It wasn’t my fault. Really. Nine tomato seedlings, ordered from a mail-order nursery that I’ve used for years, arrived by delivery 10 days ago. After I freed the little peat pots from their cardboard-and-shipping-tape packaging, I found only snapped-off stalks and wilted leaves, barely alive, in soggy potting soil. The damaged seedlings looked too fragile to survive even a transfer out of the carton to our warm, shaded patio. When I called on the Garden Goddess for help, a feisty spirit, wearing an apron spattered with tomato sauce, appeared instead. She peered at the little plants, patted my arm and shrugged. “They drowned in the box. Whaddya gonna do?”

Fortunately, two Husky Cherry Reds that I bought at a Moscow garden center are thriving in their patio pots, and a shipment of three tomato plants, including Little Napoli, recently arrived in excellent condition from the consistently reliable Territorial Seed Company, based in Oregon. I had expected, though, that the other mail-order tomatoes, with equally positive customer reviews but more interesting varieties — Cherokee Purple, Dark Star, Two Tasty, Fourth of July, and Sunchocola — would become the centerpieces of my backyard vegetable garden this summer. But, no. They drowned in the box.

The tomato fiasco was the first clump of weeds in a gardening season that Duffy, my new, extremely impetuous assistant, is capable of uprooting all by himself. With all four paws on the ground, our Bernedoodle puppy stands 32 inches tall, but when he plants his front paws on my chest, he’s eye to eye with five-foot two-inch me. To prevent those oversize paws from flattening my seed-starting operation, I transferred 42 peat pots from the patio floor onto a garden table. I also set up barriers along the table’s perimeter, sort of a belt-and-suspenders strategy, to discourage Duffy from inspecting the pots of germinating pumpkin seeds there.