Legend of Foster

Legend of Foster

Back in the spring of 2017, a small golden cherry tomato plant asked to be fostered in my annual veggie garden. My son Mark and his girlfriend Sarah had overbought plants for their apartment garden, and the little tomato was dying a neglected death. Sure, I said, what was one more little plant among the many other veggies that we usually planted in our easterly hillside planter box garden. Mark had to nurse it back to halfway healthy before we could even attempt to transplant it. We finally placed the struggling growth in our nourishing ground and hoped for the best. I decided that Foster was a most fitting name for the little tomato plant.

A week later, Foster was thriving. His trunk became sturdy, and his branches spread nicely. His improving green appearance demonstrated he was determined to catch up to his relatives next door, which had been given a head start by at least a couple of weeks. He became the first tomato to require a support cage and the first to display a bounty of flowers. I had to pinch back his side branches several times because he was infringing on the space of others.

Foster didn’t care. He moved right in on the neighboring pole bean trellis, draping his arms over the growing vines. The pole beans reciprocated by winding and weaving their tentacles through and around Foster’s ever-expanding branches. My interference and trimming didn’t faze either plant. They were determined to join forces in support of each other. The same became true of the heirloom tomato plant on Foster’s other side. I decided to quit fussing so as to allow the determined growths to do what came naturally.

Time passed, and Foster and his neighbors flourished. It became clear that this year’s crops had minds of their own, especially after the California winter that had blessed us with so much rain. The pole beans grew taller than they’d ever been, and Foster had no trouble keeping up. He dwarfed the other tomato plants, which were substantial in their own right. His branches were soon bursting with sweet yellow cherries, limbs now woven into the very fabric of and draping over his neighbors.

Once his branches draped down to the ground, they changed course and headed back upstream. One could harvest on a daily basis. He and his pole bean friend required harvest by ladder, a first for our little garden. I was delivering a new container of cherry tomatoes to Mark almost on a daily basis. Foster stood proud of his offspring and their excellent quality.

Now it’s close to Thanksgiving, and I’m ready to retire this year’s garden. But no! Foster has other plans. He’s looking weathered on the inside, but he’s still flourishing on the outside. His branches are still strong and growing, and there are still dozens of cherries to pick. I fear the colder weather will make it difficult for Foster’s offspring to ripen, so on Thanksgiving, we will pick his fruit for the last time and put him to rest. It will be sad to see him go. He was such a vital contributor to this year’s garden treasures.

But I have hope that he will live on. We’re leaving a few of his offspring on the ground. Hopefully in the spring, their seeds will unfold from their winter’s rest to sprout a new generation of sweet yellow cherry tomatoes. At that point, they will no longer be fosters in my garden, but they just might move on to be fosters for others.

You’re a legend, sweet Foster. It’s been a pleasure.

Oh, How I’ve Missed My Time in the Garden

Oh, How I’ve Missed My Time in the Garden

The season has returned for getting down on our hands and knees and working the soil. New, innocent seeds and seedlings need a helping hand if they are to grow to their full potential. The work is straight forward if you arm yourself with the right tools, nutrients, and plantlings. You plant them, feed them, water them, trim them, and harvest them. Whether they’re vegetables or flowers, trees or bushes, they all need a loving touch to help them flourish.

I was late in getting my vegetable garden going this year because of our California rains. They went on and on and caused way too much growth of all kinds on our property (please note that I’m not complaining about the abundance of water). Just last week, I fought my way through a tangle of rosemary, blackberries, and lavender in an attempt to reshape the individual plants and clear space around the blackberries so I could clear their individual tangle and promote their healthy growth. The blackberries themselves were another weekend project. And of course, during the process, I had to repair broken irrigation drippers here and there.

The veggie collection includes the usuals: 5 varieties of tomato, including some volunteers from last year, zucchini, yellow squash, pole beans, jalapenos, red bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, red and yellow onions, beets, and red chard, and shallots from last season. We’re trying our hand at watermelon and casaba melon this time around, and this year we’re fostering a cherry tomato plant for the first time. It’s strange to feel an obligation to another’s plant. The herbs include Italian basil, lemon and lime basils, oregano, Italian parsley, cilantro, lemon thyme, regular thyme, tarragon, and garlic chives. I’ll add more if something sounds interesting to me. Oh, and I got some late half-off seeds from the local nursery that is closing out, so I’ll throw sunflower seeds into the ground and add leeks, arugula, and peas later in the season.

I’ve missed being in this garden. I’ve been spread so thin with varying responsibilities in recent times that it’s easy to forget the calm, soul-cleansing peace that is to be found in the garden. It’s a peace known in solitude, in nature’s noises, and in the miraculous motion that nature that carries on whether we’re observing it or not. You pull a weed, and a worm who is working the soil emerges. You trim herbs, and the bees and ladybugs that keep the plants healthy show their faces. You place a support under a towering gladiolus, and the hummingbirds zoom in to enjoy the nectar. If your mind is not in the current moment, such treasures pass you by. But if you focus on the activity and the noises, you become one with them, and outside thoughts lose their importance. So I’m going to concentrate on what I experience in the garden. I’m not going to miss the garden, especially if I’m actually standing in it.