This is the time of year when only the strong survive. Those little plants that never quite got through the early summer sunburns, or got shaded out by the over-acheivers before establishing themselves... they're history. Cooked. Gone!
But the ones that remain... they are supermutants. The other day I looked out the window and felt what was almost a pang of terror at the sight of the pumpkin vine, which I swear I could actually see growing, heading straight for the house. The watermelon vines have colonized a whole section of the backyard. The tomato plants, heavy with fruit, are bending stalks to the ground that take root and send new vines upwards again, taking on new lives of their own. Drought, heat, ground-level ozone, caterpillars... these plants have seen adversity and they have laughed in its face. I just hope they don't turn on me.
We were reading in the Sunday paper about garden tasks to be done in August (preferably at 5 am, before the sun comes up and the outdoors becomes unbearable). The garden columnist suggested pruning back tomato plants some to send the energy into fruit production. That I've done before. But he also suggested using cuttings to start new plants for fall. That was a new one on me, but a great idea, since growing tomatoes from seed seems to require some sort of magical formula that I don't have, and there is nary a tomato plant to be found at the farmer's market or the garden store these days.
So I took two particularly nice trimmings from our italian paste tomatoes (I think they're called Big Mama) and stuck them into pots with lots of compost, potting soil and vermiculite. Apparently you have to keep them in the shade and pretty damp while they're making roots. Wish them luck - it's going to be over 100 degrees again today.
big mama, the donor plant
They look a little droopy, but otherwise seem to be doing fine. Wouldn't it be great to be making fresh tomato sauce right up through the first frost? Last year, that was in mid-November. I'm determined to figure out how to get a nice fall crop out of the garden - because in this weather, it's not so enjoyable out there. In fact, I really just look at it through the window, and make sympathetic noises when HWWLLB comes in from the garden at 8 am streaming with sweat. He's such a hard-working gardener.
As for me, I have my feet up on the coffee table, a beer next to me and a pile of knitting on my lap. The summer semester from hell is finally over! And things at work have moved to a much more humane frequency... I plan to laze out the rest of August at a leisurely, 9 to 5 kind of gait, low caffeine, high relaxation, slowed to an appropriate pace for the sweltering weather.
Last night I started a knitting project that I can't wait to show you... it's not quite ready yet. But I can hardly contain myself...!