Thursday, May 13, 2010

First Loves and Separating

Do you remember your first love? When I go back to when I was a little girl, I remember being in love with my best friend's older brother. He was a family friend and we spent a lot of time together. I was heartbroken when he declined my marriage proposal. At 3 years of age, I remember bawling over his heartless response. But, by 4, I had just about forgotten who he was. There were many other loves, as I was always a bit of a lovey-dovey. When I was 14, I fell in love for the first "real" time. I remember believing that my "first kiss" would be the man that I would someday marry and grow old with. Ha! To be young again, right?

These first loves are quite similar to a plant's first leaves. Each sprout emerges from the soil with its first set of leaves. After a while, the plant's "true" leaves emerge and the first leaves shrivel up and fall off. Their purpose has been fulfilled and they go the way of all living things, back to the earth. I could probably get into the scientific end of why the first leaves do what they do, but I will leave that to another blogger (no need to muddle my mind or yours with too much information).

So, when my hubby examined my tomato plants a couple of months ago and announced that they "weren't looking too good", I laughed at his apparent ignorance and told him that those were the first leaves and that they were supposed to be shriveling up. As I was watering them later that evening, I realized that they really didn't look that hot. Because of the fact that they had received barely any sunshine over the period of their window life, they were not as green as I remember my store bought tomatoes being. Also, they were not filling out as well. But that was another problem completely...

You see, when I planted my seeds into their little trays, I naturally planted 2 seeds in each container. This was to ensure that at least one seed would germinate and take root, just in case not all of my seeds were viable. As it turned out, nearly all of my seeds did well this year and I had several containers with 2-3 tomato plants in them. I had read that I needed to cut one of them near the dirt, as soon as they got their first leaves. Otherwise both plants would die because of the competition for nutrients, water, and light. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Every time I would get close to the plants, scissors in hand, ready to take action...I would remember the fictional book, The Giver. In The Giver, the father, who works in a clinic, has to decide which babies deserve to live and which ones will be "set free". In this fictional society, they base this decision upon the baby's weight and how healthy they appear. There is a scene where a set of healthy twin boys are born, one weighing only a few ounces less than the other (don't quote me on the specifics, it could have been only 1 oz.). The father euthanizes the "smaller" newborn. If you have read the book, you totally get my anxt. Every time I would look at my crowding tomatoes, all I could think about was that scene....I clearly was not cut out for making this sort of decision....I know, I am such a wimp., and a crazy one, at that. You can say it, I am sure you are thinking it.

Anyways, a couple more weeks went by. The first leaves were nearly all shriveled and beginning to fall off, the plants weren't doing very well, and I was really torn on what to do. The situation grew more problematic everyday that my tomatoes grew. How could I end the life of one of them now and which one would it be? I called my local nursery and asked an expert on the possibility of separating my tomatoes and having them succeed. She told me that I could do this, but that I needed to wait until they each had at least 4 leaves on them to perform the delicate procedure.

I waited for several weeks to take on the separating procedure, mostly due to my back feeling like someone was sticking pins in my lower spine (from being rear ended in March) and Mother Nature's fickleness. On Wednesday, April 14th, it was sunny. Yay! And so I took my yellow-green tomato plants outside to soak up the sun for a few days, to help prepare them for their surgery.

On Friday, on the 16th, I very carefully transplanted all of my tomatoes...
and there were a lot of them.

I labeled them all.

They were over 6" tall when I began.

Very carefully, I tipped the plant out of its pot...

...letting it fall into my hand without bending either of those delicate tomato plants...

I gently dug my fingers in, between the twins...

being sure not to harm too many of the roots that had been growing together for the past few months.

Slowly, I pulled them apart.

Until they were completely separated.

I put them in their own pots, as deep as I could put them, covering up quite a bit of their stems. I added a little dirt and fertilizer, labeled them...

Then, like an idiot...thinking that it was only a few weeks away from the last frost...and I could get away with putting them long as they were protected with a tarp...I did the unthinkable....I left my temperamental babies outside. Big mistake.

These photos were taken on April 18th, when around 100 of my plants were still alive (nearly all of them survived the transplant).

They did okay at first, until it snowed...and those that survived the cold were over-watered...add in that they were all but completely ignored by yours truly...most of them died. Yes, after being so concerned about purposefully killing one of each of those twins, I went ahead and wiped out nearly 2/3 of my babies in less than a week. There were 38 tomato plants still alive when I checked today. The interesting thing that I have learned from this experiment gone awry is that certain types of tomatoes thrived, despite my abuse, and others died. If nothing else, I have now deducted which ones will do better if I do demonstrate a complete lack of judgement again, right? Just trying to find that silver lining.

Do you like the dome?

I may not have enough to sell for our charity, but I have enough to grow for myself, both my parents, and a few friends.

I have been really busy for the past few weeks working on a new path for our family, and so I have had to put some things on the back burner....including this blog. For that I am sorry. And the fact that not all of the tomatoes survived my strange shock therapy, I am sad about that, as well. But I am not going to dwell on my failure, my ignorant mistakes, or the fact that I am not perfect. Instead, I am going to focus on what is important and promise not to bite off more than I can chew. I am also going to be more consistent on here. I know that there are only a few of my dearest friends who are reading this and for that I am thankful. Thanks for taking an interest in this crazy lady's strange and sometimes ridiculous thoughts. I know that I am annoying, random, and completely insane most of the time. But I do have something to offer to the world, even if it is just a brief glimpse into the mind of a gardening fool...and you just read my entire post, so what does that say about you? :P

~.~ the purple sprout