Planting Out the Tomatoes

They were ready. They were ready two weeks ago, but an unexpected series of overnight frosts kept the seedlings captive indoors, bursting from their milk cartons, falling over each other, vigor beginning to fade from this cosseted existence. Outside, I pulled a slat from the compost bin and filled my garden cart with the always surprising result of having dumped my dead leaves and rotten produce in one place. Even more surprising, this result always smelled good. It’s perhaps a proof that we’re born to be gardeners: good quality dirt smells good to everyone, even the city-born and city-bred. I spread it in the newly-weeded raised beds, and waited. Finally the north wind quit, the south wind blew in, and the frost was banished to October. The tomatoes and I advanced on the garden.

Some experts advise spacing tomato plants palatially far apart, as supposedly being better for them. But just because they’re heirlooms, surely they don’t each need an estate. I have all these plants I’ve been nursing along – am I to betray their trust and toss some of them on the compost pile, or offer them to the care of strangers? Besides, the empty space between the plants just fills up with weeds. Why raise all those weeds when you could have more tomato plants? My tomato plants will have a sense of community.

They will also have support without being in cages. I’ve never liked tomato cages. They make it hard to weed, facilitate climbing squirrels and perching birds, and tip over at inopportune moments. Besides, they’re called cages. Not a good word. I mostly use some delightful tall spiral stakes, where vines can wind their way up without having to be tied. They have a nice twirly look. Recently I have added a few tomato towers, open v-shapes, sturdier than cages, really able to hold up the bigger, fatter tomato types without falling over. I’m hoping they won’t be attractive to those squirrels and birds.

So, out to the garden and in with the tomatoes, planting them deep to let them root along their stems. I know I’m anthropomorphizing here, but as soon as I settled them in their raised beds I’m certain they stretched and wriggled their toes and fingers with delight. Or anyway, I wriggled mine.

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