There is not much I love like I love the smell of a tomato leaf. Sharp and minty and the very smell of summer, of memories of the garden my mother grew when I was a child. We were the weird iconoclasts in northern New Jersey, where a yard was a barely tolerated patch of green, maybe accommodating a yew or azalea or a few bulbs to bloom in springtime. But not my mom, who transplanted hydrangeas and mimosas from my grandmother's yard. Who tried apricots and cherries and kept the big old mulberry tree outside my window. When the town's building code dictated that she couldn't put up a 6 foot fence to block the view of our terrible near neighbors, she let that side of the yard go wild with raspberries that formed a backdrop to the basil and zucchini she grew beneath them. I remember poring over seed catalogs, trying to pick out all the blue flowers that I wanted to grow in my little plot.
And the tomatoes, with their smell of high summer, and the wavy lines of heat off our driveway and loud trill of cicadas in the background. I don't remember what we did with them, but I know that's where my love of growing things began. It was tomato plants that first called up a particular sense of wonder in our natural world. How could this tiny seed transform into these green sharp leaves, these yellow star flowers, this juicy bursting fruit?
Of course, this is a terrible year to love tomatoes here in the NorthEast. But I have to confess - mine died from neglect, not blight. I had two beautiful San Marzano seedlings, and the early rainy season made me lazy. They were rarely watered, never fertilized, and occasionally scampered over by the groundhog family that took shelter under our deck for much of the early summer. The final straw was when we caught the mama groundhog to transfer her to a less residential area, and my 6 year old picked my 2 (TWO!) tomatoes to give to her while she waited for her ride.
That said, I have a bumper crop of nasturtiums and leeks this year. And my indestructible-seeming raspberries are producing a fall crop despite two years of sort of limping along since being transplanted here.
All of which is to say that I am an enthusiastic gardener, and witness to all things growing. But I'm not particularly skilled at it. When the 2010 season gets going, though, I'm going along for the ride. Julie will be telling us the way it should be done and I'm going to do my best to do things right. I promise to share every amateur, embarrassing detail, along with any successes that happen to come my way.