Saturday, May 29, 2010


Last year was the first year I tried growing heirloom tomatoes. I didn't choose the best spot in the yard for them, and I think the squirrels harvested more than we did, but other than that they turned out better than I could have hoped.

The beauty of heirloom varieties is that you can save the seeds and replant them. This goes right along with my beliefs and how I want to do things, so I saved seeds. It's not easy to save tomato seeds. The gelatinous stuff that the seeds are in are an anti-sprouting material. So you have to let the gelatinous stuff rot, but not the seeds and then you can save the seeds for the next year.

I had high aspirations. I saved the seeds and was eager to plant them this spring. Shooting for the stars, I got out my seeds, put them in some compost, watered them and put them under a light in the basement.

Despite my high aspirations, I didn't go about this project quite right. I think that I kept the light too far above the plants. As the tomatoes grew, they grew long and spindly, with little strength. The light was too far away and while the little plants reached for their goal, it was unattainable and unnatural. The plants still grew, and I had hope.

The tomatoes eventually had enough leaves to transplant outdoors. I put more than a dozen plants into the ground, with high hopes of my pathetic looking little plants overcoming their early life hardship and developing into high yield tomato plants.

Our first rainstorm after planting the tomatoes outside pummeled all but three of the little plants. Those three plants have continued to grow, but they are far from thriving. They are still spindly and pale.

While it was admirable that the tomatoes went with all of their might after the first goal that they were exposed to, it wasn't the right goal. The seeds spent all of their energy going after an unnatural and inappropriate goal. They didn't know it was the wrong goal, they only saw it as light and they sought after it like tomatoes are supposed to. After pouring all of their energy into pursuing a goal that did not provide them the sustenance that they needed, I moved them outside into a natural situation where they should be able to strive. They had already spent their energy. They were done. They may still be alive, but they will never be what they could have been. If they produce fruit, they will be small and few, but more likely they will never even produce a seed that I would be able to use to plant next year. All because they pursued the first goal that was placed before them... the wrong goal.


Hewett Gardeners said...

may i suggest planting an over-ripe tomato right into the ground in the spot you want it to grow the next year. we always get patches of volunteer tomatoes in the spring where they had dropped and then were tilled in. good luck!

Emily A. W. said...

You are wise to learn from your mistakes. I love reading your stories.

Gail said...

"All because they pursued the first goal that was placed before them... the wrong goal." That is going to stick with me for awhile. Wow to think it took a tomato to plant that in my head...

2whls3spds said...

I have always had a few problems getting my tomatoes started. Our volunteer ones always seem to do the best.

For more seeds of the type you prefer, and so do I. Check out Baker Creek We use a lot of their seed and always save things from year to year.