As Steve and I stared at the garden on Saturday, it was clear defensive maneuvers needed to be made.
“We could just tear out everything that’s dying,” I said. I thought of the impending thunderstorms hanging around the forecast. “If we get any more rain, what’s struggling is just going to die anyway.”
“I don’t know,” Steve said. “The cherry tomato plants that are left look pretty strong.”
We knew it, though. The other tomato plants had looked strong one day, wilted and limp the next.
“A lot of commenters have said they’re having success with putting tomato plants in containers,” I said. “A couple of people said they just put plants directly in bags of potting soil, no container required. A couple of slits in the bottom for drainage, and the plants are fine.”
Steve mulled this over. I mulled it over. We looked up at the black walnut tree and down at the garden.
I told him about a conversation I’d had on Friday at work with Jackie, our department’s administrative assistant. She’s a Master Gardener, and winced when I told her about the tree. Jackie had suggested we do the research and try to find a few juglone-tolerant plants, but encouraged me to act quickly, since most garden shops were about to give up on vegetable seedlings for the season. “She said we might still be able to get some seedlings in,” I said. “What if we just gave up on the tomatoes and tried to put in one of those plants that can withstand the juglone assault?”
He nodded. “We could do that.”
“Let’s go check with that garden shop over on Gilbert,” I said. “They always have good stuff. Their staff seems to know what they’re doing.”
We went inside to grab our wallets and keys. “I cannot believe how bummed I am about these tomatoes,” I said. “I’m incredibly disappointed.”
Steve gave me a hug. “I understand,” he said. “You thought you could bat .400 in your rookie year.”
Maybe so, but at this point in the garden game, the plot required a return to the farm team to finish out the season. Thanks to the black walnut tree, we were rapidly dropping to the garden league’s cellar.