Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Expectant Gardener and the Mystery of the Bonsai Tomato Plants

I am a new vegetable gardener. This May, I became a surrogate parent to multiple tomato plants. But, after 3 weeks in the ground, nothing grew. I checked and rechecked them, questioned my ability to judge whether they’ve grown, sought measuring devices and, finally, determined that I was a failure and filled my deep remorse by replacing the plants.

Those did not grow either.

It might be the soil that caused retarded growth. My husband, Fred, ordered 5 yards of top soil from a local “Dirt Dealer”--a guy in a hat and raincoat carrying an attaché case, who whispered the password, “Salsa.” To me, top soil means rich, dark, moist, nutritious dirt that my tiny seedlings would wallow in...like the stuff you buy in bags. When Fred directed the truck and dumped the dirt in my raised garden bed, it looked more like road dirt to me. Or Moon dust.

But the plot thickens...

One day, mid-May, after my morning stroll around the garden, I saw two robin’s eggs lying near my tomato plants. No nest. No sign of egg yolk or embryonic bird. What could that possibly mean? Something's got my tomatoes by the roots...maybe that 'something' scared the eggs out of the robin?

...Which brings me to strange phenomenon number 2. Another morning stroll and I discovered what looked like a rabbit tail, minus the rabbit, amidst the squash. Are wild animal rituals being performed in my garden? Later that same day, I saw morning doves walking around the garden bed, pecking at the dirt. This makes me “puzzle” (like the “Grinch”)...and my puzzler is sore.

Oddly enough, there’s more.

We now have never-had-before tics in the yard. Without benefit of snow to mark footprints, I can only surmise that deer (wearing tic coats) are coming from out of the woods to look at my tomato plants...and to perhaps also party with the tail-less rabbit and the barren bird.

So, I’ve been watering the garden, despite animal refuse, and the parsley is yellowing—a tell-tale sign of an over-protective gardener. I put millorganite (hear: manure; hear: poo) around the plants and Miracle Grow-ed the buggars. Nothing grew.

As it turns out, even though it’s not freezing cold, vegetables (especially tomatoes) need heat to grow. Sure enough, as soon as we had a full week of over 70 degree temperature, things started happening. And...

After a 2-month-long labor, I’ve brought forth life...in the form of 3 tender, green Roma tomatoes. The nagging fear that I accidentally purchased Bonsai tomato plants now banished.

There’s still the bit about the rabbit tail that bothers me...but that’s another blog.

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