There’s a new tomato-grower born every minute

Roma tomato green on vine

There are actually three Roma tomatoes there.

Just how long -does- it take to grow a tomato?

When I read through the Now Growing list this morning, it struck me that that Roma tomato in the Topsy Turvy on the patio is the same Roma tomato that first showed up on June 7. It’s now the 22nd of June, and that Roma tomato still looks very green and not very big. Is it growing? Is it plastic?

I don’t even like tomatoes. But I do make one kick-butt pasta sauce from scratch. And to do that I need more than three runty poorly motivated Romas.

I’m not letting logic get in the way of a fine obsession. I know full well I could go down the road to the grocery store and pick up a couple of jars of perfectly good pasta sauce. I could even go back to the Produce section and hand-select a couple of dozen freshly arrived Romas in a little eco-compatible biodegradable seagull-friendly tray, and make my sauce from those.

But where’s the fun in THAT?

Actually, a little logic is already in play. The tomato plants in the house are leaving as fast as I can find them new homes. They’ll produce fine big red juicy Beefsteak tomatoes for someone, someday. For now, I need them to go away and quit making my eyes itch.

Why, then, am I growing tomatoes, if they make my eyes burn like a bad hay fever attack? Because “everyone grows tomatoes.” Because “tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to start with when you’re learning to garden.” Because I fell for the hype.

And I’ll probably do it again next time. Fall for the hype, that is.

The Edible Exodus Part 1

Topsy Turvy Zucchini (left) and yellow squash (right)

Yesterday afternoon, we pressed into service three of our seven Topsy Turvy® Tomato Planters – one for a then-small-now-large Roma tomato plant that we bought at Home Depot the middle of last month; one for the zucchini bought near the same time, and one for one of the yellow squash brought up from seed that has been taking over the dining room windowsill one inch at a time.

The box hints at great success.

You may remember how I mentioned, in the Rules for the Amateur Gardening Game, not to buy out the stores of any idea in particular. Actually I said “Don’t buy two when one will do, especially if your first instinct is to buy ten!”  – and I meant it! And I forgot it immediately when I saw a big sale on these planters, even though I had yet to try out the one I already had. Addendum to the rules: Do as I say, not as I do – and I admit that I forget to re-read those rules.

Speaking of reading: The first instruction on the device was to “Read all of the instructions before proceeding.” They mean it. Read, believe, read again – and prepare stuff ahead of time, like the hook on which to hang what will be a pretty durn heavy bag of dirt with a plant sticking out its bottom. When you finish reading, get out the handy hints brochure written by the inventor, and read that a couple of times, too – two pages crammed with insights!

Now there’s a good possibility that we were not doing this entirely right. It took two of us to wrestle the first plant – the Roma tomato –  into the Topsy Turvy® Tomato Planter – gently so as not to break off stems and branches and each other’s fingers.

Roma tomato

You have to put the foam collar on the plant BEFORE you put dirt in that bag. Yes, I read that instruction, too. I just managed to forget it between the time I read the instructions and found myself elbow deep in a plastic bag full of dirt with a plant sticking out its bottom.

We gently stuffed each plant into its own container and hung them up on hooks on the patio, west facing so the 6-8 hours of full sun is more likely. Once they were up in the air, it took some creative thinking to get the water up into the top of each unit to soak the soil without soaking the very short gardener (that’d be me). Since I can’t fly, we settled on building a low platform of concrete blocks, sturdy enough to step up on, wide enough that I’m not acting like a gymnast on a balance beam, and waterproof enough that it’s no biggie if the plants piddle a bit.

And piddle they did. Enough so that a few minutes after we’d finished cleaning up our workspace, the zucchini and yellow squash had attracted a family of curious robins, who sipped and feasted until chased away by a very short, still-damp gardener (that’d be me again). A few leaves didn’t make it through that encounter, but the next morning all three now-topsy-turvy-transplanted plants were still alive, and just a bit worse for wear. Despite transplant trauma, birdie visits and our persistent wind, they’ve survived the first 24 hours.

HINT: It helps to have two people and a few plastic grocery bags. Wrap a bag loosely around the exposed stems, leaves, and branches, then put the foam collar in place at the point where the rest of the plant will be buried in soil. Keep the plant upright, root ball down, while the other person lowers the bag over the plant. Guide the bag through the bottom hole until the collar is at the hole’s exit. Remove the bag carefully, bringing the leaves and branches free without tugging.

Topsy Turvy® Tomato Planters is a registered trademark of Felknor Ventures, LLC. Photo of front of Topsy Turvy® Tomato Planters product box may contain portions of copyrighted images.