The Tomato Plant that Wouldn’t Die
Let me preface this by saying I like tomato plants and gardening. I don’t set out to kill plants. In fact, any errant plant that pops up in my garden I’ll allow it to grow and until it shows me it’s a weed, then it’s history. Currently, I have honeydew, cantaloupe and acorn squash thriving in my garden I didn’t plant. All you composters out there, don’t compost seeds. What does all this have to do with a tomato plant?
Plenty. Gardening is a major love of mine with the tomato plant being the heart of the planting season. The tomato plants always produce plentifully ensuring late summer batches of salsa. This year was different for several reasons. A healthier eating style encouraged me to plant almost every vegetable we’d regularly consume. Put in two extra gardens to handle the demand, and planting a few melons along the fencerow. I have two major enemies of young plants, rabbits and my dog.
The rabbits enjoy new plants and seedlings while my dog alternates between watering them and nipping off the blossoms. My answer to these problems was chicken wire and bobcat urine. Each bed had an impenetrable fence worthy of Fort Knox. A heavy dose of bobcat urine powder kept the varmints away. Didn’t do much for flying insects or birds, though. A bird net went over the fencing.
I only planted two tomato plants in my garden, a cherry, and beefsteak one. Last year, my overabundance of tomatoes had my neighbors eventually hiding from me when they saw me with my tomato basket. Two plants should be more than enough for two people.
Something weird happened this summer. It rained. Might not sound like a big deal to you, but drought and triple-digit temperatures are the norms for central Indiana. Cooler temperatures and constant rain had my beefsteak tomato plants leaves turning up. Always on the lookout for any type of disease, this had me searching the gardening sites for answers. The plant could be suffering from anything from insect infestation to a fungus that would contaminate the entire garden. The same garden where herbs, peppers, and broccoli resided. Similar to all those who search symptoms online I assumed the worst, a fungus that would cause my garden plot to be unusable for years!
The beefsteak tomato plant would have to go before the garden was history. The website advised cutting open the roots once you pulled up the plant to check for the fungus. A contaminated plant would have an oozy black interior. My enormous plant spread about five feet wide. It took some effort to cut back the branches even to get to the stem. I lifted the much smaller plant to the picnic table for the primitive autopsy. A slender cut with the steak knife revealed a green interior oozing water. The plant wasn’t sick. I’d ripped a vigorous, growing plant out of the ground. Killed it. I was a plant killer. A very bad thing to be when you’re a gardener, a plant lover.
Embarrassed at my misdiagnoses, I stuck the remnant of the plant back in the ground and watered it. Stupid Internet site. I reviewed other causes of folded leaves. One reason was the plant was getting too much water and not enough sun. Hmm, that sounded more likely than the garden killing fungus.
As for the plant, despite ravages caused by a paranoid gardener, the plant continues to grow and produce tomatoes like crazy. Then there was the day I found the evil tomato caterpillars. My shrieking startled the neighbor’s dog. My dog knew I took my gardening too seriously and only opened his eyes from his prone position on the lawn.
Now, I like to take a live and let live attitude about most creatures, but tomato caterpillars do not get that luxury. The little beasts met their death under my flip-flop. As for the plants, they’re doing well-producing dozens of tomatoes. My hardy beefsteak plant has returned to his overwhelming size despite my vicious pruning.
Consider that rabbits, a grazing canine, weird weather, the dreaded tomato caterpillar and a neurotic gardener all plagued the defenseless vegetable plant. It deserves a shot of plant food and should be immortalized in gardening history as the plant that would not die.
Author Morgan K Wyatt came into gardening organically, as a farmer’s daughter. Her favorite thing about gardening is the miracle of the seed, which is why she prefers to start plants from seeds. She’ll also never pull a volunteer veggie, but will transplant it to the appropriate section. When not elbows deep in the soil, she writes romantic suspense, contemporary and sweet romances. You can learn more at www.morgankwyatt.com.