Did you add lime?
Did you mix in manure?
He scratched his head. I waved away a fly that kept buzzing my face. The seconds ticked by as the hot sun beat down on us. Quietly, I waited for the wisdom I knew would be forthcoming. He was an expert. At last he spoke.
Do you ever water them?
I tried to keep a straight face.
Water them? Do tomato plants need water?
He just stared at me 'til his wife nudged him in the ribs.
Of course she waters them, Dear.
This was embarrassing.
Earlier that morning another neighbor from the farm down the road had stopped by and I gathered the courage to ask his advice on my failing tomatoes. Farming here for most of his 70+ years, I figured that if anyone knew this soil and how to get things to grow in it, it would be him.
I had been so proud of the lush, healthy seedlings I started weeks before in my window sills. I carefully followed directions for hardening them off and planted them in much anticipation of a crop of the loveliest tomatoes anyone had ever seen. Oh, yes. This would show all my neighbors that I truly belonged out here in the country.
But there I was, asking if there was any way to save the spindly, shriveled up, pitiful remains of my plants. My neighbor tried very hard to encourage me, but I could see it on his face. There wasn't much hope for this novice gardener. He made a couple of suggestions (You could try some Miracle Grow.) then headed for his truck. As he drove off I thought I heard him saying something about stopping by another neighbor's to ask if they had any ideas. Surely not. I probably misheard him over the noise of the truck tires on the dirt driveway.
It didn't take long. I wanted to hide my face as a four-wheeler rumbled up my driveway. The man and his wife carried four good-sized leafy plants.
You like cherry tomatoes, don't you? We had too many. It was either throw them away or bring them to you.
The lie was meant to protect my pride. I had no use for that pride anymore. It quickly vaporized in the face of such kindness.
Thank you, yes! We love cherry tomatoes. *sigh* Come take a look at my garden. Maybe you can advise me.
We planted the tomatoes, covering them with empty plastic milk jugs with the bottoms removed. This would shelter them a bit while their roots became established in their new home.
We then visited for a good while. We discussed the merits of various soil additives and plant types. We talked about cows and dogs and children and chickens. I listened with interest to tidbits of information about the goings on in the neighborhood and town. They knew everybody it seemed, and everything about everybody, too. They weren't the only ones who knew. There were no secrets in this tiny town. I wondered how long it would take for the news of my tomato troubles to make the rounds. I didn't have long to wait.
A couple of days later we were asked over to see some newborn calves. I was introduced to a very nice young man who upon hearing my name politely asked how my tomatoes were doing.
Wow. I've never been famous before.
Just wait 'til they see my radishes.