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Gardening is for the birds

Nathan Baker • Sep 8, 2019 at 5:29 PM

A moderate amount of work went into growing my tomatoes.

There was saving seeds and planning the bed, germinating and nurturing my plants indoors, hardening them off and planting them outdoors, watering, feeding and pruning. So, I’m a little cheesed-off that the neighborhood wildlife can do it with little-to-no effort!

In the spring, a few tomato plants showed up in the flower bed in my front yard. Seeds must have been unintentionally dropped there after a meal by some wayward bird or squirrel and taken root.

Like some berries and other fruits, tomato seeds are surrounded by a jelly coat that protects them when passing through animals’ digestive tracts.

There’s a community garden just down the street from me, and several of my neighbors grow food in their yards, so there are plenty of potential sources nearby from which the seeds could have been picked up and dispersed.

I left the plants alone — no watering, no weeding, no feeding — to see what would happen, not really expecting much of anything.

A few weeks later, the vines had thickened and spread out across the ground. Without stakes and cages, tomatoes take up a lot of real estate.

A few more weeks and little green fruit were growing. When they ripened, I picked them.

Apparently, there are two varieties, a traditional, round, red beefsteak and a Roma.

I mixed some of the Romas in with some of my backyard tomatoes when I made a paste. They performed admirably.

I say I’m cheesed-off, but I’m really not. Just like the bees that helped pollinate my squash, I’m more impressed with how connected things in nature are.

Without even being conscious of it, birds spread seeds, but only because the seeds developed in a way that doesn’t kill them when the birds eat them. It’s amazing!

In addition to the wild tomatoes in the front, the ones in the back I sweated for are coming out well, too.

The Jersey Devil variety, described as a Roma-like paste tomato, are much larger than I thought they would be. Most I’ve picked ripe have been about eight inches long! They’re also pointy like a jalapeno pepper.

I’ve also picked some of the three varieties I grew last year, Mr. Stripey, Zebra and German Johnson.

I thought I was going to have a sparse yield this year, but it’s really picked up. I think I’ll have enough to stew and can a batch soon. That’ll be a new adventure for me, and I’ll be sure to write about it.

I want to see pictures of the produce from your backyard gardens! Send them to me at [email protected].

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