My childhood summers were spent in my grandmother’s garden where she had what I now recognise as a talent in gardening. She grew corn, watermelon, artichoke, beans, lettuce, plums among many more – and it all tasted fantastic. My mother has mostly channelled her energy into flowers, but has been similarly successful. Having lived in the cities all my life, I decided that lockdown in the countryside would be the perfect time to see if I too had these magical plant-growing skills. Unfortunately for me, I think it may have skipped a generation.
With lockdown in full swing, in April 2020 I decided to begin my tomato-growing journey (fair warning - expect to see a lot of pictures of plants and tomatoes in this article). I had visions of agricultural greatness. We live in an area surrounded by fields of corn and barley – endless greenery which seems to grow effortlessly. I told myself it couldn’t be that hard. With encouragement from friends, I planted my first few seeds. I didn’t really think they would grow. The excitement when four little seedlings sprouted up was palpable. How proud I was of my seedlings as they grew on the windowsill! It wasn’t until I had to move them into larger containers that I really considered where I was going to plant them to actually produce fruit. I didn’t actually have room in our garden, so I bought some grow bags and soil. I read a couple of articles and, armed with some gardening gloves and two small helpers, we transferred the seedlings into their forever homes. Then, the aphids moved in. After seeking advice from those more knowledgeable about these things, I concocted a soapy spray and fought against those leaf-eating pests.
As we were all in seemingly endless isolation, many pictures of plant progress were exchanged. It was only when I realised one particularly dear friend had a greenhouse full of person-height plants that I began to worry. My tomatoes didn’t seem to be doing very much; there weren’t even flowers yet. Oh, the disappointment! Of course, I didn’t let that affect my optimism. We bought some tomato food and continued our tomato-growing mission.
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Slowly but surely, one of the plants sprouted some more leaves. Then the others did too. Eventually they even had flowers. My kids were more than excited about the beautiful yellow flowers. Yet I was preoccupied by the fact that nothing else was happening. All around me, I heard about the great tomato harvest of 2020. Every morning, we would go out and check if there was any sign of a little green tomato, until one day we were delighted to see one. Seeing that small, green fruit was a highlight, but then came the next hurdle. As the green tomatoes multiplied, they were not turning red. I decided to sacrifice our grass and moved the plants to a sunnier spot. Some began the transition to red, and thus we had a harvest that lasted all the way until September.
Never have I been more excited by cherry tomatoes. One child ate them daily while the other, less keen on vegetables, actually tried one for the first time. It was a thrilling (tasty) time. Despite grand plans to repeat the crop, growing on a larger scale in 2021, somewhere along the way we got side-tracked. It came in the form of a naughty puppy who wouldn’t leave any new plant alone. Now in 2022, armed with slightly older children, a (nearly) well behaved dog and some tomato seedlings we will repeat our journey once again. We have even added some peppers and a pumpkin plant this year - wish us luck!
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