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01 August 2010 @ 10:23 am
[Garden] The Tomatoes Are Coming  
I wish to make it clear that I in no way blame [dreamwidth.org profile] lolaraincoat. Sure, she was the person who said to me, "Why not plant tomatoes? What's the worst that could happen?" but I am pretty well convinced that she didn't actually know what could, in fact, happen. (She lives in Canada. Probably the plants are kind and polite and restrained up there.) Really, it was my own fault; I should have taken a clue from the fact that the national chains were all selling little ordinary wire tomato cages, but our local garden store sold only these scary thick reinforced wire tomato cages that came in two sizes: wolverine and bear.

It turns out that this is because planting tomatoes in our climate is roughly akin to keeping a wolverine or a bear in your back yard. (Obviously, which animal it is depends on what kind of tomato you plant. Because I am extremely clever, I planted both. Wolverine and bear tomatoes do not, as I have learned to my cost, fight and thus cancel each other out; instead, they team up and destroy the world.)

A partial list of things our tomato plants have destroyed on their way to the inevitable (no, seriously, I am now convinced that this is where gardening always has to go) end of civilization as we know it:
  • The zucchini plants
  • The pumpkin plant (although we did get some very nice pumpkins first)
  • The green bean plants
  • A blueberry bush
  • My first herb garden, including the cilantro, thyme, oregano and mint (yes, mint, for serious)
  • A wooden trellis, uprooted and broken in two
  • A wire trellis, uprooted and hideously warped
  • Four of the standard wire cages, uprooted, bent, broken, and smushed to the ground, to the point that we cannot be entirely certain where most of them are
  • The garden containment bricks (next year, I will see if I can't get some highway crash barriers; those seem more likely to work)
[dreamwidth.org profile] thingswithwings was telling me a while back that her tomato plants are, like, ten feet high, with tentacles visibly reaching for passersby; our tomato plants got up nearly that high, but then they crushed their supports and flopped over on the ground. They are now more than ten feet long, but all horribly intertwined with each other. This would be less of a problem if I hadn't planted many different varieties in the same area; we have no way of telling anymore which tomatoes are on which plants, or indeed which plants are where; it's just a giant lump of greenery and tomatoes. And, of course, in a feat of unparalleled brilliance, I managed to plant a tomato that is green when ripe; we've spent a lot of time staring at the garden lately and saying, "Do you think those are the green zebras? They're stripey!" We have no idea when or if we should pick one.

We have, however, picked a lot of some kind of weird tomato that it turns out is ripe when it's dark red on the bottom and sort of greeny-black on top; they are incredibly tasty, although I try to eat them out of the line of sight of the living room windows, because the tomatoes can see in through those and I am concerned they will strike back.

Another thing I should possibly have thought twice before planting is basil. See, I have always before gotten basil in pots. The process with basil in pots is, in my experience, as follows:
  1. Purchase nice, good-smelling, healthy-looking basil in a pot.
  2. (Optional) Pick a couple of leaves.
  3. Throw away dead basil plant a week later. Save pot or not, as you choose.
In all my years of buying basil plants, this never varied. I tried watering more. I tried watering less. I tried keeping the pot in a window, on the counter, in a bathroom. I tried not picking and picking leaves. A week after purchase - maybe two at the outside - I always had a dead basil plant. (If you are wondering why I kept buying things I knew would die: it's hard to believe a plant will betray you. They look so green and innocent! Come to think of it, that's pretty much the same reason I keep gearing up and heading out to my garden now.) So when I planted basil this year, I bought two plants and then added another that I grew from seed. I figured then I'd get, like, maybe FIVE leaves before they all died.

Apparently what basil really likes is to be planted outside. I put mine in a big container (because the tomatoes had already taken out most of the herb garden; this was back when I thought that was the worst they would do, not realizing they were sort of pausing and licking their chops prior to really getting down to business), and now I have a giant basil bush. I go out, I pick a little basil - not enough to make any difference in the size of the bush, but just enough to keep it sort of roughly contained - and once I get it indoors, I realize I have a huge amount of basil, such that in addition to serving it (with the tomatoes, of course) that night, I'm going to have to make some more pesto to freeze.

I tell you what: I now completely understand why tomatoes and basil so often appear in the same recipes. It's because of gardenerly desperation.

Gardenerly desperation is actually a major factor in nearly everything I do in the garden these days. I had no idea so much calamity would be involved. Gardening is dangerous, and let no one tell different. These days, I cannot believe they sell seeds without requiring a gardening license. And maybe a firearms license, too.

One of the tomato patches, early on. Later, I added further plants behind these ones. This was an error. Note the weeny wire cages.

Part of the same patch now. Note how there is one of the weeny wire frames in the photo; it is no longer connected to the ground. The other ones - the one above and the two I added later - are somewhere under the tomato mass. Near the back, there's part of the one bear-sized reinforced wire cage I bought, still holding steady. (Most of the tomatoes we've picked came from this one. Tomatoes apparently feel more ready to ripen when securely contained.)

