Posted by: Ingrid | August 21, 2012

The Tomatoes are coming! The Tomatoes are coming!

I meant to blog about gardening in June, when it was a new project with all the itty-bitty plants in their neat and orderly rows.

Instead, I am getting around to it mid-August, when my tomato jungle has begun plotting world domination.  I kid you not.

Gardening was on my list of New Year’s Resolutions, a nice dovetailing of outdoor activity and a move towards more natural and organic eating.  Some friends of ours with a yard were kind enough to allow me to plant a garden in their plot.  At the end of May, a little late in the gardening game, I made my way to a nursery and inspected the plants that were left on the shelves.

With roughly a $30 investment I came away with basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, tomatoes of different shapes and sizes, bell peppers, lettuce, onions, cauliflower, two lavender plants, and some squash and zucchini.  The actual output of the garden has differed slightly.  The lettuce got chomped early on by…something.  There turned out to be four yellow squash plants and not half yellow and half zucchini.  The cauliflower has not done much.  The cilantro never went anywhere.

The peppers have been thriving, however.  They stay so well hidden and are just so cunning when you find them nestled in the shade of the plant.  Since I like cooking with peppers and freezing them for winter, this has been a good thing.

Yellow squash?  Well, I am not a huge fan and I definitely like zucchini better.  I feel a little like the plants are laughing at me as they churn out an overabundance of squash.  So far I have grated and frozen some of it, cooked some for meals, and subbed some in zucchini bread.  Also on the list of upcoming recipes to try: yellow squash cookies, bread, chips, and casserole.  Oy.

Then there is the basil.  My attempts at growing basil have been limited to pots in the kitchen or in the poor soil around our house.  Both have yielded spindly basil plants that would NEVER produce enough basil to allow me to make something so extravagant as pesto sauce.  4 cups of packed basil leaves?  Surely you must be joking!  Based on my past experiences I planted 4 basil plants.  Guess what?  When grown in the proper lighting and soil they turn into bushes.  BUSHES!!!  I have more basil than I know what to do with and have made multiple batches of pesto this summer.

But perhaps my biggest mistake sprang from my biggest fear.  I am not without gardening experience.  Back in the day, my mom planted summer gardens (you would think nothing would grow in the heat of Fresno, but you would be wrong) and I remember with vivid detail the summer she planted a few tomatoes too many.  It felt like all we did, all summer, was pick tomatoes.  So going into my garden that was one thing I didn’t want to deal with.  Resolved: I shall not plant too many tomato plants.

But then I was buying the plants.  And they looked so tiny (Surely only half of them will survive.)  And they came in four packs (But they’re just so little!)  And they were only a few inches high.  (They’ll look so lost and lonely in that big garden space.)

And that is how I ended up with 20-30 tomato plants.

Guess who’s having the last laugh now?


Next year, FOR REAL, I will not plan too many tomatoes.  And I will space them far apart.  And they will not turn into a jungle.  My funniest gardening moment this year came when I was trying to weed the massive sprawling tomatoes (I think they ate up the tomato cages I bought) and I was carefully weeding around a plant only to realize that I was weeding a weed.

Despite the gardening learning curve that this summer has been, I wouldn’t trade it at all when rewarded with this:

And a little boy who thinks tomatoes should be eaten like this, before even leaving the garden.


  1. From someone burdened with squash last year, let me give you this: I would half the sugar and add blueberries. And maybe puree up a ton of baby food?

    Good job, garden lady!

    • Ha! Puree baby food for the baby who refuses to eat anything that he can’t hold and that is pureed? 😛 I did try the bread and I liked it (halved the sugar, added chocolate chips). The first time I halved the sugar and husband said: Not sweet enough! The second time I added more and he told me it was better the first time. Go figure!

  2. Ooo, I see salsa and soup in your future – great to freeze and store over Winter! Our tomatoes are just coming in now, my MIL said she halves and freezes hers in boxes to pull out to make soups and things over Winter…we also made a lot of green tomato and ham soup last year (though I think this year our tomatoes will actually turn red, yay) – your garden looks magnifique!! We think we save a lot of money just from growing the lettuces and kale, have you any idea how much you may have saved this year?

    • Freezing tomatoes? I may have to try that as canning sounds like way too much work! I am not sure how much I have saved this year, but I know for sure we have gotten back what we paid for the plants and then some. We are avid tomato eaters and pepper users, so the abundance is just a minor problem.

  3. now that i am finally a gardener i can appreciate what a huge amount of work a garden that size is (looks to be about 10-15 times the size of mine). congratulations on your haul! especially the peppers. my peppers grew to the size of half my fist and then would fall off the plant. took me the whole summer to realize i was over-watering. and yes, tomatoes and cucumbers sure do have a way of springing up on you. here’s an amateur mistake that’ll make you laugh… i waited until 3 months after planting to cage my tomatoes. didn’t realize that it really cannot be done once they are out of control. oops.

    • I waited too long to cage my tomatoes as well. Once I did, they knocked over the cages within weeks. My tomatoes apparently have a mind of their own!

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