Suffering for Tomatoes

This spring I had to make some tough decisions about the backyard. I need to give my tomato bed a rest—I’ve grown tomatoes in the same bed for seven years now—and that means either finding somewhere else to grow tomatoes or doing without them.
Well. Doing without homegrown tomatoes is not an option.
Something had to give. I spent a lot of time pondering possibilities for what is, basically, not a large space. I briefly considered removing a couple of roses, but before I did anything drastic, I remembered that the spot I was considering actually gets a lot of shade in July and August, prime tomato time. Whew! ‘Valencia’, ‘Heaven on Earth’ and ‘Comte de Champagne’ are safe. (Well, the truth is, I’d have kept those three and moved them to another spot, necessitating another round of tough choices.)

'Momotaro'--it's a huge, productive market tomato, and it's already twice the size of the other tomato seedlings .

‘Momotaro’–it’s a huge, productive market tomato, and it’s already twice the size of the other tomato seedlings .

When it came right down to it, there was only one option. The Teucrium fruticans—bush germander—had to go. Now, I loved that Teucrium, with its pale silvery leaves and lavender blooms. It looked fabulous with the ‘Hemstitched’ irises and ‘French Lace’ rose at the west end of the garden. But there’s no denying that it was too large for the space. I dug it out and shifted the rose and the irises, in the process taking out a couple more feet of the mown weeds I call a lawn. I figure this gives me room for three tomato plants. Plus a few disease-resistant hybrids at one end of the old tomato bed. I’ll plant the rest of the space with Zephyr squash, bush beans, cucumbers…. And to think, back when we first talked about the garden design, I vetoed raised vegetable beds. I didn’t think I’d want to grow anything but tomatoes. Fool!
After spending three weeks removing nut grass (one thing about it, germinating nut grass is easy to spot in otherwise bare dirt), I amended the new bed and planted the tomatoes. It’s true tomatoes are not lovely plants toward the end of summer, with their yellowing leaves and dying stalks, but for tomatoes, I’ll do just about anything. Including removing cherished ornamentals and putting up with an unsightly backdrop to my flower garden.
Even so, I only have room for six tomato plants (not counting the cherry tomatoes in pots). The Tomatomania seedling sale was a severe test of my will power. I came home with tried-and-true varieties: ‘Momotaro’, ‘Japanese Black Trifele’, ‘Cherokee Purple’, and a couple of experiments—‘Vorlon’ and ‘Super Sauce’. Wish me luck!


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