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For Love of a Tomato

May 31, 2011
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I love tomatoes.  Love them.  So much that the day my sister decided she liked them too is like a dark blotch on my childhood, since that meant fewer tomatoes for me.  These days, I’ve forgiven my sister, but I’m dedicated to my favorite farmer’s market stall through all of tomato season, buying pounds and pounds of tomatoes each week to eat in sauce, sandwiches, panzanellas, and sliced, sprinkled with salt.  As you might imagine, my tomato habit is a little extravagant.

So I built my first garden.

It’s not actually that simple.  I’ve been reading about small-space gardening for more than a year, trying to figure out what I could grow and how.  You see, though we have a small yard, it’s almost completely shaded, which tomato plants don’t like at all.  And in the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I don’t have the happiest track record when it comes to growing things.  Lots of good intentions, lots of failed herb gardens.  I had planned, originally, to grow my tomato plants in large planters or buckets, set out along our sunny front porch – but did you know that those are hugely expensive?  And since nothing I read could guarantee that anything larger than a cherry tomato would thrive in a container, I reevaluated.  I started tomato seeds in February, consulted my gardening bible religiously, and babied my seedlings with a combination of the sunniest window in the house and a desk lamp clipped to the curtain rod overhead.  A couple of weekends ago, my seedlings looking a little desperate to break out of their half-gallon milk jug planters, I made a decision.

There’s a small strip of soil (maybe 4 feet deep in the widest place) along the sunny front side of our house where our landlord had planted lavender and several wild-looking, spicy-scented bushes, which were overgrown and weedy in a charming, English-country-garden kind of way.  I love these bushes, but I love tomatoes more.  I cold-heartedly ripped them out of the soil (a process that left every muscle in my body sore for more days than I’m willing to admit), laid down a thick layer of newspaper mulch, and built my garden over their carcasses.  (Don’t worry.  The lavender is unhurt, and I left it one of the wild, weedy bushes for company.)

I had some serious doubts about the state of the soil, so I built a raised bed of stacked cinderblocks and filled it with garden soil from the local hardware store.  To be honest, the hardest part of the process was figuring out how many cinderblocks I would need to build the bed and how many cubic feet of soil I’d need to fill it.  Math and I have never been on easy terms.  The whole process – the dreaded math, buying materials, tearing out the bushes, constructing the bed, and planting my seedlings took about a a day and a half.  I was, admittedly, exhausted by the end of the weekend, but I was also amazingly proud of what I’d managed to do all by myself.  In a weekend.  With no hammer or nails. 

And all for love of a tomato.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sonya permalink
    May 31, 2011 10:27 am

    A girl after my own heart. And pretty resourceful too. Your tomato plant looks happy which, to me, is the single most important element for the production of a delicious and nourishing plant of any kind. It surely must mean that its caregiver is happy too. But back to the quantity of tomatoes you actually consume. Yeah! There can never be too many tomatoes.

    • Ashley permalink*
      June 15, 2011 8:50 am

      Never, ever can there be too many tomatoes. I wonder where I learned THAT particular motto…

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