Tomato Weather

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Sitting here in the shade, I wait for a drop of sweat to complete its transit down the bridge of my nose. It’s Tomato Weather, here in the Deep South. Those of y’all farther south may elect to call it Peach Weather, as it’s much the same: high temperatures in the mid-90s range, humidity a close match, so that even stepping outside for a moment leaves you sweating and struggling to breathe air that is closer to liquid than a gas mixture. But the garden loves it. How much, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you–seeing how much growing things thrive makes an otherwise hellish summer climate heavenly.

This is all a part of the July Fantasy that haunted me every winter in Albuquerque. I look over at the tomatoes in the back yard–a distinctly different plot than those newly planted just beyond the fence. The more mature–original four–bend almost double with the weight of tight green globes in various stages of growth. Just now, I caught sight of the first one to sport a rosy blush. It’s part of a cluster hidden deep in the shade of the wild, green-smelling leaves and stems. But the fruits already out promise as many ripe tomatoes as we can eat or give away for months to come.

And still, more blossoms appear daily–elfin caps the colour of butter. The younger bushes in the back plot are gaining on their elders–cherry, plum, and beefsteak varieties. The youngest, beyond the fence that encloses the back garden, have gained inches in the brief week they’ve been in the ground, some with blossoms, two with tiny green fruits swelling out of the withered ruins of their blooms. Tomato Weather, indeed.

But thus far, it’s also proven to be marigold, basil, pepper, and bean weather, too. What we thought would be manageable herb and flower plantings have matured to monstrous proportions–easily termed shrubbery, or perhaps a very small hedgerow. I’ve been pinching off the flower spikes on the basil trees to keep them from bolting (more) and growing bitter, but the bees love the little white blossoms. So, I leave some behind and am rewarded with the droning song of the honey makers and the native pollinators.

This morning was also the first glimpse of the pole beans, which have been doing their best to eat the fence. After last week’s rain, they began putting out the delicate architectural blossoms Fabaceae members are known for. The bean forest was starred with their almost-orchid shaped yellow and white blossoms.

The bees love these as well. I stood and watched an enormous black-bodied “bumblebee” clasp the satin petals, its furry legs stroking them like a lover as it buried its face in the secret depths of this botanical sex organ. Somehow, that torrid imagery suits the shape of the bean blossom as it does not the innocent openness of the basil flower, the pixie hat of the tomato flower, or the star-like purity of the pepper bloom.

Sweat and patience and consistent awe–these are the elements of my garden memoir. I write my plans for tomorrow in the enriched, red clay soil of this place. I watch new ideas and understandings put out leaves, grow overnight, and bear fruit. Tomato Weather and the symphony of crickets, bees, and birds.

Pictures to follow.

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