She danced in with a leafy surprise.

I was following a Cabbage White around the kale patch, when I happened to look into a squash blossom. It was pointing straight up like a cup, and I saw a hoverfly in the bottom, not hovering at that moment, but I assume drinking nectar…? He didn’t move. While I was pointing my camera down there, another hoverfly zipped right in. For a moment they were piled up, but soon arranged themselves one on either side of the cup. Who knows how long they might have sat companionably at their juice bar if a third insect, flying so fast I couldn’t see, hadn’t flown in, and quickly out again; that agitated the fellows and they departed.

On the same tour of my estate I noticed bees at the dwarf pomegranate bushes. They would buzz around slowly checking out various blooms; I soon realized that they were looking for flowers that were at the right stage of opening, because they have to crawl deep into the narrow cave to get what they want. The flowers don’t seem to be open very long before they start to wilt, and then there is no way to get in.

I never believed in Mother Nature before this week, when I found a gift that was so clearly chosen with my particular gardening eccentricities in mind, I thought immediately that she would be the one who left it for me. But — I went back to that quote from Chesterton, following St. Francis of Assisi, who said we should think of Nature more as our little dancing sister,” who delights us into laughter. We have the same Father, we and Nature. Okay then, I’ll say it was my Little Sister who gave it to me: a tomato plant.

I used to grow the absolute best flavored tomatoes that you could find anywhere. A big part of my method was to dry-farm them, the way the Italian immigrants to California used to do. You water when you plant them, deeply, but then not again all summer. I tweaked that system and usually gave mine a drink every month or so.

But in my new garden, I haven’t found a way to do this, or a place. This year I didn’t plant one tomato, and I gave away all my tomato cages. Recently I saw my neighbor Kim’s tomato “garden” which is all in big pots, and it gave me the idea to try that next summer, and I could put the pots in my nice hot utility yard, on the gravel.

This week I went out to the clothesline and saw a tomato already planted in that very space. I’m thinking it must have a deep root, as it’s not near a water source. I did laugh, I can tell you. Whether or not I get a tomato from this plant, it was a very sweet and thoughtful gift from my little sister, and I take it as a pointed word of encouragement about my idea for next summer’s tomato experiment.

7 thoughts on “She danced in with a leafy surprise.

  1. That’s a fun tomato story! Your photo reminds me of the year I only got one huge tomato for my efforts. I set it on the kitchen counter to admire it for a while. My then 2 year old granddaughter found it, brought it into the living room, crawled up on the couch and started to consume it with great gusto. We just laughed and put a large dishtowel across her lap. She said it was deeee-wishus! (That was Audrey.)


  2. I love this observation post! it gave great delight to me as I too struggle with my former gardening and what I have now. I’m trying pot potatoes as well as raised bed ones. My old pattern from the North doesn’t work well in the rainy/dry South so I’m experimenting with how to water here. Too much water brings slugs the size of a pickle…too little a dry up. At least my brain works!!



  3. I’ve always heard that tomatoes need faithful watering in order to produce fruit. I wonder how dry farming can work then. Hmmm. Something to think about.

    I like how your little tomato plant is growing right where you’re thinking of putting pots of them next year.


    1. Granny, if they are planted very deep, and watered deeply and infrequently, the roots will grow down a long way and get all the water they need, and the flavor of the tomato will be more concentrated. At least, that is how it works here, in theory and in my experience. I don’t know if it applies in climates other than Mediterranean.


  4. GJ, I’ve never heard of dry-farming for tomatoes – what an idea!! It would come in very hand in summers like we’re having this year – hardly any rain 😦 I’m guessing it forces the plants to sink their roots very deep in search for water, and sets them up for the rest of the summer. Maybe we need to do this next summer. Gardening this summer has been a heart-ache!


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.