March 6th, 2007
Hanna’s Tomato Patch
2007-03-07. In a couple of weeks when the trees leaf out my sunny vegetable garden will mostly be in the shade.
After I bought my eggplant and two tomato plants, I faced the Gardener’s Dilemma. Where would I plant them? Not in the vegetable garden. I don’t think that a tomato has produced anything in the vegetable garden this millenium.
I put the vegetable garden on the south side of the house where the grass died because of a slope. When a friend of mine was building a house in Steiner Ranch, I carted several RX-7 car-loads of limestone blocks and built a small wall to form a terrace. Then I hauled in horse manure from another friend’s horse ranch near Hamilton Pool. AJM put in a timed drip irrigation system for me.
In the intervening years, trees have grown. A pecan and red oak have shot up on either side of the vegetable garden. In the summer, any spot gets only 3 hours of sunlight if I’m lucky. Not enough for summer veggies. This year I stopped fighting the obvious and renamed it the winter vegetable garden.
Walking around the yard with plants in hand, I noticed a spot where the grass has died. It’s been a problem spot for years because it gets full sun. All summer. The grass there always dies and only comes back if we have a rainy year (which we haven’t since 2003). Wait! Full sun. Just what I’m looking for. The factor that might give more design-oriented gardeners pause is that this spot is in the front lawn, directly in front of my front door. Gracious! In some communities, you are prohibited from growing vegetables in the front yard.
2007-03-07. On paper, the front lawn doesn’t seem like the ideal spot for tomato plants. Maybe aesthetically, too. But practically, it’s the perfect spot. By the way, the funny wooden edges are the armrests of a futon couch which we dismantled 15 years ago. I’m all about recycling.
In his essay “The Simple Secret”, Henry Mitchell wrote:
…if the small city plot (which could be rather beautiful) is occupied by a fanatical gardener…the garden may be interesting–it may even be amazing–but it is not likely to be beautiful.
This may be the place to say that there are higher beauties than mere beauty. The gardener’s passion, clearly, is of a higher priority than the simple manufacture of a beautiful garden, which even any architect can make.
Of course some fanatical gardeners have beautiful gardens, of my acquaintance garden designer. Pam/Digging and Tom Spencer come to mind. But I am clearly of the breed for whom passion takes precedence. And this year, inspired greatly by Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2006, my passion has turned again to tomatoes. I will have them! And if they won’t succeed in the vegetable garden, I’ll try them in the lawn.
Although I’m under no convenants against front yard tomatoes, I can’t help but think about Hanna’s problems in Cleveland. So in the spirit of defiance and solidarity, I planted my tomatoes in front of my front door and named the 3×7 foot patch “Hanna’s Tomato Patch”.
2007-03-07. PS. If you are wondering why there is nothing planted in my planter it is because the roots of bushes planted by the previous owner broke through the masonry resulting in over $1000 of repairs. I haven’t decided what to do with it yet.
by M Sinclair Stevens in Austin, Texas