allow vegetables in the front (the sunny side) and the shade and clay soil make a garden in the back an impossibility. So here I am, left with just a deck which, at best, gets half a day of sunshine.
Two years ago, however, I decided (despite the disagreeable conditions) to try my hand at growing tomatoes. At a shopping trip to Home Depot (I'm a one-stop shopper), I picked up six tomato plants and some marigolds. I planted three tomato plants in each large pot and planted the marigolds around the edges to keep out the animals. I stuck a tomato cage in the center of each pot and hoped for the best. My husband pointed out that they weren't "Big Boy" tomatoes like his mother grows. (Home Depot only carried "Better Boys"!) The "Better Boys" looked great for awhile, until I got busy and forgot to water them a few times. They did perk back up with a little TLC, but by the first frost, I only had a handful of tomatoes to show for a summer's worth of effort.
Last spring, a package arrived at our doorstep. It was from the Burpee Seed company. Unbeknownst to me, my husband, who was still dreaming of the softball-sized tomatoes of his youth, ordered three "Big Boy" Tomato plants. I think his instructions to me were something like, "Don't touch my tomatoes!" My husband thought that growing tomatoes was easy. My husband thought that growing tomatoes was easy because his mother (my mother-in-law) has some sort of mystical powers that cause things to grow. Her tomatoes grow bigger and her flowers bloom brighter than anyone else's on the planet. How else can one explain this 5'2" woman raising a son that hovers at 6'3"? She has even been known to bring dead plants back to life! So last summer I watched from a distance as my husband tended to his tomato plants. Well, apparently tomatoes aren't so easy to grow. And apparently, when it comes to Miracle-Gro, more is not better. At the end of the summer we harvested two tomatoes.
Fast forward six months. On an April shopping trip to Costco, I noticed a woman pushing a cart with a large plant. Upon closer examination, I realized that this was no ordinary plant. This was a full-grown tomato plant with green tomatoes already on it! I knew I had to have one. I immediately ordered my husband to push the already heaping cart and carry the large tomato plant to the check-out. I gingerly placed it in the back seat of the SUV, re-planted it in an even larger pot and crossed my fingers. Surely, this time I would get it right. So here I am, one month later, with my first ripe tomato.
My husband claims that it is really his tomato, since he carried it to the check-out, paid for it and poured the extra dirt in while I held the plant upright. Maybe he's right. Or maybe, just maybe, as with so much of life, a little teamwork goes a long ways.