This was not the day I planned to do it. I’m not sure I even really planned to do it at all. Two weeks ago, I’d have said no. Still, as I was puttering around drinking my coffee and trying to get my day going, I looked out into my little Square Foot Garden and he caught my eye.
Late last spring, when I built my little 32 square foot garden container in the back yard, the first plant to be transplanted from a Home Depot pot and into my own soil was a little yellow pear tomato plant. He was a little guy, not much more than two or three branches. As spring turned into summer, the seeds I’d planted around him slowly sprouted and grew. Some of them produced squash and little cherry tomatoes. Some, like my beets, withered and died before they even got a chance to get good leaves. Gardening is an experimental thing for me, and I’m not sure I’m good at it just yet. Even as all this change exploded around him, however, the little plant didn’t really grow at all. Some research told me that he needed to establish roots before he could grow, but an orange bell pepper plant right next to him had taken off like crazy and was already putting on peppers. Did I get a runt?
Then, one point last summer, I looked out the window and that little yellow pear tomato plant dominated half of my garden. It covered all the squares in shade on its side of the plot. It was literally choking the life out of everything around it by blocking the sun. Fall came and even though I live in Southern California, I let my garden slip away. Old habits born of living where frost kills die hard. Dad and I stopped talking about gardening and so I stopped tending my garden. The now massive pear tomato plant kept chugging. I whacked a bunch of branches off in December and it didn’t phase him. He just kept going and amazingly putting on fruit.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. My dad is planting his garden in Oklahoma, so I figure it’s time to start planting mine. Yes, it’s late…I should be planting cool weather crops in January here, and then rotating in the hot stuff about now, but I just skipped to the hot weather plants like watermelons, squash, beans, and corn. The problem was, my little yellow tomato plant was taking up half my garden. I did the best I could, planting around him, and let it be. This morning, I looked out over my baby seedlings and noticed a bunch of dead leaves and browning spots on the King. The old boy was still bearing a little fruit, but he’d grown spindly and haggard looking. It was time. I finished my coffee and went down to cut him out of the ground. I actually felt a little sad when I ripped him from the earth. After all, he was the most productive plant I had last year. My garden is a very superficial and ageist place. When the haggard comes, the plants go…and I think, despite how sad it made me to kill the King, I can live with that.