The first year they grew to over seven feet tall, requiring additions to the cages and a stepstool. The fruit dropped before it ripened. The second year, deer. The third, raccoons. The fourth, raccoons. I have spent time and treasure I don't want to count trying and failing to outwit some plants. Total yield: about ten tomatoes.
This is year five, in a new space that raccoons do not frequent. Things have been complicated, due to my amazing ability to complicate things, and so I haven't planted yet. The planned space is a trough full of gravel and sand, and I must fish out the gravel and replace it with dirt. At my current rate, I'll plant around Halloween.
My grandpa was a farmer. Grew tobacky in Hardinsburg, Kentucky. Curing the leaves made him throw up. He drank moonshine and ate whatever was around fried in bacon grease. Graduated high school top of his class (there were three of them) and set about running the farm while doing other things: being a cop, getting married, moving to Miami to do border patrol. Christmas mornings the call would come in and he would leave the kids asleep — wanted the overtime. All his girls were city girls who went to college. They would visit the farm in summers, practically tourists, unable to handle the food.
Every year in Miami he tried to grow tomatoes. Every year they failed. There's video of him and me, 74 and 3, planting in cinderblocks in the yard. “That about does it,” he says, when I want to do my favorite part (throwing the seeds in) over and over again.
He was a stubborn, stubborn man, who worked his whole life so that his crops could fail over and over, and he would not even care. I wonder what he would think about his granddaughter driving around a city with purchased peat moss in her back seat, picking up tools on the way home from her office job, filling a bucket made of recycled tires with gravel, sweating and heaving rocks around, never getting much in the way of tomatoes but never giving up, either. That about does it.