All around, rumblings of ‘tomato thing’ can be heard

“It” started a few weeks ago as I was saying goodbye to my dentist.

With my sparkling clean smile and clean bill of dental health, he wished me good luck.

With what?

Good luck for continued cavity free status? No.

Good luck with my frantic preparation for the health fair? No again.

Then, in almost a whisper, he said, “no, you know, good luck with the “tomato thing.”

Oh no!

My husband and tomato-growing competitor, Fred, had been to the dentist for his checkup a few days before. Had he received any good luck wishes?

His shocked look of disbelief and betrayal (I had to tell him!) answered that question.

Ahh, spring has sprung and so has the evil “Fredzy” of gardening.

There’s been tomato rumblings everywhere we go lately.

It’s getting serious. Serious enough that when we were in Denver for my Dad’s 92nd birthday luncheon last month, a couple clowns (Shriners) came with envelopes containing tomato seeds from their prize-winning tomatoes grown from seeds from a friendly elderly neighbor man who got them from his dad via his dad, who had them passed down over the generations. Got it?

They read online about the Tomato Throw Down that Fred and I had last year — we raised tomatoes to enter in the open class of the Mesa County Fair — and decided to share the seeds with ... both of us?

Wait a minute, clowns, you’re friends of MY dad. Didn’t your parents tell you it isn’t right to always share with friends’ children’s spouses?

Fred says I griped (I say I commented) last summer because I maintained the southern exposure, with full sun, had something to do with the number and size of his tomatoes.

Realizing he feels the need to prove my assumption wrong, he’s insisting we trade growing plots this year. I weakly protested and then to be a good sport (that’s me), I agreed.

One more stipulation. I can’t use his no-longer-secret stinky fish emulsion. That’s OK, I have something up my sleeve and it won’t draw wild animals.

I’ll even share my pantyhose strips for tomato ties because I am just so darn nice.

After a trip to the store for bio-degradable seed pots and special soil, we each planted our eight tiny seeds from the clowns.

Not having had much success starting plants with seeds in pots, I Googled. I became confused with all kinds of advice.

1. Don’t plant tomatoes by seed (first thing I read).

2. If you do, start seeds in small pots with seed starting soil; keep plants warm, moist and in sunny windows.

3. When big enough, transfer to larger pot, take pots out for a few hours each day after temperature reaches a certain degree.

4. It’s hard to eat dinner at a table filled with seedling pots for best light. Fred’s theory, plant a few, might as well plant a bunch.

5. Law of averages: all his heirloom seeds come up healthy to my four scrawny ones, even though I am caretaker of them all.

6. Are you using natural or the plastic mulch that comes in red, blue, etc? What? Then there’s spring mulch, summer mulch, don’t mulch too much or too little, don’t overwater, but underwatering is dangerous.

7. Wire stake, pole stake or no stake?

8. Feed but don’t overfeed, watch for killer insects, fungus/mold; pinch off the sucker leaves.

9. Seek counseling if you feel a tomato breakdown coming.

10. Remember, at least four tomatoes to place at the Mesa County Fair.

11. Scream, then stop searching. Go to local gardening centers for advice. Expect looks and laughs when sneaking in to purchase tomato plants.

To Dennis Hill, who writes the Saturday garden column: Fred has great respect for you watering all your little seedlings with a small spray bottle like we do.


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