Friday, May 23, 2014

The Well-Traveled Tomatoes

So as I mentioned, Mr. FC&G and I recently took the rare opportunity for three weeks of travel before gardening season began.  Hopping into our newer-used SUV with our bicycles and suitcases in the back, we headed for Key West just hours after my last class of the semester adjourned.

We weren't worried about the garden.  The potatoes were planted, the carrots were started, and we had three weeks until the final frost date for our zone.  We had handed off a tray of basil and Red Pear tomatoes to my folks, and my Dad immediately took charge of those.  So there should be no problem.

We hadn't even traveled an entire day when disaster struck.  As we were walking into a hotel room in Chattanooga, I checked my email, and a set of 12 tomatoes that I had ordered way back in January had just shipped.  I won't name names, but I will say that this major garden company should have known perfectly well what the USDA growing zone was for Ohio, given that they were shipping from Pennsylvania and that they promised to ship for delivery at the proper time in the recipient's growing zone.  Three weeks before the final frost date is not the proper time.

Of course, I freaked out, and I freaked out long enough and loud enough that my dear husband contacted his parents, who live near us.  My in-laws jumped into action, and when the tomatoes arrived on our doorstep three days later, they were there to collect them.  My father-in-law went the extra mile on this one, too:  he decided the nursery pots would leave the poor tomatoes root bound in the ensuing three weeks, so he repotted all of them into large peat pots.  When my in-laws went away for the weekend to see our nephew graduate, they took my tomatoes to spend the weekend with a friend who has a farm and who promised to play the guitar for them and sing them lullabies.  

Meanwhile, back in Indiana, my folks were hard at work following my instructions that the Red Pear tomatoes should have a chance to dry out a bit and grow some deep roots.  My Dad put them on a strict rotation of watering and days in the still-chilly sun, and both sets of parents emailed regular pictures of their respective tomatoes while we were still on the island.

On the way back, we stopped in Knoxville to see my best friend from college, who has turned into a superlative gardener and cook.  She asked if we would like a few tomato plants to take with us, and of course we said "yes."  We came home with three tomato plants that were already setting blossoms.

In the following week, we collected tomatoes from the parents, took delivery of another shipment from Iowa (from a company that can actually read a growing zone map), and we started transplanting our well-traveled tomatoes into their garden home, along with a few volunteers that had sprouted in our pepper plant containers while we were away.  At last count, the main garden has 21 plants and five volunteers, with two more plants in containers.

The last two years have been miserable tomato years for me, and I spent the entire spring broadforking the soil, lightening it with peat moss and crushed leaves, and hoping for the best.  This year's crop has the best start ever.  If I don't get a good result this year, it won't be the fault of those who so lovingly cared for the tomatoes when they were babies!

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