The Last Rose (Tomato) of Summer

This wasn’t a great year for tomatoes here.  We tried it one more time, even though I was sure that our little plot – and its farmer – needed at least a year of rest; of lying fallow.  Last year we used “organic” fertilizer that had not been composted and we ended up growing whatever weeds it was that my friend’s horses had been eating instead of the tomatoes we had hoped for.

This year there were other problems.  For starters, planting was an afterthought.  We had sworn off for the year until our very kind and green-thumbed neighbor brought us a big flat of the stoutest, greenest, healthiest plants you’ve ever seen and we could not say no.  We were enthusiastic and hopeful for a while, but we planted the things too close together (hadn’t done the tilling) and they ended up sort of choking each other out.  It is very easy to underestimate how wide and thick a mature plant will be when you are putting the single-stemmed, baby plant into the ground.

Anyway, we ended up with a dense jungle of tomato bushes, lush in foliage, but nearly impossible to penetrate or to find the tomatoes in.  I think the tomatoes were slow to ripen because they were shaded by all those leaves and did not get much sun.

But we did get a few, and even one or two of those rose-red, mouth-watering big ‘uns that are really the reason you do the work in the first place.  It’s our habit to set a few tomatoes on the back porch railing and let them ripen where the bugs and deer and rabbits can’t get to them.  As it works out, there is still one good-looking, orange-colored, baseball-sized tomato setting on the railing.  It’s been there way too long.  I wouldn’t even think about eating it, but for some reason it hasn’t rotted and it still looks appetizing.  It has to go, I know, but I’m reluctant to toss it into the compost.  It has the look of summer about it and reminds me of long, bright days and those evenings when we could walk to the side of the yard and pick tangy, live fruit to spice up dinner.

In only weeks it will seem unimaginable that life so full and warm could spring from that cold, wet ground.

But autumn has its own charms.  Here’s a look at a path we just walked in the mountains last weekend.


photo by jenny ellis

photo by jenny ellis

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