Tomato Confidential

Tomatoes. Worse, a tomato challenge. I’d wonder what I was thinking, but I know. I was in Paris and the seeds were still in the package. All things were possible. Then one of my sisters wrote to ask how Charles Dowding grows tomatoes. Dowding gardens in a part of England with a climate very like mine. Good question. I think he only ever grows cool weather crops, lettuce and the like. Uh oh. I realized those tomatoes would be a challenge, indeed.

So. The tomato up front there is one of two purchased from Julien’s kids’ schoolteacher. Healthy, leafy, things, but so far no tomatoes. Maybe too leafy? Behind it are more teacher tomatoes, some other variety. Julien won’t even bring me any of the way cool black heirloom tomatoes from the seed packets. Next week, he says, always next week. I’m getting a little concerned.

After all, how bad could they be? Look at these volunteer tomatoes, crowding out this squash. If they’ll grow, why not those other ones? And what is that squash anyway? Butternut? A pumpkin? I planted two: it could be either one. Zucchini? Maybe there is a point to labeling and keeping a garden diary.

Why didn’t I do a strawberry challenge?

Or a blueberry challenge? I am so desperate for blueberries that I ran out and bought a dozen blueberry bushes. They are all happy and cranking out the fruit.

I could have done cherries. We’ll have a bumper crop this year; the eau de vie awaits them. It looks like I might even get some apples and plums, though it is way too soon for an apple or plum challenge; even I am not that ambitious.

I know. A nettle challenge. You can see my nettle hedge behind my bolting no-bolt arugula and some of the slug food formerly known as squash. I would definitely have won a nettle challenge.

Right now I think about the best thing I can say about my kitchen garden is that it’s a good thing I have a market close by and reliable online shopping. As you can see above, my okra is doing about as well as my tomatoes, maybe a bit worse. Some green thing out there, tatsoi, maybe, shame we didn’t label it, tastes great and hasn’t bolted. The nettles are working their way into quiche and various other things.

The big success is my pro bono project, the meadow. The grass is seeding, on warm days the crickets are chirping and the mice, I won’t say, this being a family blog, but there are a lot of mice out there. All this attracts the birds, who may well have eaten the wildflower seeds, as I have not seen one wildflower out there apart from the Queen Anne’s Lace, which I have sworn to eradicate. But the tomatoes, so far, well, maybe a few. I live in hope.

Garden Update

We are starting to get the rules on this first phase of loosening the lockdown. It actually sounds worse in some ways than lockdown itself. Many people have to go out, but with distancing and masks, it’s going to be quite unpleasant. Julien was telling me about what his kids will have to deal with at school. One thing and another, it sounds worse than just staying home. Add to that the suggestion made in some quarters that the virus is mutating into a more dangerous form and, well, no thanks.

We’re going to stay home. Rather than deal with lines, masks, the various unpleasant restrictions, we’re ordering online. The SO’s office is making arrangements to allow as many people as possible to work from home as much as possible. He may not go back until September. There may be pit stops for haircuts — the Bowl Cut is not a good look — but that’s it.

Meantime, the weather is gorgeous. We have had this great combination of sunlight and warmth by day and rain by night. No one told the peonies they had to stay in or wear masks, so they’re just going for it, as are the strawberries. My no-bolt arugula bolted; maybe it didn’t read the package. We are learning to cook with nettles; Julien trained them into a hedge, so we always have a huge ready supply. Somebody — maybe the hedgehogs I encouraged to return — has been randomly digging up my squash, maybe looking for bugs. Weird, but some remain. The fruit trees are fruiting. The birds are eating all my wildflower seed, but apart from that the meadow is doing fine. The owls are dropping digested mouse carcasses on my terrace, so I guess they’re doing fine as well.

I am grateful to my delivery people, who have been doing a terrific job; grateful to Julien, who is keeping the weeds from taking over; grateful to everyone who facilitates my current decision to boycott the universe. Such beautiful weather, and so many masks to make for a friend who distributes them to the Paris camps. I did say I was staying in…

Danica has a Go Fund Me page. It’s old, but still accepting donations. I’m sure all of us who are not worrying about making our own payments are donating wherever we can. But, if you’re not already tapped out, give some thought to supporting her efforts. She volunteers: every penny goes to the refugees.