Why is a Monster Tomato Plant Taking Over My Houston Garden?
A gargantuan tomato plant is in our yard producing few tomatoes. This monster tomato plant is taller than my mother and even grew taller than my husband!
A luscious vine ripened tomato can't be beat for flavor and versatility in cooking. We regularly purchase them in grocery stores in every size, shape and degree of ripeness. We also purchase them canned for use in preparing different and assorted dishes.
Who doesn't have things like ketchup or salsa's made with tomatoes in their refrigerator for adding instant garnishes to other preparations? Tomato in one form or another is considered a staple pantry ingredient for most people that I know.
So why have I had a hard time growing tomatoes in Houston? Let me digress for a moment.
As a child I watched my grandfather grow almost every type of vegetable in his large gardens. My grandmother and my mother would freeze and primarily use canning methods to preserve all the excess of what could not be readily eaten.
My dad had built a wonderful array of shelving in the basement of our house one room of which was partitioned off (also as the laundry room) to hold all of these beautiful glass jars filled with that seasons tomatoes, homemade dill pickles, mustard pickles, applesauce, green beans, beets, peas, sauerkraut and more. The root cellar held the potatoes and carrots in a cool, moist and darkened area so that they did not have to be canned. The shelves also held homemade preserves.
Often these two women would have worked really hard preserving these tasty and healthful vegetables during the harvesting season when my grandmother would spot my grandfather coming in with another wheelbarrow filled with some other harvested crop. "Oh no, here he comes again!" would be the tired remark from one to the other.
Gardening became a hobby for my grandfather and after he retired his garden expanded. This was in Wisconsin and as we lived nearby much of what we consumed all year long came from that bountiful garden. So you see I was introduced to this idea of growing tomatoes and other vegetables early on in my life.
When my husband was transferred to central Wisconsin for four years this was my chance to branch out and have my very first vegetable garden of my own.
We lived on a 1/2 acre lot so there was plenty of room and our garden grew into a thing of beauty producing not only vegetables but flowers as well. My grandfather always commingled flowers with his veggies too.
Gardening for Dummies
The "dummy" was me! Not knowing exactly what I was doing the first year I planted 43 tomato plants. Yes you read that right. 43 tomato plants! There was just the two of us. All of the 43 tomato plants produced a bumper crop from each and every plant!
We both like tomatoes but for those of you who garden and know anything about what one plant can produce...needless to say I learned how to can tomatoes that summer.
Ever since moving back to Texas I have tried my hand at growing tomatoes and with fond memories of the days in Wisconsin I have high hopes of being rewarded with luscious, fragrant and tasty red ripened globes of succulence. Occasionally we harvest a few tomatoes but I have had much better luck with green peppers, eggplants and herbs rather than tomatoes.
We have two growing seasons in Houston, spring and fall. Once the summer heat sets in (which seems to come earlier every year) the tomatoes sizzle out and cease production.
This year once again with high hopes I purchased just 4 tomato plants. My husband chides me each year saying "Why bother? With the luck you seem to have, it is cheaper to purchase them in grocery stores." But I retain dreams each year of a better result.
I planted each in a different location experimenting with what might do well this year. The one pictured at the top of this article was planted in a bed near the house next to a camellia plant as well as some small azalea plants, begonias and caladiums.
This is a spot in the garden that gets a little more sun and I just thought that I would give it a try. You can see the results! A gargantuan plant that is totally taking over the space and it only produced a handful of tomatoes and most of them were pecked by birds prior to ever ripening. It is so large that I had my mother pose next to it so that you could appreciate the true size of it. Also the birdhouse above it is attached to the soffit just under the roof. So that also lets you see the dimension of the tomato plant.
Can you guess my husband's response to this trial effort? I'll just bet that you can!
Do I Continue To Try To Grow Tomatoes?
You now know the results of this one tomato plant. I have three others. One is a spindly thing that is still deciding whether to live or die. It has not put out a single bloom and we all know we need to see some flowering before any fruit can set.
Another one was the very last cherry tomato plant that the nursery had for sale the day that we were shopping. It was almost totally uprooted. I mentioned to the nursery person that I did not know if it was worth paying the $1.29 price because it already looked more dead than alive. She agreed and as she was the manager she told me to take it and "give it a try" and she let me have that one for free.
It is still alive and finally decided to live instead of die. It is planted in nutrient rich soil with built in fertilizers (Miracle Grow for those familiar with that name) and it is now about a foot tall and producing a few blooms. Yippee!
The other plant is healthy looking and is a Roma tomato with green tomatoes hanging on the vine! Will we harvest them prior to the birds finding them?
I could purchase netting (another expense!) and drape it but I must confess something. This plant was also placed in a bed with roses and flowers in front of our everyday dining area. While it is not as large as the gargantuan tomato plant it is blocking the scenery of much of the yard that my husband used to enjoy viewing while sitting there. If I add netting over it making the tomato plant look even more unattractive even if we harvest a few tomatoes off of it just how happy do you think that will make my husband?
That gargantuan tomato plant (it is a Jet Star for those who are interested) has been cut back to about a foot from the ground. I could no longer tolerate its menacing presence. The birds were having to file flight plans just to navigate in and out of their birdhouse!
I figure if it survives this summer heat I just may try and transplant it to another location in the fall which is actually a better growing season down here anyway. It will be further from the birdhouse which is always occupied with a revolving number of tenants and it will no longer obliterate our view of the landscape bed filled with pretty flowers and shrubs.
If we do not get at least $1.29 worth of tomato harvest from each of these plants this year I just may throw in the towel for good and let others raise the tomatoes that we consume.
I have recently read about proper pruning techniques regarding the harvesting of better plumper tomatoes.
Should I try again? Three questions go into this decision making process...
#1...Why was my gargantuan tomato plant overtaking our yard?
#2...Do I make my husband happy and start buying our tomatoes in grocery stores?
#3...Should I purchase some books about growing tomatoes before I make another try at it?
What do you think I should do?
Perhaps I Should Give This a Try?
I should probably have consulted such a book as this to help me in my dilemma of growing edible tomatoes in my Houston garden.
© 2009 Peggy Woods