Tomato plants have been the bane of my existence this past summer.
My loyal readers, who have stuck with me through the various gardening adventures this past summer (from our disastrous tilling incident to the gardening update that revealed the sad plight of my tomatoes), will remember that tomatoes and my small backyard garden did not mix.
To quickly sum up what happened with our tomatoes this summer:
- We planted tomatoes
- The tomatoes died.
- We pulled up the old tomatoes, cast them aside, and planted new tomatoes.
- The tomatoes died
- We gave up on the tomatoes
Heartbreaking, isn’t it?
Most everything else did wonderfully in our garden: the basil touched the skin, the eggplants multiplied like the bunnies that so desperately tried to dig their way underneath our fence, the melon vines raced around our garden like NASCAR drivers, but the tomatoes drooped…turned brown…and perished.
My Mom, who raises hundreds of tomato plants every summer, looked at our soil, and told me that it was a fertility issue, and so I left it at that. It wasn’t my fault: it was the ground’s fault. I decided that we would augment our soil with mulch, and then next year we would have tomatoes galore.
I merrily went on with my life, until one day I stumbled across a massive tomato plant growing right underneath our noses.
It was a chilly Sunday morning, a few weeks ago, when I got up to go for a quick walk before breakfast. I wiped the sleep from my eyes, pulled on an old sweatshirt, and quietly shut the door so as not to wake up my sleeping husband. As I contemplated my route, I decided to cut across our back yard to make the most out of my walk.
We live in an old church building. Our landlord bought this old church, and divided it up into two (so far) apartments. One of the boons to living in this particular apartment is that we have a massive backyard. We spend most of our time in the half of the yard behind our apartment, and our landlord asked us to just plant our garden in our section of the yard, and not in the empty lot next to ours. I rarely go into the other half of the yard, but I crossed it to get to the sidewalk.
That is when I saw it: a massive plant encircling the air conditioner unit. Even in my early morning-before coffee-muddled brain something about that plant looked oddly familiar. As I walked closer I was hit with the smell of my childhood: tomatoes.
I yelped, and sprung backwards as if I had touched something hot. I circled the plant once more, took a quick picture on my phone, and sprinted for the house to fetch my husband. I woke him up, pulled him out the door, and, panting, showed him what I had discovered.
A massive tomato plant growing less than thirty feet from the withering remains of our garden. Quietly dropping unpicked tomatoes on the ground week, after week as we, in vain, tried to encourage life back into our sickly plants across the yard.
The only thing I can figure is that I tossed our first round of dying tomato plants (back in July) to the side of our yard, and one of them, unbeknownst to me, took root and thrived behind the A/C unit. I can’t come up with any other explanation.
We, at last, had the tomatoes we had longed for all summer long. We made spaghetti sauces, nachos, tacos, and greek salads. We enjoyed each one of those tomatoes, and when frost came we squirreled a bunch of green tomatoes inside to ripen on the counter.
Next year, I am going to buy a bunch of heirloom tomato plants from Mom, toss them in back of the A/C unit, ignore them, and wait for the buckets of delicious tomatoes that will undoubtedly follow.