My brother “J”, aka Master Gardener, is someone who motivated me to attempt a vegetable garden this summer. When we purchased this home, I already had lovely visions of beautiful gardens throughout the property – of course, not having a clue as to how & when all of that was going to transpire.

When my sister-in-law “E” & I were chatting one afternoon, I started asking her about their vegetable garden. Apparently J is the family gardener, not E, but she stated, “Just plant something. It can’t be that hard!” Thus, I purchased plants the following day, some soil, some manure & went to the task.

And that’s just one of MANY differences between J & I. J is a school teacher, a very dedicated, very loving, very intelligent teacher. He does research, he knows his soil, he preps everything before planting. Me, I’m one of those “fly by the seat of your pants” kinda gals. Research? That’s why the world HAS researchers. That’s not for ME to do.

Anyways, I agreed wholeheartedly with E – how hard could it be? Ahem.

Where J lives, the soil is much different than where I live. Upon the first dig with the shovel, I knew I was in for it. We’ve only been in this part of the state for a little over a year & I had no idea how high the clay content was in the soil. All I knew was that the entire area used to be an orchard of hardy olive trees. Lovely! But clay is very, shall we say, temperamental. So I thought, “I’ll just give it a little water.”

Know what happens when clay is mixed with water? You get mud. Thick, gooey, take your shoe off kind of mud. So there I was, in my KEDS (which are now officially “garden shoes”, hurrying as fast as I can to get the soil ready for planting, mud all over the place, etc. The reason I had to hurry was that my window of opportunity was closing quite rapidly since my toddler would soon be waking from his nap. And if you have kids, you know that window is never long enough!!

So, I get the soil done, dig the holes, throw the plants in (spacing? who needs to space correctly…they’re just tiny plants..) & voila – garden! At this point I am bushed, sweaty, dirty, ruined a decent pair of shoes (oh the tragedy!) but, I have my first-ever GARDEN:

April 08

April 08

It wasn’t until AFTER I had done the planting that I was told by my neighbor that you get better results if you plant the tomatos after they had been stripped of nearly all leaves & planted just barely showing out of the ground. Hmm. Then J told me that I need to be watching for sprouting stems that don’t have flowers on them because they take energy away from the plant that would otherwise be producing tomatoes. Which explains all the leaves & hardly any tomatoes in this picture:

2 tomato plants

2 tomato plants

So, naturally, I go right ahead & start stripping the plants of all of those unsightly, unecessary leaves…alas, I fear I may have just ruined any chance of my family experiencing fresh tomato salsa this summer. What do you think??

Who needs leaves??

Who needs leaves??

Stripped tomato plants

Stripped tomato plants

So, my reminders for NEXT summer’s garden are as follows:
*  prep soil before purchasing any plants
*  strip tomato plants of all but top leaves
*  plant tomatos barely aboveground
*  use a post, rather than cages, to allow tomato vine to grow as one stalk, rather than many
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