When we first bought our little home in New Jersey twenty-something years ago, I was so excited that I could finally have a garden (after living in Manhattan for seven years) that I went out and bought every seed and plant in the nursery (or so it seemed). I do remember planting lettuce, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and, of course, tomatoes. My next-door neighbor at the time was also into gardening, and we often got together for garden dinners, with ingredients fresh from our own backyards.
Then came children (actually, I had a two-year-old when we moved to NJ, but keeping one kid away from the baby tomatoes is easier than thwarting three children hell bent on destruction). Yes, as the boys grew the garden shrunk a bit. Some of the veggies were picked before they were ripe (a little green sphere is surprisingly fascinating to a toddler, I discovered), and other plants were inadvertently trampled when the kids were playing softball, kickball, or riding their bikes.
I persisted in planting but gave up on the lettuce and zucchini (which the slugs liked a little too much, anyway). The growing family required that we add a deck to the back of the house, which though modest, nevertheless gobbled up a good portion of my garden. So I downsized again--this time planting only tomatoes, basil, and parsley. At least I could still make a tasty bruschetta or pesto.
Now, you’d think, with my kids all grown and off to college that I would get back to my gardening this year, but au contraire, I have decided to downsize even further. Today, I purchased exactly two tomato plants instead of my customary nine. My reasoning is that since I’ve neglected all nine for the past few years, perhaps it would be wiser to just get two plants, and really focus on nurturing them. I’m still debating whether to spring for the basil, but I have time.
This was not an easy decision, because I have been planting and growing tomatoes for twenty-six years without missing a summer. But sometimes, one just has to take stock of reality. I seem to be busier than ever with writing, yoga, family, and friends. So busy, in fact, that my husband suggested I give up the garden all together this year. But I’m not there yet.
As one of my yoga teachers said the other day, fantasizing is nice, but sometimes you have to face reality. I don’t think he was referring to gardens, but that’s okay. The fact is, though I would like to have all those beautiful veggies growing in some dark, rich soil, unless I change my life style dramatically or hire a groundskeeper (Lady Chatterley, anyone?…Oh, wait…he was a gamekeeper!) it’s just not going to happen. The reality is, like it or not, I’ve moved on. There is simply no pretending that I have time for the garden; in the past few years, the withered and weed-infested tomato beds have made that perfectly clear.
So, two tomato plants it is for this growing season from which I hope I get at least one beautiful, healthy, ripe tomato. For me, summer just isn’t summer without a sandwich made from a tomato I just picked in my own yard.