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
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tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
Can I have your recipe for fried green tomatoes? I will need it, because soon we are going to try to pick the green tomatoes we think are zebras, and when they (inevitably) turn out not to be, we will have to use them up some way.

I am finding summer a little bit alarming, actually. I assume after a few years you get used to it? The constant fear, the way your grape vine grows a foot EVERY SINGLE DAY, the produce heaped on the kitchen counter, the way your food processor is always covered in pesto?

(no subject) - amnisias on August 1st, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sophia_sol on August 3rd, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Lauratavella on August 1st, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
My tomatoes are also a mass this year, because the climbing rose they used to use for support in their climb up the side of the house was cut back for painting.

For basil: pesto. pesto. pesto. Super simple to make, freezes well, makes for an ultra quick and tasty meal in the winter. When your basil starts to flower, it's going to bolt and lose most of the lovely leaves, so time to pesto-ize it then.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
I'm making pesto. Just, there's only so much pesto a human can USE, you know?

Next year, I am pinching back my tomato plants. They will stay SMALL and TAME. (Possibly that falls under the heading of Famous Last Words.)
(no subject) - tavella on August 1st, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dormouse_in_tea on August 1st, 2010 07:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dormouse_in_tea on August 1st, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - uncacreamy on August 2nd, 2010 12:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - amilyn on August 1st, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - malnpudl on August 1st, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Still Waiting For My Jetpackazewewish on August 1st, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
Well, at least the tomatoes killed off the Great Pumpkin Attack, right? I mean, that's something.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
True! Although I get the feeling that this is like importing an exotic animal to eat an exotic plant: we'll end up with a worse problem than when we started.

(There's a whole separate pumpkin update in the works. The pumpkin did not go gently into that bright sun.)
(no subject) - azewewish on August 1st, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Ruricruric on August 1st, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
I read your warnings about zucchini far too late. My two plants have more or less taken over the garden. My tomatoes too are obviously related to triffids. But at least I'll get a good crop of both. *G*
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
See, that has been the problem all along: I get warnings far too late. There needs to be a Garden Warnings website, where you can go and learn all of this BEFORE you put the plants in the ground.

I send you best wishes to survive your zucchini and tomato attack. Strength and courage may see you through.
St. Crispin'sst_crispins on August 1st, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
Ever hear of "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?"
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
Yes. I just didn't realize it was a documentary.
tesserae_ on August 1st, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
A friend currently cultivating a similar monster tomato patch in Hancock Park was pointing out where the weight of the tomatoes was overwhelming the stems, and I said something foolish about cages. "Hah!" he said, and picked up this vast mass of greenery to point to a flattened bit of wire. "My tomatoes laugh at your cages!"

So, yeah. Good year for the tomatoes.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
"Good year" translating, in this particular case, to "run in fear"? Because if it does, then YES IT IS TOTALLY A GOOD YEAR.

You should ask him if he's tried the cages from Armstrong Garden Center. For serious, they are like a whole different breed of tomato cage, taller than I am and sturdy enough to support a tomato TREE.
One Whose Honesty is Stronger Than Her Fear: cookingamilyn on August 1st, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know this feeling. This was a delight to read. (I'm here by way of mtgat, who said I should be reading you...and now I know why.)

I used to plant a very large garden...and I would, ever year, FORGET...and buy 24 roma tomato plants and 12 big boy tomato plants. And...I'd forget to put up the cages, so we always had the tangle that I had to wade through...UNbelievable quantities.

Then there was the year I planted 12 zucchini seeds...only one of them sprouted...and yet we had so much zucchini we couldn't even keep up chopping and freezing it all, even with giving some away and eating it and...it was amazing. That plant was like a bush by one's front door in size. If all those seeds had sprouted...the zucchini would have, as you say, marched on us to our doom.

I both wish we could still have a garden (we live in the city on a postage stamp where none of our soil gets light rather than in the country where I used to live)...and am SO glad I don't anymore because...the WORK...
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
I - I cannot even imagine a garden with 36 tomato plants. More specifically, I cannot imagine how you are still alive to tell the tale.

My mother once planted 20 zucchini plants. Shortly thereafter, some kind person gave her a book called 101 Recipes for Zucchini, or something like that. She made every one of them, but it was, as you can imagine, totally hopeless.

And hi! My journal is not always about the Green Menace. Sometimes there is even fannish content, hard as it is to believe.
(no subject) - amilyn on August 1st, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 05:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
Spectacles H. Decolonizing: tomatololaraincoat on August 1st, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, um, did I say that? That was - I'm sorry! that is, ah, well ... Oops. Really sorry.

