Tomatoes Do Not Make Me Feel Guilty.

Here are my thoughts on gardens. I like perennials. I like great big hostas, which hide any volunteers that are growing beneath them. I like peonies, which appear with giant blooms for me every spring with absolutely no input from me. However, although I like the idea of a vegetable garden, and I admire other people’s vegetable gardens (Bartletts, I’m looking at you), I can’t manage a kitchen garden. I’m not going to say I don’t have time. I don’t have any less time than anyone else I know. I just can’t get it done.

When we first moved into this house about nine years ago, there were giant raised garden beds way in the back of the yard. GIANT. They were probably twice the square footage of my apartment in New York. There were some strawberries in there, some raspberries. I found asparagus taller than my head that first summer. A friend had to point out the rhubarb. Somebody, some years ago, was a real gardener. (Maybe the same ambitious someone who put in our behemoth of a stove.)

For the first few years, I spent days and days trying to clean out those giant beds. Eventually I had a guy come in with a little tractor and plow them up so I could start from scratch. One year I grew zucchini, which worked so well that I could hardly think of enough ways to eat it. I had some zinnias which were marvelously agreeable and provided cut flowers for weeks and weeks.

More often, I had shoulder high weeds and a lot of mosquitoes. You know what else I had? A lot of guilt. These were great beds, which a lot of people would like! And I like vegetables and should eat more of them! But I was blowing it every single day of every summer. At the time, my office windows looked right out into the backyard, and every time I looked out, I saw the gardens that I was mismanaging. Those stupid gardens felt like a smack in the face.

Finally, a couple of years ago, we just had them taken out. Goodbye gardens. Goodbye guilt. It has been an enormous relief. We have nice green grass instead. No problem.

This summer, in addition to manageable and user-friendly geraniums, I’m growing three tomato plants in pots, and one pot of basil. If I play my cards right, I’ve got tomato and basil salad for the summer, which is all I want to eat at this time of year anyway. And my pots require very little attention. They’re right on the deck within easy reach of the hose, so water every day is no problem. John can even water them. The tomatoes are thriving, the basil is lush, and I don’t have to be sad about what I should be doing better. I’m as proud of these tomatoes as other people are about acres of garden.

Here’s what I’ve learned. For me, tomatoes are plenty. If I need more fresh veggies, I know exactly which friends to visit, and I’ll bring the wine. Happy summer!

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