Do you remember these pots? I mean, specifically, the ones in the front row with the sign reading, “Red Tmato.”
Really, honestly, I did everything but everything wrong and bad to the little seeds we put in there. Even the way I harvested the seeds is a horror story to any truly loving gardener. But hey, it was at the beginning of my having gotten the bug…so I guess I’ll cut myself a little slack.
It all started at Trader Joe’s a few months back when, totally nonchalantly like I have probably 100 other times, I picked a pack of organic Sugar Plum grape tomatoes off the produce table and plopped them in the cart before heading over to get Eamonn some string cheese. I’d read around on the You Grow Girl site a few times by then and so the idea of harvesting seeds must have been floating around in my head somewhere already at that time. Later that evening while I prepared pesto and angel hair for dinner, I let Eamonn have one of the tomatoes even though I knew what he would do: bite into it bravely, since mommy and daddy seemed to like them so well all the time, then get a taste, make a face, scrape at his tongue and hand the squished tomato back to me saying, “Here go, Mom. Mom? I candy?” You know, the usual.
Only, with that particular tomato, when he bit into it, it sprayed all over the kitchen out of the two sides of his mouth. “Oh, Eamonn!” I said and grabbed a napkin to begin wiping tomato juice off the kitchen floors and walls, along with some cat fur, a dust bunny, and a pistachio shell I found under the fridge. He responded with, “Mom? I candy?” See? Some things are as consistent as the sunrise. I got up off the floor and headed for the trash then then, looking down at my paper towel I thought, “Hey! Seeds!”
I didn’t know that you’re supposed to ferment seeds to get their protective, germination-hindering coats off. I didn’t know how gingerly many tomato plants across the nation and probably the world were started and cared for. I just looked around for a sunny place in my kitchen, shrugged, folded the paper towel and set it on the kitchen window sill because, hey, even I know it’s not good to let seeds mold.
After Ella and I potted those seeds on the day my mother went to the hospital, I figured they were a completely lost cause. Not knowing how long they took to germinate or that they’d probably be a bit slower due to the coating still on them, I gave them no thought, almost no water, and only a cursory glance now and again while we cared for my mother, dealt with her death, and began to grieve. I mean really, we didn’t even just plant seeds — we planted pieces of the paper towel with the seeds stuck to it because we couldn’t scrape them off — why would they grow? Somewhere in the midst of all of it, I think the day she came home for the last time, I went to her yard to clean it up a bit and weed in the hopes that she’d have the energy to come outside and sit awhile to enjoy it all. Part of my cleaning up was to empty soil from dead plants and plantless pots into a large garbage bin.
I emptied our seed pots. That’s how convinced I was there was nothing going on in there. And when I did, low and behold when I looked down, I found seedlings! Lots of them! I screamed right out loud, grabbed them back out of the garbage pail, and buried them back in their pots and set them back on the retaining wall. I even watered them. And sure enough, a few days later, they began to break the surface. 22 of them by my last count.
22 little seedlings in three pots being watered intermittently. Finally, out of desperation to see them live, I gingerly used pointed sushi chopsticks (highly technical tools, indeed) to separate the roots of the seedlings and plant them each in their own pots shared only with one or two of their companions. Because we have almost no room they lived in a RubberMaid bin that I took outside each morning for some sunlight and brought back in before I went to bed.
About two or three weeks ago I took them to Ivey Ranch and gave some of them away and found what room I could for the 7 I had left. I prayed for them, the poor little guys, because they were badly planted, root bound, and horribly mistreated as they went into the ground.
And now they are thriving. They are the only batch of plants I’ve put in that haven’t fallen prey by at least one to some type of predator be it aphids, rodents, or earwigs. They just sit there and grow. What was once a little batch of seeds I wiped off the floor and threw in the trash and completely gave up on is turning into this:
Can you really love a plant? If you can, I sure do love these guys. They make me teary. They are the little plants that could. They are as tenacious as weeds when they aren’t supposed to be. I will harvest seed from them and grow them every year the Lord allows me to grow things. And I will make Eamonn like them so much that, when he’s done spitting out a jelly bean with a wince he’ll say, “Mom? I tomato?”
Hey. A girl can dream, can’t she?