Early in the spring, after I’d failed at growing seedlings but before I committed to buying plants from a garden store, my co-worker brought in a few boxes of tomato plants her husband had started.
I took two: one made for containers, and one that is supposed to produce these fabulous cherry tomatoes that taste so sweet they’re almost candy.
I put them both in containers because I didn’t have any ground to call my own.
That was my first mistake.
Two months later, the tomato plant made for containers is about 18 inches tall –
2 feet, at best. The plant not bred for a 3-gallon pot? It’s taller than I am. And staking it up has become a nightmare.
When it lived in my apartment, I bought a few plant stakes at Lowe’s. I started with an 18-inch and a 24-inch stake, glancing at the 36-inch option and laughing to myself, “It’ll never get that tall.”
Less than a week later, it had. I went back for the 36-inch stake.
Less than a week after that, I’d MacGyvered a contraption involving twine and my curtain rod to support the growth that had easily surpassed the 36-inch mark. Then I couldn’t close my curtains.
When I got nervous my plant’s flowers had died quickly — and learned I’d need to paintbrush-pollinate each flower myself — I brought the container into work and set it outside on the patio.
Without a curtain rod to help support the plant, I needed a larger stake. My first purchase was a wooden dowel. It’s too short, of course, and far too flimsy. So I searched a bit more and found a taller, stronger plastic rod. It’s tall enough, perhaps, but not strong enough.
And my poor tomato plant was no match for Monday’s winds. Throughout the day, I’d check on the plant and notice it was knocked over. I reset it each time, trying to prop it against the building or the shrubbery nearby, but I should’ve just left it alone — at the end of the day, I found the product of so many topsy-turvy moments: A good chunk of the plant had snapped off near the top.
It’s still taller than I am — never fear. But if I’d paid attention to which plants worked best in containers and been more realistic about what varieties I could support, I’d be a much happier gardener right now.
Next year, I’ll be planting container varieties only!