Dixie Burmeister Column June 03, 2009

First shot fired over vine in ’09 tomato war

I hadn’t planned on writing much about the tomato gardening competition between my husband, Fred, and me.

However, because of a few added challenges, suspected espionage, secret plant food, secret advice and warnings, the lines have been drawn (literally). The battle is on!

The whole thing started after a meeting on the Mesa County Fair. I thought it would be fun to enter the open class. It’s easy, and as long as you’re a Mesa County resident, you can enter.

You can enter whatever your passion, be it photography, quilting, brewing wine and beer, artwork, woodworking, pets, ceramics, flowers and, yes, produce. There is more. I can’t even list it all.

Your entry is judged on its own merit, so you’re not competing against others.

On my way home from the meeting, I decided to carry it a bit further by challenging Fred to a tomato growing showdown by entering the open class.

He accepted the challenge, and we’ll see who “fairs” the best.

Then came tomato plant shopping, with our yearly decision to limit the number of plants we purchase.

But once at the green house, we forgot all about plant limitation.

As we each went our own way to select our prize winning tomato plants, the question was:

Which varieties to pick?

The first shopping trip resulted in 12 tomato plants (six each). Without saying anything to other, we both slipped in a couple heirloom tomato plants to try for the first time.

Then there was the planting and the plotting.

I armed myself with my favorite garden spatula (also called a digger), my Miracle Grow sprayer, my good luck hat, sunscreen, ugly gloves, pantyhose (yes, I said pantyhose), wire and tender loving care.

After mixing my preferred soil blend, I planted, fed and, using stripped pantyhose, attached my plants to wires strung between stakes.

Thanks for this idea goes to my new friend, Bonnie, up in Cedaredge who called after she heard me tell about the contest. She revealed her wire and panty hose secret for growing the largest, most beautiful and luscious tomatoes that have earned her the title of “The Cedaredge Tomato Queen.”

Listen, anyone who can take a sprouted seed found inside a supermarket cluster tomato and grow it into a huge tomato plant (called Miss Cluster) knows what she’s doing.

My new BFF told me that Fred was not allowed to use my/her idea.

Fred used the typical tomato stakes (how utterly mundane).

Then came the warning.

Out by Fred’s plot, I found a line drawn with chalk and the words: “Do not come beyond this line.”

A neighbor walking by said, “Well, that’s kind of rude.”

Fred responded, “Oh, I don’t mean you, I mean Dixie!”

So I’m not to touch his plants.

I do wonder, though, why the timer for watering my plants was set for a small amount just about every day, resulting in tall, spindly plants.

I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but you have to wonder.

So I decided to take a peek at Fred’s plants. They looked bad, like they were dying, and I smelled this awful odor like dead fish washed up on a lake bank.

Just then he drove up and caught me. Holding my nose, I said, “Your tomatoes look terrible. They smell awful. Did you use that fish emulsion Carl gave you last year that was
his secret for great tomatoes? The one he said to only use a teaspoon to a gallon of water.”

He weakly protested when I suggested he added too much. But he looked worried.

A dozen more plants, a couple at a time, mysteriously appeared.

Get this, though. He kept the puny ones and planted them here, there, everywhere.

The kicker to this story?

Fred’s scrawny, half dead, odorous plants are loaded with, of all things, tomatoes.

The moral to the story: She who snickers and laughs the loudest may have to smell fish all summer and eat Fred’s tomatoes.

For more information on the fair’s open class, go to http://www.mesacountyfair.com.


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