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The hanging tomato has to go

Hanging basket, August 2007If you ask a certain quadrant of my friends, they’ll tell you I hang onto things a little too long. Even when the decision has been made for me, I’ll stick by whatever I’m working on at the time, hold onto it until all signs point so clearly to stop that I can’t help but bail out.

And so, it should come as no surprise to any of them that I have not yet given up on the hanging tomato.

It is not that the thing hasn’t produced any fruit. Actually, it has produced four quite lovely green yellow pear tomatoes, none of which look any less green than they did the day they were born. They might ripen eventually, but the fact is, they probably won’t, and haven’t I learned the hard way that sometimes things just need to be what they’re going to be and die a natural death without my intervening or otherwise standing in the way?

Apparently I haven’t learned my lesson, because I have a struggling tomato plant hanging off my front porch.

Hanging tomato rootsLast week, Maggie and Heal stopped by to drop off some equipment they borrowed for their reception, and Maggie inspected the plant. “It looks like it’s putting out roots,” she said.

“Oh dear,” I said, “I was wondering what those bumps were.”

I had just been chalking the little bumps up to some sort of disease that tomato plants-in-hanging-baskets are prone to, but that it might be roots had never occurred to me. And it also occurred to me that perhaps the reason the stupid plant was putting out roots is because it is hungry and thirsty, which means I’m starving it.

Which makes me mean.

I am not into cruelty to anything, including plants, which has finally led me to the conclusion that I need to yank the hanging tomato. It’s starving to death and, therefore, putting out extra roots that it probably doesn’t need. It hasn’t produced a single ripe fruit, and Fall’s coming quickly.

But here’s the thing. Now I feel like I need to get rid of the thing. Need to relegate it (and the non-blooming Narcissus that goes along with it) to the compost pile. But I’m kind of liking having something hanging on my porch, even if I forget to water it. I kind of want to put something else out there.

So. Fall flowers that work in hanging baskets. Any good ideas from the peanut gallery?

Hanging in there

The sideways tomatoOf all the tomato plants in my current custody, the hanging basket tomato is doing the least well.

It has been growing steadily, but much more slowly than its backyard counterparts. It also has a lot less sun and dirt and water and, well, all that other stuff the experts recommend for plants.

But it’s hanging in there.

Over the weekend, it reached the roof of the porch, and began a slow descent over the edge of the pot. And by slow, I do mean that it is starting to grow sideways. I suppose that will work until the first three tomatoes form, at which point, it should drop over. I’m just hoping the roots hold and don’t decide to give way.

Perhaps I should mulch the dirt with rocks to give it a little ballast?

Trailing into Spring

Once I determined it was time for a little life in the hanging plant arena, the next step was to figure out what to shop for. Last time I asked for suggestions, I got some good ones, but that was all for Fall plants, and, well, let’s not talk about Fall. I’m still in recovery from winter, after all, and so plan to relish the warmer weather of Spring and, yes, even Iowa’s celebrated hot-and-humid summer.

My friend Amy was visiting for the weekend, so I dragged her to the closest Earl May to peer at flowers. “This one’s pretty,” I said. “Do you think it’s a trailing plant?”

“Sure,” she said, with not much more conviction than I had.
Bacoba and Million Bells

The label confirmed, though, that the plant would allegedly trail. It was a container of Million Bells in a color riding the rails between pink and purple, and I snagged the healthiest looking container of lavender bacoba to stick alongside it. I loved my white bacoba last summer, and I know for sure that trails.

Did you hear that? I know something for sure about gardening. Bacoba trails. So there.

“Is that going to be enough?” Amy asked.

I stared at the two plants in my hand and tried to visualize the hanging basket. I figured with room to breathe, this ought to be about perfect, but suddenly my confidence ebbed.

“You think I need more?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” she said.

My confidence returned. “This is good,” I said.

Plus, it was $10 worth of plants. That’s plenty for the hanging basket.

Inside the garden center, I tracked down an actual employee, and held up my plants. The weather was still a bit frightful, I said, and I wanted to ensure I could actually keep them alive if we got a sudden cold snap. She told me to bring the basket in when it got cold, and I nodded solemnly, fully aware that the reality is I would probably forget. But for just that moment, she and I believed that I was a conscientious gardener. One who remembers to water her hanging basket in the first place.
After Amy took off for her return journey home, I took the hanging basket out back and got to planting. The flowers nestled in together, replacing the dead plants I tossed in the compost bin. And when I hung the basket up on the front porch, it seemed that finally, Spring had arrived.

Million Bells

Death to the dead plant

It’s one thing not to clean up your garden for the winter, but leaving the hanging basket up on your front porch with a dead plant for several months in a row? That’s crazy talk. Or crazy doing.

Whatever it is called, I did it. There was a point in the winter when I just decided that the dead plants looked like some kind of cool, structural, khaki plant sculpture. Plus, there was that whole issue of if I spent any time outside trying to take down the basket, my fingers would freeze off, which would make it very difficult to type this blog. And then you would have nothing to read.

Do you see how I do what I do for the people? I thought so.

But now it is spring, even though it snowed yesterday in Cedar Rapids, which made my right eye twitch uncontrollably for half an hour and made me huddle in the corner muttering, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” Then that all stopped and I went about my afternoon.

Before all that, though, and over the weekend, I realized it was beyond time to actually take down the basket and replace the dead plant with something more, you know, springy. And alive.

Better choices next year

I don’t like the way these mums look from down here.As I sat on my porch yesterday afternoon, blogging and enjoying the quite excellent Indian summer weather we’re appreciating here in Iowa, I looked up at the hanging basket.

Trey was totally right in his comments about my hanging basket choices. Mums are a very, very stupid choice for hanging baskets. Not only do you mostly only see the stems, but you can’t easily get up there to deadhead the stupid plant.

Thank goodness for the Blue Haze Evolvolus, which saves the day by being pretty and drapey and interesting to look at. And now that I have it facing the front yard, there’s at least some minor redemption.

Trey, I promise. Next year, I’ll email you before I go to the garden center.

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