Tammy SchmittTrouble in Tomatotown

I’m done growing tomatoes. I’m done dealing with all the tying, staking, and supporting. I’m tired of furry, rat faced, bastard squirrels that take a single bite of a perfect tomato before flinging it to the ground. I can tolerate the tomato hornworms because I fill my platform feeders with them so the birds can feast. But I am absolutely fed up with all the damn diseases and plant problems that plague these vegetables.

get outSo I’ve kicked them out of the garden. I have no desire or compulsion to grow a water hogging, squirrel magnet, disease sponge of a plant when the Jamaican Tomato Man at my favorite farmer’s market will do it for me. But don’t think I haven’t tried.

Tomato 'Mortgage Lifter' seedlingsI grew my Mortgage Lifter plant from a disease resistant seed strain and had high hopes for absolute tomato amazingness. I shared the extra seedlings with friends.

Tomato Mortgage Lifter failureBy September it was so wretched I ripped it out. Despite keeping the bottom stems bare to provide strong air circulation, blight kept killing off the leaves from the bottom up.

P9070071When the Jamaican Tomato Man told me his Mortgage Lifters were as underwhelming as mine, I was relieved but all desire to continue growing tomatoes had been squeezed right out of me. Instead, I took home a variety of tasty, delicious fruit sold at his stand.

mortgage lifter 2014To ensure absolute tomato perfection, I grow them in pots to avoid soil borne diseases. But of course, this means I need to water them constantly. The tomato plants slurp up water like an elephant at a watering hole while the squirrels hide in the trees waiting to dine. Squirrels are jerks.

super squirrelTo guarantee our sometimes stormy summers don’t knock the plants over, I stake them to giant 6 ft tall poles that have been plunged deep into the depths of the giant pots they’re grown in. To support the heavy fruit and long branches, I ensconce the entire plant – that I’ve grown from seed – in giant, heavy duty square cages purchased from a fancy gardening catalog. But of course the branches far exceed the capacity of all this rigging to bend and break at the cage edges. My only recourse is vengeful pruning and snarky side glances.

keeping score-1But I will miss buying the tomato fertilizer Mater Magic, simply because I no longer have a valid excuse to ask my family, in my best deep country slang, “Anybody seen my Mater Magic? I need it fer my maters!” Ignoring the fact that the word ‘mater’ makes my skin crawl, it always made for a bit of fun.

maters framed-1

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Tammy Schmitt

About Tammy Schmitt

I am a passionate middle school teacher and gardener. I've gardened in South Dakota, South Carolina, and in upstate New York near the Canadian border. My current garden, in an overdeveloped suburb near Washington DC, has been my most challenging. My desire to create a true refuge for our native birds and butterflies has helped me battle unpredictable weather and compacted clay soil. My garden isn't perfect, but it's always a beautiful escape. Read my full blog at Casa Mariposa.

8 thoughts on “Trouble in Tomatotown

  1. Made the same decision this weekend. This year I spent around 3 months preparing a new area for my final try at growing tomatoes – loads of compost and other goodies, checked the ph, bought really good plants from Diggers, planted in mid November after all frosts had passed. Watered as required, fed fortnightly with fish emulsion, worm wee, special tomato fertiliser.

    All went really well for about 4 weeks, then leaves began to die from the bottom. Some fruit formed but anytime there was even a sign of ripening they were pinched by possums or developed horrible marks and splits. The only way we’ve been able to eat any of the fruit has been to pick them as soon as any colour appeared and then the taste is not as good.

    Will maybe keep trying with cherry types but no more large varieties for me. Very disappointing after trying for more than 15 years …….

  2. Ha! A woman after my own heart. We must have been writing about tomato growing dread at the same time. I published a post on my blog two days ago about this same topic. My problem wasn’t pests, rather split skins. Anyway, here’s my rant if you’re interested: ‪https://ambradambra.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/home-groan-tomatoes-a-labour-of-love/ ‬

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