In 1974, after four months of watering, 13 pounds of compost and regularly scheduled pitiful pleading, I began my vegetable gardening career by growing the smallest recorded radish in the western hemisphere.

In 1986, I grew cantaloupes that were almost perfect except for the large bites deer had taken out of them after ordering from the prix fixe menu.

In 1990, I grew zucchini that were almost ripe and I could have picked them the next day except the next day it rained and I forgot and didn’t pick them until Sept. 18 when they had grown so large and unwieldy they were bigger than Cleveland. Even the deer wouldn’t eat them.

And then there are the tomatoes.

I have eaten tomatoes. I have books on how to grow tomatoes and I have watched videos on proper tomato etiquette. I even know how to spell tomatoes (don’t forget the e).

I have coaxed tomato plants to perform with manure, with peat moss, with mulch and pine needles, with leaves and vermiculite, even though I think vermiculite is just a more expensive name for leaves.

I have pruned suckers, which are hard to prune and even harder to suck.

And what do I have to show for all my financial, social and moral support?

In 1993, I grew tomatoes that were called Big Boys. They weren’t.

In 1997, I grew Better Boys. They weren’t. Although, come to think of it, they might have been better than the zucchinis.

In 2000, in a nod to equality and parity, I grew Early Girl. They were late. They blamed the traffic.

In 2004, I grew German Johnsons. I’m pretty sure this is why they lost the war.

In 2007, I tried growing Roma tomatoes. You could use them for sauce, if, in fact, you could grow more than one of them or you only had two pieces of penne rigate and you didn’t need much sauce.

In 2011, I lowered my expectations and tried growing cherry tomatoes. They were smaller, less high maintenance and you could do it right there on your deck so you could keep an eye on them to make sure they were growing and had completed their FAFSA applications.

That didn’t work either. I didn’t get tomatoes and I didn’t even get cherries.

After all my vegetable gardening efforts over the last few decades, I recently did the calculations and figured out that, what with mulch, compost, books, videos, stakes, cages and registering for online tomato classes, I had actually spent $178.36 per edible tomato.

You would think then that I would know better. But I think I’m going to try again this year.

I’ve tested the pH balance of my soil even though I have no idea what that means and why the p is lower-case. I’ve tilled. I’ve composted. I’ve mounded the plants just right.

But just in case, I’m going to go to the farmers’ market soon and buy some Early Girls.

Advertisements