Tomatoes recover;EZ-Grow pumpkinis definitely feeling the added pressure

Craft Rozen

After too many days away from my garden, I took a slow walk around the flower bed in our front yard, needing to reconnect with its spirit of beauty and peace. Instead, I found traces of the damage that recent days of wind and rain had done to my beautiful tulips. Some of the flowers stood upright but stripped of their petals; others sagged into the dirt, their stalks bent and petals torn. A red tulip lay crushed on the sidewalk, outside the scalloped edging that protects the garden. I went inside to the kitchen to make a calming cup of tea and waited at the window, looking out at the garden while the water heated. I saw the tulip bed with new eyes then, and found gratitude for all the bright ribbons of flowers left standing, swaying in the wind, tougher than their pretty petals and slender stalks might suggest. Some of the tulips were no longer perfect, but their torn flowers gave them a ragged beauty. They had slept underground in darkness through the winter, emerging and blooming into a new season more raw than they expected or deserved.

I took my mug of tea into the living room and paused in front of a row of pale, spindly tomato plants, confined to their pots since the day they arrived by mail order in late March. I’d carried the plants to the patio for sunlight, and then back inside, every day for six weeks, until I finally set May 15 as their planting date. I balked, though, when the weather forecast changed, and overnight temperatures still hovered too close to freezing. I couldn’t risk planting the tomatoes on schedule, and then checking on them the next morning and finding six mushy puddles of frozen tomato stalks, dead in their garden bed. I decided to keep the plants inside for another week. Maybe two weeks, just to keep them safe from a possible ice storm. OK, early June for sure — until I remembered hearing about a snowfall in Moscow years ago, in June.

Normally, I’m likely to land in a figurative patch of nettles when I let my impetuous nature fly around, fanciful and free. This time, though, I’d gone the other way and developed an overprotective bond with the tomatoes, which had become root-bound in their pots. I had to stop overthinking the planting date, defy the nettles in my head and reclaim my impetuosity. So last Sunday I settled my coddled green buddies into a raised bed, a week before the traditional planting time of Memorial Day weekend. I set sturdy red cages around the tomatoes, to support the weight of their fruit-bearing branches during the summer, and used bright yellow plant markers to identify each variety: Little Napoli, Artemis, Beaverlodge Slicer, San Vicente, Sunchocola and — my favorite name — Purple Zebra. Five of the six plants have acclimated well to the cooler than expected weather, but Artemis, a sweet cherry variety, let her stalks turn limp and droopy to express her indignation. I hope she’ll rally soon.

When I finished planting and watering the tomatoes, I didn’t want to leave the garden, so I stayed outside in the late afternoon sunshine and planted two purple delphiniums in a nearby raised bed. Soon I’ll also make room for pink “champagne bubbles” Iceland poppies and neon-blue forget-me-nots. The new plants will add contrast to the dusty rose and yellow flowers, and the pastel sweet peas on a wooden lattice, in that bed.

I feel a deep-rooted joy when I’m in my Church of Dirt and Flowers, caring for the perennials and vegetables that depend on me. I’ll haul buckets of compost to the pumpkin patch without complaining. Dig up prickly nettles (with plenty of complaining.) Untangle fragile roots from pot-bound plants. Weave drip hoses among the perennials for prudent watering. Deadhead flowers as they transition through the seasons. Create flower beds, as I did last Sunday, by mixing and blending the plants’ colors as if they were children’s crayons.

Craft Rozen is thankful that her Church of Dirt and Flowers welcomes impetuous gardeners. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com.

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