Um, yes, up here our tomatoes don't have quite the length of growing season and so we face more problems of tomato encouragement than tomato containment. Don't worry about the mint, though - it is a sneaky fiendish plant and will reappear as soon as all the tomatoes are gone. Your dark-colored tomato is maybe a Black Krim? or a Purple Cherokee? or a Black Prince? Or possibly a Paul Robeson? (Seriously - there is a Russian tomato plant named after Paul Robeson.) They are all super-tasty. If a green tomato is stripey and also gives to the touch a little, it's probably ready to eat.

You know that you can freeze huge amounts of pasta sauce and tomato soup for laters, right? We have a handy friend who doesn't live here in the fall and early winter, so when our own freezer fills up, we leave a lot of soup and pesto and so on in his. But sooner or later gardening leads inevitably to just buying a freezer for the garage...
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 1st, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
You did in fact say that. Without a single comment about purchasing a machete, even. I realize that it's because you're gardening in Canada and thus don't know any better, though.

Um, yes, up here our tomatoes don't have quite the length of growing season and so we face more problems of tomato encouragement than tomato containment.

OH GOD DON'T ENCOURAGE THEM. What if you are the person to set off the Canadian Tomato Menace? What THEN? Just imagine your country covered in tomatoes to a depth of four feet. It could happen.

You know that you can freeze huge amounts of pasta sauce and tomato soup for laters, right?

My freezer is rapidly filling up with pesto. However, I plan to try to freeze some tomato stuff. (The great part about tomatoes, though, is just how many this family can EAT. You would not think three people, one of whom is two, could consume a dozen tomatoes in a day, but you would be wrong.)

I am also considering learning to can. Although that is probably one of those things that won't end well. *eyes garden warily*
(no subject) - lolaraincoat on August 1st, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jrprongs on August 13th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Imaginary Researcher: Rodney McKay & Radek Zelenka - zaneetashannahrorlove on August 1st, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'd say it's time to rent some goats and let them loose.

Well, at least you know what not to do next year, right?
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 05:45 am (UTC)
See, probably I'd just end up with a garden filled with goat poop, which would turn out to be a potent fertilizer just like fish poop, and then next year would be even more of a disaster.

Also, Best Beloved has made a firm No Livestock rule. She feels VERY STRONGLY about this. (And I can kind of see why; I mean, if I had chickens, probably they'd eat our neighbors or something.)
(no subject) - hannahrorlove on August 2nd, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
100% Running With Scissorsviridian on August 1st, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
Your adventures in gardening make me so determined never to garden. I'm certain I'd be eaten alive by zucchini or snap peas or something.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
Probably! Um. On the other hand, I'm still alive, and if I can live through this, anyone can.
bleedtobluebleedtoblue on August 1st, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
Apparently what basil really likes is to be planted outside.

Yes, but it will grow nicely in a pot outside, too.

I envy you your tomatoes! The one that's dark on top is probably a Black Krim, they are quite tasty! Tomato sauce freezes very nicely. My tomatoes are just starting to come on, there'll be enough for me, but not enough to share.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 05:50 am (UTC)
My basil is in a pot! Just, a very big pot, which is a good thing, because that means the thyme and parsley are still alive in there.

Important lesson learned: ONE plant per pot next year. ONE. No matter how big.

And I have googled, and I believe they are indeed Black Krims. Tasty!
puckling on August 1st, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
In the battle of you v. the greenery, I am rooting for you. I hear one is supposed to root for the underdog like that.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 05:52 am (UTC)
I appreciate that. I don't expect I'll win, but it's nice to know there is someone on Team TFV.
ebilchickens: Whose Line?ebilchickens on August 1st, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
*nods* I have a friend who planted tomatoes in her garden and who thought a nice edge of bamboo along her bland back fence would add some interest. Her garden was taken over by tomatoes. But the rest of her yard fell to the bamboo, which prolifically grew outwards and started a slow invasion of shoots. Eventually she thinks the growing force of tomatoes will meet the bamboo invader and an epic battle shall commence.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 05:54 am (UTC)
Eeee. Even I know better than to plant bamboo in an open space!

I have sympathy for your friend. And I hope like hell that bamboo and tomatoes can't cross-pollinate, because that would truly be the end of all things.
(no subject) - ebilchickens on August 2nd, 2010 07:15 am (UTC) (Expand)
can't find my drink or pantsgeeklite on August 1st, 2010 08:47 pm (UTC)
Oh god, I remember my mother doing that with zucchini and tomatoes. I think I ate stewed tomato, zucchini and onion with EVERY SINGLE MEAL FOR, LIKE, SIX MONTHS. It took me about 25 years to even want to try to eat it again.
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 06:04 am (UTC)
I sort of envy you, actually. My mother did it with just zucchini, and, well, I'd rather have had the tomatoes, too. (Although I still do like zucchini. I just get a twitch whenever I think of the 101 uses for zucchini cookbook.)
(no subject) - geeklite on August 2nd, 2010 06:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: Ivythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)