It took me a long time to like tomatoes. My dad grew them in our garden when I was growing up, but I just wasn’t wild about them. I would always try a cherry tomato or two, right off the vine, because that’s what my dad did… but, it was mostly just for the novelty of it. It wasn’t until recent years that I’ve really come to enjoy a BLT using local juicy summer tomatoes. I live in Richmond, which is quite close to Hanover, VA. And if you’re in Virginia, you probably know that Hanover tomatoes are kind of a thing. I discussed it with a local farmer last season, and it’s something about the soil composition in this part of the state that just produces delicious tasting tomatoes. Locals wait for them, and grocery stores advertise them when they’re finally in season — “Local, Hanover Tomatoes!”
Anyhow, I’m now one of those people. I haven’t had a decent BLT since last summer, and I’m craving them.
So, when I was walking through a local farmers market mid-April, I was thrilled to see tomato seedlings available for purchase. Tomatoes are a classic crop for backyard gardens, and knowing that I was going to try my hand at a container garden, tomatoes seemed like a logical first step. Cherry tomatoes are a little friendlier for the beginner backyard gardener, and I remember my family always having much more success with them than with larger tomatoes. So, I snagged two Sungold Cherry Tomato seedlings, and a larger Kellogg Tomato variety.
I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for when choosing a seedling. So I chose generally healthy looking ones (whatever that means to a beginner), and asked the farmer something along the lines of “So, um, I’ve never grown tomatoes. The varieties I’ve chosen… will they grow for me?” He reassured me that the Sungold Cherries are one of the easier varieties they carry, and sent me on my way.
My boyfriend Jacob was with me, and eyed my seedlings a bit dubiously. “Where are you going to plant those?” I had a brilliant plan to reuse a couple of medium sized pots that I had on hand. “I’ve got a plan. They grow GREAT in containers.”
So, I grabbed organic soil, a spade, and my pots, and planted my seedings once the weather looked like it was warm for good.
Cue, the rain.
The first week these seedlings were in their pots, it rained… and rained… rained. Even with me being diligent about putting the pots in the shed past a certain point, they were drenched.
I set them in the sun once the rain subsided a bit, and hoped for the best. I usually come home from work for lunch, and when I did, the smaller of the two cherry tomatoes was wilted. Wilted and terribly unhappy looking. I yanked out my phone, and frantically started looking up “waterlogged tomato symptoms.”
The articles highlighted sudden droopy leaves, followed by yellowing leaves, and then likely – death. Unless, you fix the issue immediately. I realized the drainage on the plastic pot I was using wasn’t sufficient in general, and definitely couldn’t stand up against the torrential downpours we had been having. So, my quick lunch break fix? I took a hammer, a nail, and I created holes in the pot. Water came pouring out, and I hoped that it would help until I could find a more permanent solution.
I came home from work later that evening with a plan. I had done a bit more research and realized I should replace the soil (when it rains so much that a plant gets waterlogged, it also screws with the nutrients in the soil, and the ability for the plant to absorb the nutrients they need to thrive.) Luckily I had extra soil on hand, so I gently plucked the drowned tomato out of the pot, replaced the soil, and replanted it.
In the next few days the plant slowly perked up, and I thought my little seedling was on the mend.