Thursday, June 20, 2013

Green Thumb

Tori has been busy since spring, getting some vegetables growing. We now have seven pots with handsome tomato plants, complete with buds that are about to flower, a very healthy looking zucchini patch on the side of the house, also on the verge of bearing, and a pumpkin patch that is taking over the back yard.

We always grew tomatoes in Oregon. There is nothing better than fresh tomatoes. Nothing. The year we lived in Queen Avenue we had amazing plants, five feet high covered with dozens of fruit. When we bought the house on Broadway we continued to have nice harvests, but nothing to compare with that one year on Queen. It turned out the tomatoes that year had been planted directly over the septic tank. Those were some great tomatoes.

But on St. Croix, we never had any luck. We tried growing them every year, and in all that time got one tomato, which the bugs got. We consulted local growers about the best varieties, we followed their instructions scrupulously on light and shade and soil nutrients and watering schedules, and failed every time. Even in the farmers markets, a lot of the tomatoes come from Puerto Rico. We had mango and guava trees and breadfruit and knips (pronounced by the locals, ku-nips) but nary a tomato.

So Tori was bound and determined to get something going this year. And so far her thumb has been bright green.

I don't know why she planted so many pumpkins, and I haven't asked. We've got nine extremely healthy vines going. If my best-case estimate is right, we'll end up with about 50 pumpkins and I don't know what we'll do with them all. Time to start looking for recipes, I guess. I'm a city boy, and the only thing I've ever done with pumpkins is carve them at the end of October, so this will be an adventure.

They were planted in the only place she could find in the yard that she could dig down through. Most of the rest of the yard is three inches of dirt over an inexplicable layer of brick. But in the middle of the yard there was a depression that looked like maybe there had been a stump pulled out. Of course, when it rained – huge thunderstorm a few weeks ago, streets flooded, the drainage canal was filled – the pumpkin plants were under about four inches of water and we figured, "Well, there go the pumpkins." Did they go ever! They took it as a challenge or a starting gun or something. The vines have now spread about twice the area of the original planting and show no signs of slowing down.

But the tomatoes are what we're really counting on. She started them by seed and they're doing well, a little behind some of the other tomato gardens we've seen around the neighborhood, but catching up fast. They're in pots, which was handy when we had that storm. We pulled them in under the carport, then put them back out in the sun immediately after. One got mowed down by some kind of bug that took every leaf and left a little green skeleton. Oddly, that one was in the middle of the line of pots, but whatever it was (probably a very hungry caterpillar) never touched the others.

We probably need to transplant them because the pots aren't really big enough, but they've got a great start. I can almost taste the tomatoes now.

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