Thursday, July 30, 2009

operation tomato: failed

I've been in denial for weeks now, but I can't ignore the truth any longer. After two tomato plants (one cherry, one heirloom), at least eight uprootings from squirrels, numerous replantings, use of Critter Ridder, red pepper flakes, and everything else under the sun to control pests and birds with hungry appetites, a very rainy spring, and three weeks of drought in July, I have completely failed to grow tomatoes this year. I surrender. The squirrels, birds, and elements have won this battle, but rest assured that I vow to win the war.

Despite The Slow Cook's claims that tomatoes grow easily and anywhere, I have failed miserably. I invite The Slow Cook to come on over to my yard and give it a try.

Once the tomato plants finally took root after being dug up over and over again by squirrels, my hope began to build as they grew and blossomed. The cherry tomato plant bore fruit quickly, at first the size of a skittle, and then eventually reaching the size of a large blueberry. Although the tiny tomatoes were still green, I noticed them disappearing rapidly, before they ripened or grew to full size. I caught a squirrel with one clutched between his greedy little paws, gulping it whole when, like a madwoman, I went for his bushy little tail. So that's what happened to the cherry tomatoes. Then one day recently, the plant just up and died. Enough was enough. It quit.

The heirloom plant looked healthy at first, covered in blossoms that I anxiously awaited to turn into fruit. But the blossoms started to disappear, snipped clean from the stem. And then I noticed the influx of birds swooping into our yard regularly and the thieves' identities became apparent to me. While this plant is still alive, it currently has no blossoms or fruit. I think that it's dying a slow and painful death.

I'm almost embarrassed to post pictures of this disaster. Ignore the pepper plants and chives in the background (more on those later). The cherry tomato plant is on the left... you can barely see it... look for the dead brown twig with a few straggling skittle-size tomatoes. The barren heirloom plant is on the right.

A closer picture of the cherry tomato plant:

Oh well, there's always next year. I will definitely give tomato farming another shot.


Smiling Mama said...

Oh no! At least you have some close by farmer's markets sure to be full of farm fresh tomatoes!

Katie said...

Good effort! So sorry it didn't work out!

Ed Bruske said...

I agree that critters can be a problem, worse from one place to the next. With tomatoes, you might try this: give your tomatoes each a nice big cage to live in. If need be, enclose the cage with row cover to keep birds and sqirrels out. I've never seen squirrels go after green tomatoes. But this year we are harvesting our tomatoes earlier than usual because the squirrels seem to be especially ravenous. Could be they didn't get enough acorns last year. Many areas of the country reported no acorns last year.