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AL (For red_trillium)

My partner's been calling this "the story of the little tomato that could".

Last year, I tried starting some old heirloom tomato seeds indoors in a large pot in mid-spring.  They weren't having any of it.  But the pot was right next to some other plants, so I let habit take over and kept watering it.  Mid-summer, one lonely little tomato seedling sprouted.  (This was before I got my new cell phone/camera, so I have no pictures at that point, though it looked like any other tomato seedling.)

The plant grew very slowly at first.  Come late September (which is early fall in Milwaukee) it was about the right size to put outside, if it had been spring.  But it wasn't spring, or even summer.  So it stayed in the pot in my windowsill.  And it grew.  It survived the coldest winter nights, when we were wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants inside because there's only so much a furnace can do when the temperature plummets suddenly.  And it started to grow faster.  By January, it badly needed to be staked up, but all the tomato stakes were frozen under snow outside.  So we raided the basement, found an old pool cue that would need substantial work to be usable again, and used that.  The pool cue was clearly labeled "AL"  Suddenly, the tomato plant had a name!

It kept growing.  Even though the kitchen is large, I started to hear muttered comments about the plant trying to take over. 

It set flowers, and I started to think I might get tomatoes indoors--and we almost did!  Some tiny tomatoes formed, then, despite regular watering, they wilted, along with most of the leaves at the ends of the plant.  It was rootbound, and barely February!  We had to repot it, so we did.

Now, it was too heavy to keep on top of the TV, so the TV got moved above microwave.  And it kept growing.  It was so tall that when it finally got warm enough to move it outside, we had to hold it at knee level to not knock off the top of the plant, despite our tall doorways!

I always plant tomatoes deep, it helps keep the stems steady and encourages growth, since the buried stems quickly develop more roots.

Outside, it first lost a bunch of leaves.  (This is common--plants make leaves sturdy enough for the weather conditions; leaves that grow with never a heavy raindrop, indirect light, and no wind are too fragile to last long outdoors.  Another set of flowers mostly fell off.)

But new leaves sprouted and new flowers blossomed.  And it grew!

Here is the plant today.  Despite the tendency of tomatoes to spread outward instead of upward, it's nearly as tall as my shoulders, and as wide as my "wingspan" in both directions. 

Now it has at least a dozen large green tomatoes, and it already gave me one very tasty ripe tomato.  All tomatoes can split at the top like this if they suddenly get hot wet weather; this is a Cherokee Purple, which are especially susceptible to splitting like this.  But I have a special delight for growing purple veggies, and really like the flavor of this variety. 


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 12th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Oh very neat! I've been wanting to do some gardening, but I uh.. know absolutely NOTHING about it, and I'm reluctant to just dive in and learn through experimentation. I think my plan for the summer is to dig up some beds, and do research over the winter, so I'm ready to hit the ground running in the spring.

...and you're in Milwaukee? I'm just south of Kenosha. :D
Aug. 12th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
Cool! I understand Friday is Art Day http://syndicated.livejournal.com/gaiatribe/62985.html, and I had thought it would be cool to get together with other artists I've been talking with on LJ; didn't know if any were near enough to make it even remotely possible.
Aug. 13th, 2009 07:36 am (UTC)
Gardening can be fun and doesn't have to be difficult. If you want to start basic and low-muss/fuss you can buy a bag of potting soil, set it on the ground and cut 2 to 4 holes in the bag & plant a few things directly in the bagged soil. Tomato plants are good to start with, just be sure to stake them up (take a couple of long strong sticks about 1/4 to 1/2 inch away from the plant stalks and loosly tie old nylons or yarn around the plant stalks & stakes/sticks). If you are a beginner gardener start with seedlings you can get at Farmers Markets, garden shops or hardware stores. When you get used to gardening you can buy seed packets, they are cheaper and better value for money.

I believe there are some good beginner gardener blogs. It won't help for timing for what you need to plant when, but if you need some inspiration over the winter we are going into Spring right now. The Garden NZ site has a lot of info, some "how to" videos and "grow your own" section with basic info about growing different kinds of plants. There is even a "garden doctor" with info about pests and soil problems/solutions. Good luck with your gardening (next year I suspect)!

Edited at 2009-08-13 09:00 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 12th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading!
Aug. 12th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
I am amazed too! I would never have thought of doing that. I hear, though, that in places with no frost, they do just keep growing. I hope that tomato tasted great (I imagine it did!)
Aug. 12th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
It did! I put it into a one-dish meal with onions and garlic and about 5 fresh herbs from the garden and steak and peas. And some cherry tomatoes, 'cause that's all that was ready from the garden in the way of other tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were just there, but this tomato was great in that dish. I can't wait until I get some more ripening!

Edited at 2009-08-12 09:02 pm (UTC)
Aug. 13th, 2009 07:19 am (UTC)
Yay! Thank you for this gift. :) I loved the story of the plant as well as seeing the plant picts and the tomato. :) Definitely inspirational! I can't wait until my little seedlings pop their heads above the soil. I went out and watered the plants the other day. It was a bit dry and I figured it would be good to start the watering now, just to be sure that they were getting a good start. Of course, it rained that night.

I'm getting excited about my new dwarf nectarine and peach trees. They have flowers! But since it's the first season I know I'm supposed to pull the baby fruit off so the tree gets a better start :S
Aug. 13th, 2009 08:50 am (UTC)
nectarines and peaches--yum. We can't grow those here!
Aug. 13th, 2009 09:03 am (UTC)
Can't grow them? Bummer! Why not? I honestly don't know a lot about the seasonal requirements for them. I live in a low-frost part of the country but these ones have a low frost requirement. It's very humid here too though so I need to spray some fungucide. :( I don't like spraying and try to not do it as much as possible but every year get really bad mildew on the dahlias and tomatoes so try to get at least one or 2 fungucide sprays in a season to keep it down on the peach (I have one peach I've had for a few years, the dwarf ones are new this year).
Aug. 13th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)
"Frost" is a danger here in autumn and spring. In deep winter, things are just plain frozen solid. My roses all get a deep pile of autumn leaves as a mulch to help them survive the winters, with no guarantee that all of them will make it even so. Apples grow up here, and some plum varieties. Mulberries, of course. But most of the fruiting trees require much warmer winters.
Aug. 13th, 2009 10:09 am (UTC)
Ah, that makes sense! :)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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