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Tomato Chaos (March 3 Garden Project)

July 15, 2010

“OHMIGOD, this is crazypants!”

If you eagerly stick a bunch of tomato plants in the ground and it rains a lot and the sun shines a lot, they grow.  Then you come along one day in a hurry and perform triage by pushing a stake in the ground next to each plant and sorta kinda twisting one of the stems up the stake.  Then time goes by and the tomato plants flower and bear fruit and they get enormous, sending out branches every which way.  They twist and snake all over the place, pretty much ignoring the stakes and Ellen will look at the disastrous state they’re in and say to you:

“OHMIGOD, this is crazypants!”

The word ‘gardening’ needs to be understood as ‘tending’.  There is this constant care and feeding that has to happen, and our tomato plants were letting us know that we had been neglecting them.  Hey, we’re busy types and sometimes things get away from us!

So Ellen and I spent a great morning taking control of our tomatoes this week.  We sorted out which plant was which and lopped off huge chunks of them just to make sense of it all.  With the main stems identified, we were able to train them gently up the stakes.  Now they look like proper tomato plants rather than a jungle and all the fruit is safely off the ground.  We even worked our lovely home-made compost into the soil to keep them well-fed.  It was hot, sweaty work but so rewarding.  Just think, soon there will be juice dripping off our chins as we tuck into tomato sandwiches!  And there’ll be plates of Caprese salad, and bowls of panzanella and gazpacho, and…ooooh!  Yum!

Of course, there were casualties.  Stems that had to be removed often had a few green tomatoes on them.  We tortured over each cut, but at the same time cajoled each other to do it.  It was always the right thing and when Ellen suggested rescuing the little green tomatoes by pickling them with the cipollini onions we have growing, suddenly everything seemed ok.  Edit the plant for the sake of future growth, toss the greens into the compost bin and pickle the little green tomatoes.  So much thoughtful use of everything in the garden!

Here’s how they look:

Scale this March 3 Garden Project up to organic farming, which is, I guess, organic gardening in hyperdrive.  For every weed or pest or crazypants tomato plant our little March 3 garden has, an organic farm has, well, more.  Lots more.  And that is one of the reasons organic produce costs more.  It is labor-intensive.  If you doubt that, read this great article the Local Beet ran recently by Lindsay Banks.

If you are a food consumer who wants to eat organic and local rather than the pesticide-laden grocery store stuff, you need to understand this and support it.  Maybe you grit your teeth a little at the price – I can appreciate that.  But isn’t it better to pay more for healthy food and less on doctor’s visits, maintenance drugs and environmental cleanup?  Look at it as reallocation of resources.  Pretend your household is some kind of big corporation and you’ve invited a consultant in and they say to you: reallocate your resources; spend less damaging the environment and filling your body with drugs and more on the healthful fuel your body needs.

If you don’t, Ellen is going to look at you and say:

“OHMIGOD, this is crazypants!”

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