Tag Archives: aphids

I Almost Fell for It

If you have been following this blog for a few years, you know my travails with my tomato plants. And by plants I mean 2. My dear friends Becky and Susan raise tomato plants (and many others) lovingly from seed, carefully place a few in my hands, and before you can say “fresh tomato and basil” I’m sending them frantic pictures of their hapless babies, crawling with bugs or curling up and withering away. Usually accompanied by a text in all caps, “WHAT DO I DO????”

Last summer was a particularly spectacular failure. Right out of the gate the poor plant was swarmed with aphids, and I sprayed the hell out of it with soapy water, but it was too late. I got 2 tomatoes last year.

So this is my last summer at this apartment,  and I have increased the pot size (were the others too small?), stopped putting fertilizer  (have I used too much in the past?), and let it be. I’m a Zen gardener now, not attaching  to any particular outcome.

And the little struggling plant grew. And grew. Leaves unfurled effortlessly and soon yellow flowers burst forth in unbridled enthusiasm. I merely glanced and smiled serenely. Soon actual tomatoes swelled from the receding flowers, green ovals of promise. I even left the plant for three days,   while we went to college orientation, and lo, it rained.

Nearly 6 weeks in, all was well. I hadn’t made it this far before without a panicked text, or a sinking feeling.

And that’s where I made my misstep. I began desiring those green ovals, anticipating their ripe redness. I was actually going to do it this summer! Have more than a handful of tomatoes! And Buddha laughed.

This morning I went out to water my plant, and there they were. I don’t know what they are–mites, midges, bugs. To me they are the little white bastards, and the Zen gardening is over. Those little bastards picked the wrong plant to mess with. Oh, yeah, I sprayed the hell out of them this morning after I rubbed half of them off with my bare hands, like Scarlett O’Hara grubbing desperately in the dirt for food.

As god is my witness, I will have fresh tomatoes this summer. I will.

There’s Always Next Year

Like the Red Sox fans before the 2004 World Series win, every spring, my hope and optimism are reborn. This is the year I will have tomatoes before Labor Day and have more tomatoes than I can eat by myself. This is the year I will get to gaze at my gorgeous tomato plants with satisfaction and pride. This is the year I will finally beat those nasty bugs and critters laying in wait.

And as usual, shortly before Memorial Day I received my tomato plants, grown lovingly from seed, from my friends Becky and Susan. I was so proud:

tomato-before

My excitement was short-lived. Every single year, about three to four weeks in, something weird happens, and I have to send an emergency panic photo to Becky and Susan, with a plea for a diagnosis. This year it was these nasty little fellows: tomoato-aphids

In the past, I’ve had weirdly crinkled leaves, other types of bugs, something I dubbed butt rot. Let’s just say I keep Becky and Susan busy. This year it was aphids, which seemed easily solved with soapy spray. I followed the directions and in a few days the nasty things were gone. Yay! I was on track. And anyway, I usually am able to get a couple of handfuls of small tomatoes before havoc strikes.

A few weeks after that, I noticed the leaves at the bottom of one of the plants were getting yellow, but I didn’t pay much attention. In past years, when I was actually able to get a few handfuls of tomatoes before they were overcome with bugs, a virus, or my sheer inability to care properly for them, some leaves turn yellow. Some. It soon became clear, however, this plant was going belly up from bottom to top. I looked at the doomed yellow flowers and tried to stay hopeful. I still have another plant, after all.

Yeah, right. The other thing that happens every single year is that the plants all go together. There never seems to be a hardy survivor. And sure enough, when plant number 1 was about half-way dead, plant number 2 started its inevitable march to the big garden in the sky. I searched in vain for bugs, evidence of gnawing animals, stunted leaf growth. Nothing was wrong with them except, perhaps they realized that being in my care was going to mean their demise anyway, so I think they made a pact and took control of the situation.

They begrudgingly gave me five small tomatoes, threw themselves in each other’s arms and became this:

tomato-after

On the upside the basil is growing like crazy and seems impervious to me, bugs and critters. So at least I can make pesto.

So, dear delicate tomatoes, I bid you adieu. No judging, but I wish you could have been more like your sibling, Basil. Just you wait til next year.