Gardening, Reflections

Surprising results from zombie tomatoes

Fresh tomatoesWhat do zombie tomatoes, a little bit of love, a touch of neglect, and ultimately letting go — without giving up — have to do with success?

Well, I’m going to tell you.

In March of 2017, my husband and I decided to grow tomato plants from seeds. We planted them in our basement under grow lights. We nursed them along with tender care. The plants sprouted and grew. When the weather got warmer, we took all but two of those plants outside, taking care to slowly introduct them to their new outdoor location.

Unfortunately, they didn’t fare well. At the end of the season, we managed to get a couple of sad, mushy, tasteless tomatoes.

Now, we still had the two plants that we left in the basement as an experiment. Those vines grew and grew, all through the winter of 2017 and into 2018. They crept across a table and down to the floor. Yellow flowers appeared, then died. We tried pollinating by hand. But the plants wanted bees and butterflies, not cotton swabs.

They wouldn’t yield fruit, but they wouldn’t die.

By April, we were tired of those vines. They were a bit sickly looking. My husband even briefly floated the idea of trashing them and just starting over. Ultimately, we weren’t ready to give up completely, but we also didn’t want to invest a lot of time and effort into them. We opted for a half-hearted approach. We relocated the plants to our temporary outdoor greenhouse and figured they were going to die. I watered them, but I didn’t add fertilizer or compost. I didn’t even bother putting those plants in bigger pots.

Whatever would be would be.

April Tomato Vines
The sad vines are pictured at the bottom. The pots, not visible in the photo, are much smaller than the four pictured on the right.

Those zombie vines kept creeping. We took down the temporary greenhouse. Yellow flowers appeared. White butterflies, yellow butterflies, large blue-and-black butterflies, even monarchs, visited them. Bumblebees and honey bees got busy. Real sun, not artificial light, shone down on them.

June Tomatoes
By June, the vines were happy. They’re in the right corner of this photo.

And something miraculous happened. By late August, we were picking six to seven beefsteak tomatoes each day. By early October, we had harvested well over one hundred. We’ve given tomatoes to friends, relatives, and co-workers. We’re still plucking tomatoes from the vines.

The taste? Juicy, meaty and packed with real tomato flavor.

October vines front
By October, the zombie tomatoes had consumed much of the yard.

There’s a reason gardening and farming are often used as metaphors for success. And I’m reminded of that every day when I eat fresh Pico de Gallo; pasta with spaghetti sauce; a tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad; or even just biting into a juicy tomato over the sink with just a dash of salt.

Pursuing a dream, raising children or cultivating healthy relationships requires effort. There will be setbacks. And sometimes, things can look bleak. There are roadblocks, stumbles and, yes, even failures.

But if you keep learning from your mistakes, strive to do the things you can, let go of those things you can’t control, then with some patience, you may harvest more rewards than you thought possible.

October vines back
Another view of the vines in early October.

7 thoughts on “Surprising results from zombie tomatoes”

  1. Love this post! I think that’s what drew me to gardening – that sometimes you have to bide your time. There’s rarely instant gratification, you have to be in it for the long run to experience success. It truly teaches you a lot about life in general. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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