Another bump in my tomato journey

Published 10:25 pm Friday, June 24, 2011

I may have been a little too optimistic this time.

As I was learning more about gardening through stories I’d been covering for Suffolk Living magazine, I began to say to myself, “Hey, I can do this.”

With everything I was learning from Suffolkians, I decided I couldn’t possibly make the same mistakes twice. So I purchased four tomato plants at a garden store. I placed two in a huge container and two in a “Topsy Turvy,” a container that grows the plants upside down.

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I figured with four plants, at least one would prevail when my not-so-green thumb threatened.

For two months, I watered the plants, staked the tomato in the container, inspected the leaves for aphids and generally loved the plants like children.

I was absolutely giddy when the first crop of bright yellow flowers sprouted all over the plants. I grabbed my camera and took hundreds of shots.

I’m pretty sure my dog was beginning to get jealous of all the attention these green things were getting. But in truth, Miyagi was also obsessed with the bright green balls that were popping up all over my plants, even though I steadfastly refused to throw them for him.

I must admit that after the first few green tomatoes appeared, I had trouble sleeping at night. I dreamed of all the ways my delicious tomatoes could be ruined. Maybe Miyagi would steal all of the “balls” and bury them in the backyard. Maybe some of the neighborhood youth would sneak into my yard and help themselves to a crop. Maybe a heavy thunderstorm would rip all of the tomatoes off their vines and ruin my plants for the season.

I don’t think it’s too extreme to say that these tomato nightmares were terrifying.

But among all of the possibilities my sleeping brain conjured, I never suspected that tragedy would strike in the form of my favorite part of spring.

Yes, folks, my crop of green beauties turned red and then they attracted a dastardly avian element to my backyard. I remember seeing the birds more often a few weeks ago. I even commented to my husband that the local population of blue jays, robins, pigeons, cardinals and hummingbirds had been growing by leaps and bounds.

No wonder, with my flourishing tomato plants ready to feed them all summer.

And that is exactly what happened to my tomatoes. As soon as they turned a deep red reminiscent of fire trucks, the birds swarmed.

I, of course, didn’t actually witness the deed, but I did discover the crime scene the next day. Tomato juice dripped from puncture wounds. The gorgeous red had faded to a sickly yellow. And some of the leaves had been ripped off in the struggle.

If there’s a moral to every story, I’m sure this story has one. But all I’ve been able to think about is that delicious BLT that I am not eating right now, thanks to my neighborhood’s thieving birds.