Shame, regret and cruelty to tomatoes

If there was a prize for worst vegetable gardener, I’d be a contender. Vegetable gardening is fundamentally incompatible with my gardening style, which consists of bursts of frenetic activity interspersed with long periods of staying inside with a good book.

Every few years I resurrect a fantasy about tending a productive garden. Inspired by this fantasy, I buy and lovingly plant seedlings, which I then proceed to ignore. If by some miracle this results in a crop, I forget to harvest. And yet, I continue to cherish the memory of tomatoes and zucchinis past.

This year I have undertaken a demonstration of how not to cultivate tomatoes. Vasili would be so proud.

Step 1: In spring, prepare garden bed, insert stakes and plant tomato seedlings (Sweet Bite cherry tomatoes, San Marzano romas, Black Russian and Green Zebra). Water in well.

Step 2: As the plants grow, fail to tie to stakes. Leave to flop all over the ground and onto the path where they can be stepped on and run over by scooters.

Step 3: Water when you think of it – maybe once or twice a month. Don’t fertilise.

Step 4: Fail to deal with whitefly infestation.

Step 5: Go away during a 40 degree heatwave. Leave plants to burn to a crisp.

By mid-January, your tomato plants will look really, really sad and you will desperately want to forget how much you spent on seedlings and compost. I am too ashamed to post a photo. Actually I was too ashamed to take a photo.

I should probably destroy the evidence of my failure and bin the lot, but incredibly, the plants are not dead. There are even some deformed Black Russian and San Marzano tomatoes and some decent looking Sweet Bites. I have decided to continue the experiment, tidying up the dead leaves, mulching, tying stems to stakes and vowing to water regularly. I even added a decorative iron finial thingy (picked up off the street) so I could tie up stems that have (ahem) take root some distance from the plant.

Maybe the plants will rally? Or maybe this will be the latest footnote in my saga of delusional vegetable gardening.

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