This evening I had a small helper while I picked tomatoes. The plant you see sprouted on its own around June in a vacant section of a wheel-shaped garden, and since it wasn’t competing with anything I had planted, I let it grow. It has large orange cherry tomatoes with an extra-vivid flavor. What a delicious accident.
What you can’t see is the main tomato bed, in another wedge of the wheel-shaped garden. Every time I go out to pick tomatoes, I am reminded that sometimes a good piece of advice is worth doing a little extra work. This spring, as I was excitedly transplanting my very first baby tomatoes, my mother-in-law – visiting from Alaska – suggested tactfully that I might consider spacing them farther apart. “Sometimes tomatoes can really take off. They can outgrow their space quickly. These look a little tight to me.” I had already dug their holes and put the seedlings in. They looked so delicate and innocent, I simply couldn’t imagine them burgeoning into rebellious space hogs. And I was deep into transplanting strawberries. I didn’t want to replant the tomatoes. So I chose to believe they would remain staid and obedient.
They didn’t, of course. Now, each time I harvest tomatoes, as I tunnel headfirst into the vigorous vines and fight for a handful of bright red fruit deep in the thicket, I remember: “Sometimes tomatoes can really take off.”
Maybe next time I’ll listen.