Monday, June 18, 2007

Tomatoes and Freewill

Our neighbor, Richard, is an interesting person. As a dermatologist, he spends his days warning people of the damage brought on by too much time in the sun. As a gardener, he know that the good tomatoes he craves must have plenty of sun to produce the sweet, red, juice-running-down-your-chin tomatoes we expect from our back yard gardens.

Despite the efforts of the tree-trimmers that the power company sent to massacre the live oaks on his side of our street, in the name of protecting our power lines, or maybe because of it, Richard found one spot sunny enough to support his tomato plants – smack in the middle of his front yard, between the driveway and the street. So he dug up the tired old azaleas and in their place set his tomato plants.

Ever the inquisitive gardener, Richard further researched and built a self watering contraption in which to plant his tomatoes. It is sure to provide them with that other necessary element – plenty of water.

He then had hauled in a truckload of the compost the city sells that they make from the yard waste they collect around town, put down a layer of newspaper, and he gradually spread the compost across the bed, where he planted more tomatoes and peppers.

In these days of neighborhood covenants and deed restrictions that would give some people apoplexy at the thought of tomatoes in the front yard, Richard has struck a blow for independence I admire - though he yielded eventually to that most persuasive covenant – the marriage one. At the request of Richard’s wife, the workmen came Friday and planted a row of pickets that hides the vegetable garden. But I know it’s there. From the window where I sit at my computer I can see over the fence the tops of the tomato plants, stretching for sun, and my mouth is watering already for that first real taste of summer.

To find out how to build Richard’s self-watering tomato planter, go to