Lessons Learned in Gardening

Let’s just jump right in, to one of my current favorite do-it-myself-ings: growing our own food. Or a bit of it, anyhow.

One of the great things about picking up new hobbies is that I get to experience the joy of being at the beginning of the learning curve every time.

Two years ago, on a lark, MyBoy, age 3, and I planted a tomato seed in a yogurt cup on our apartment windowsill in May. I know. We were about two months late. But we didn’t know that /then/. Eventually I stuck it in a hanging planter on our porch. We did, remarkably, wind up growing two fruits on it, one of which fell off and dropped two stories into our landlord’s planter while we were away for a weekend in September. Then it was gnawed on by squirrelsThe other was just right when we came home, and was easily the best tomato I’d ever tasted. And I only just managed to taste it, since MyBoy was gobbling it up as fast as I could slice it.


Gardening Lessons 2010:

1) Start a HECK of a lot earlier.

2) It is SO worth it.
Last year, we planted cherry tomato seeds–still in yogurt cups on our apartment windowsill–on February 28. They grew quite nicely, and in fact we may have overdone it. Several plants were given away as their size and quantity grew unmanageable. Eventually I upgraded the remaining ones to cottage cheese containers. We had to bring them with us over Passover, as they would have died over the week we were away, and then I managed to forget them at my parents’ shady house for a couple of weeks. When I retrieved them, and took them home by T, they were overgrown, skinny beasts. Before it was warm enough to put them outside, they’d grown longer still, and I’d caught MyGirl–not quite two at the time–carrying one around by its stem several times. It seems to have been her favorite. Finally I loaded my favorite three into three hanging planters out on the porch.

Then sometime in June I saw some very lonely-looking seedlings hanging out at the fruit store, being sold for next to nothing. I couldn’t just leave them there! In the end, I had three hanging cherry tomato plants and two standing regular tomato plants in the largest containers I could find at short notice.

Results: One hanging plant, which I did not prune, was a great producer, and we probably got well over a hundred tomatoes from it. MyGuy and I occasionally got to eat some, but they were usually absconded with by MyBoy and MyGirl. Generally, in the latter’s case, while they were still green and hard. A squirrel got a few, but aside from that, they were fine. The other two hanging plants got by, so-so. I pruned one of them and found no benefits to it, and many fewer tomatoes. The other–the one MyGirl had so enjoyed swinging around by its stem–caught some Dread Tomato Disease and was by the end dying faster than the few tomatoes it produced could ripen. This one was in the planter I’d used the previous year. MyBoy had promised tomatoes to all of his friends and teachers, some of which we did manage to distribute. The purchased plants each produced two or three tomatoes, with much coddling. The flavor was acceptable, but nothing special.



1) Don’t start /that/ early.

2) Try to keep them portable over Passover.

3) Clean out last year’s planter with bleach before re-using it.

4) Don’t buy started plants in June, no matter how cheap they are.

5) Don’t try to grow tomatoes in 2-gallon pots.

6) A little bit of research makes a big difference.

7) Don’t prune cherry tomatoes.

8) Cherry tomato seedlings are hardier than you think and can survive being swung around by a 1-year-old.

9) It’s SO worth it.


See what a great learning curve this is?

Tune in next time to see how 2012 is going, now that we have our little North Shore house with its sunny, vertical backyard, and our children are old enough to have Opinions!


4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned in Gardening

  1. A tip for green tomatoes leftover at the end of the season, or rescued from a plant that’s dying, or pulled off prematurely by over-enthusiastic children:

    1. Place on a sunny windowsill or in a paper bag. If this doesn’t work, put an apple in with them.
    2. Make green tomato chutney! Yum!

  2. I’m enjoying your writing, and the chance to learn from your experiences. Being apartment-dwellers currently, we’re not having a lot of success with out one agricultural experiment- basil, which clearly needs far more sun than the plant can actually get anywhere that we have real access to.

    • Oh dear. Have you tried peas? One of 2012’s lessons is that they like the cool. You’ll be reading about that in my next post. As far as space matters are concerned, you’ll also be reading about my adventures with the Sweet ‘n Neat breed of cherry tomatoes. Thanks so much for reading, and the compliment! I’m enjoying this little experiment so far…

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