Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Tomatoes by Sue the webmaster

It was a mild and exceptionally dry February in Seattle this year and the audience for Renee’s talk on “starting from seed” at the Flower and Garden show was very attentive as she sowed a packet of our Heirloom Rainbow’s End and shared her suggestions for getting tomatoes off to a good start – including keeping the seeds moist and warm and providing good light. Afterwards we stuck the supplies and flats in a box in the trunk of my car, and later put it all outside on my back deck until I could get around to putting things away properly. So it was another week before I opened the box and was shocked to find a small forest of tomato seedlings struggling for air and light – pale and leggy but very much alive. They had defied everything Renee had advised – germinating in that cold, dark, dry and crowded box.

I didn’t have the heart to kill them off, so I dug out my lights and heat mat and set up an Intensive Tomato Care unit. And while I was at it, I got some Asian Trio Eggplant and Baby Belle Peppers started to keep them company and give encouragement.

By April the babies were thriving and getting quite big, so I moved them all to the old greenhouse at the close-in farm where I board my horses and there’s lots of rich composted manure to nourish greedy growing teenage tomatoes. I had no trouble finding eager adoptive homes for all but two that I saved for myself. Things were looking promising for a big crop of luscious heirlooms.

Mother Nature played her tricks on us again however and the promises of a great garden season were dashed with our worst May in memory – unending cold and rain - a gardener’s nightmare. Early planted seeds rotted, seedlings sulked, the ground saturated. My poor garden looks bare and very sad indeed.

But we Western Washington gardeners are a tough, determined, and some would say delusional bunch, always grasping at the elusive but tantalizing possibility of still getting enough sun and heat in the summer to coax a harvest of our own heat-loving veggies rather than relying on imports from our Southern brethren. So despite all odds, I planted my tomatoes out on a deceptively warm dry weekend. Time will tell – but I have a feeling these two have what it takes to make it, despite their difficult childhood, and I am rooting for them…..

So on this wet and grey Memorial Day, I can only look back at this photo of my lovely tomatoes from last year's glorious summer and remember that, for gardeners, there's always next year.

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