Monday, September 28, 2015

Upside Down Tomato Plants

This a repost of a story I wrote a few years ago.  It relates well to my most recent one about the Miracle Garden.

My wife, who has a partial green thumb, became enamored with the Topsey Turvey Upside Down Tomato grower.  You know, As Seen On TV. A word of advice, if you are contemplating purchasing anything As Seen On TV, DON’T.  This is because whatever you think it will do—it WON’T!  Besides, I have enough trouble growing anything right side up.

I was very skeptical, because for the life of me I can’t think of anything that grows better, up side down.  I don’t.  You don’t.  My cat certainly doesn’t, in fact she gets real pissed off and scratches and hisses when I hold her upside down. 

My wife persisted, wore me down actually, so being a smart husband I agreed.  We went to Home Depot and bought the kit.  It came with a plastic basket, a wire harness, and a plan for building an elaborate trellis system. All this for only $9.99.  We buy three!  Then we had to get the dirt because even though the plant is growing upside down, it has to grow in something.  That was $24.  Next we bought the plants. That was $2 a pop.  I’m not done.  Since the plants will be growing upside down, they have to be attached to something.  Alas, they don’t just hang there in mid air.  So we had to get three shepherd hooks.  They were $15 each.  I’m into this thing for over a hundred dollars and haven’t seen one tomato. 

We get everything set up and hang the plants from the hooks.  They immediately begin to sag a bit.  This is not looking good.  We then water the plants.  The shepherd hooks bend so far over that the plants start to touch the ground.  I had to rig a rope from my fence to the hooks to keep everything off the ground. I look at the plans for the trellis and begin to understand why it calls for 4x4s and 2x4s, and a suggestion that I get a building permit.  These things weigh eight tons a piece. 

According to the geniuses at Topsey Turvey, gravity will force nutrients into the plants that will result in volleyball-sized tomatoes.  I’m not a botanist, but I always thought that roots are supposed to do that.  And speaking of gravity, you have to water these things two to three times a DAY because, yep, you guessed it, gravity also forces the water to run out the other end.

Another problem is, just like you and I don’t like to be upside down, neither do the tomato plants.  Yes, they do grow down for a while, but once they discover the sun, they reverse course and begin to grown right side up.  Normally you stake the plant to support the tomatoes.  However, with the upside down grower you cannot.  This results in tomatoes being ripped off the branches and being forced by our old friend gravity to fall to the ground.

Final tally—ten tomatoes.  That’s not a misprint, ten tomatoes.  Well, actually two had some funky holes in them so we’ll say eight.  That comes out to roughly $13 per tomato, not counting the three-hundred gallons of water.  This year I will be going to a farm stand.  Let me leave you with a word of advice.  If you are thinking, even remotely, about the upside down tomato plant grower...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Miracle Actually Happened in the Miracle Garden

I have a lot of interests and hobbies.  Photography, playing the drums, biking, reading, hiking, writing, cooking; the list goes on.  Sadly, gardening is not one of them.  I’ve tried and failed miserably every time I've attempted to grow anything other than weeds.  Weed growing, it seems, is where my talents lie.  In the past, I have planted tulips that never grew because I somehow managed to plant them upside down.  Believe me, the instructions were not that clear.  The “As Seen On TV” Upside-Down tomato plants were a bust because of a minor thing called gravity which ripped the tomatoes from the stalk thus providing a veritable feast for the bunnies and bugs.  Never mind that those stupid planting sacks each required 40 plus pounds of dirt. My raised bed Miracle Garden continues to mystify  me year after year.  The first year nothing grew because I might have, perhaps, well, maybe I forgot to add fertilizer.  Ok, rookie mistake.  The next year, we tried to grow tomatoes from seeds.  Well, we misplaced the seed packets of course, and then planted too late, and well, lets just say, we managed to eke out one tomato and a funny looking yellow cucumber.  Last year for some reason due to fact that I might not have watered the tomatoes on a regular basis, (meaning more than once a month) our crop was meager at best.  Our cucumber crop however was amazing.  Amazing in the fact that I have never tasted a more vile tasting vegetable.  Sort of a combination of bitter and sour wrapped up in a crunchy-mushy consistency.  It was a science experiment gone horribly wrong.  Every single one ended up in the compost pile.

Well, this year, I decided to opt out of the Miracle Garden.  I gave full reign and authority to my wife.  Now, if something went wrong in the Miracle Garden, I would have someone else to blame.   I accompanied her to the local Agway Store snickering and making jokes all of the way there, knowing full well that nothing but weeds and strange mutated plants can survive the Miracle Garden.  We brought home six plants and I gleefully downed a few martinis as I watched her plant the tomatoes.  Well, my wife, having carried and raised two sons knows a thing or two about nurturing.  Day, after day, she was in the Miracle Garden, weeding, watering, plucking suckers off the plants.  I have no idea what that even means but apparently its supposed to be good for the plant.  And, probably as a general rule, it's a good idea to pluck suckers off of anything you hold near and dear.   Just sayin’. After a few weeks, she had to stake the plants because they were growing so rapidly.  After a few more weeks she had to get longer stakes because these babies were really freakin’ growing.  Then a miracle happened. They started to flower.  Whoa, this was news.  And not just flower, but FLOWER!!!  Then another miracle happened.  The flowers turned into, you guessed it, tomatoes.  

I mean these plants started to burst with tomatoes. We had an abundance, a plethora, a  cornucopia, I’m running out of adjectives, so let me get out the Thesaurus, a profusion, a copious amount, literally mass quantities.  In essence, a lot of tomatoes.  And not just marble sized tomatoes.  Oh no, these were huge.  Like softball size.  It got to the point that were giving these tomatoes away because we couldn’t eat them fast enough.  I was exporting crates of tomatoes to third world countries.  These tomatoes are the mythical Hydra of the plant world.  Pluck off a tomato, two new ones take its place.  I don’t even like tomatoes and I was eating them at a furious pace. 

As I look out the window it is now fall and tomatoes are still going strong on the vines. When is it going to end?  The vines are now well over six feet tall and still producing tomatoes.  I did a rough count and there are at least six DOZEN tomatoes still there.  This is in addition to the boatload that we previously harvested.  Now THAT’S a Miracle Garden.  So how do we top that next year? We do the Miracle Garden dance and pray for Round 2!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cammo Tux. The Possibilities Are Endless!

I was shopping for some sweaters at Kohl’s the other day.  You know Kohl’s.  The store with ridiculously low prices that get even lower when you start to present the cashier with a multitude of coupons, Kohl’s cash, credits and 30% off discount coupons.  Yeah that store.  Where you save more money than you actually spend.  How can that be?  I bought two sweaters and after all was said and done I paid three dollars.  They practically give the clothing away and yet they manage to stay in business.  How do they do that? Well more than likely through great business acumen, attention to the bottom line and wonderful merchandising.  Such as this gem of a dinner jacket, my favorite find of the day.  

That’s right a cammo inspired tux. Not just any cammo tux, but a velvet one to boot with satin lapels.  Now I like to wear fashionable clothes and this seems to suit me just fine.  Imagine, going to  a dinner party and literally blending in with the scenery.  What fun you could have popping out of a potted plant and scaring the wait staff.  Or sitting at the main table of a wedding completely unnoticed.  I know, the possibilities are endless.  Or even better; crashing parties and no one knows you are there.  Think of all of the good food and drink you could get for free.  What a way to impress your date and not pay a penny.

Or perhaps a formal hunting party.  This would have been perfect attire for my friend's 50th birthday party at his hunting lodge.  Talk about a fashion statement!