Tomatoes Grow Like Weeds

When we moved to Tucson fourteen years ago, one of the things I was the most excited about was our yard. Having a yard meant that I could finally grow things whether they were in containers or a garden. My dream was to have a vegetable garden so I could grow a little of the food our family consumes. The harsh reality is that we live in the middle of a desert and the extreme temperature and lack of moisture make it  rather tricky to maintain a viable garden.

Our very first summer here I tried to grow tomatoes in containers on the patio. I bought beautiful terra cotta planters, filled them with good soil, planted healthy seedlings, and watered them daily. The plants grew and began producing lovely tomatoes. Then the hornworms invaded my plants and completely devoured them. No tomatoes.

The next summer I tried planting tomatoes again, but decided I would use pesticides to kill the hornworms if they reappeared. Somehow the hornworms snuck back into my tomatoes and the plants were dead before I even had a chance to buy the bug killer.

Then I got smarter and bought the hanging, upside down tomato containers. The hornworms wouldn't be able to get to the plants if they were hanging. They worked. No hornworms. Unfortunately the birds came along and pecked through almost every juicy tomato before they were ever ripe enough to eat. Grrrr...

The years passed and I tried different varieties of tomatoes planted in different locations in our yard. Every year I got a couple edible specimens and the rest were destroyed by bugs, heat, birds... So I gave up on the tomato idea. The last plants I had shriveled up and died in my garden leaving nothing behind but a few rotting fruits on the ground. I tossed the withered plants and decaying tomatoes into my compost bin and decided I would never plant tomatoes again.

Luckily, I've been moderately successful growing other veggies here. In the summer I grow a wide variety of peppers and chiles. This year I'm trying eggplant and bottleneck squash, too. In the winter I grow lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard. I also have a tiny rock garden in the back of the yard where I plant different types of herbs.

A couple years ago, when I had completely given up on the idea of growing tomatoes, it happened...

Evey year, in early June, tomato plants start popping up everywhere. In my pottery, in the my gardens and even in the compost bin. I just let them be wherever they decide to grow.

The tomato plants that sprout in my herb garden have been good producers the last couple years. The plants on the left are cherry tomatoes and the one on the right grows larger tomatoes. The best part about these plants is that they seem impervious to bugs and hornworms. Go figure.

I'm excited because this year there are also a number of tomato plants growing around the chiles in my wine bottle garden. I don't know what type they are yet, but I am already thinking about the fresh salsa we will be enjoying in a couple months. Yum!

My new philosophy on growing tomatoes is to pick and enjoy as many as possible, but don't sweat it if the birds get a few. They'll be back next year, bigger, healthier and more productive because now they grow like weeds.



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The Chilly Dog: Tomatoes Grow Like Weeds
Tomatoes Grow Like Weeds
Tomatoes can grow like weeds if you give them plenty of water, quality soil, and then let the fruits lie where they fall
The Chilly Dog
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