Monday, January 19, 2015

Growing tomatoes - Some memories and life lessons

Growing tomatoes is a childhood memory, a memory that will last a lifetime for me, because, even if I want to forget, some of my older relatives remind me the tale often. Recently, when I harvested my first ripened tomato and tasted it raw, it released the  memory again. But before that, I must write down and share the “Tomato tale” of my  first balcony grown tomato with almost zero investment supporting my sustainability and organic mantra.

I don't want to miss any point and so with a long post alert i begin......

It all started when one of my store brought tomatoes had somewhat rotten,(not fully) and  I did’nt think it was good for cooking, Instead of adding it to my compost bin, I scooped out the seeds and along with the peel sprinkled it across an old existing  pot.  Like the previous time, almost all  the seeds germinated but unlike last time where overwatering killed them, I was cautious not to overwater them this time. They slowly grew up into many saplings jostling for space in the 5 inch pot.  One fine morning, I transplanted the  8 strong ones into nearby pots. I was short of space in pots and so even transplanted one into a 1 litre kinley bottle. In a week’s time, 6 of them  recovered from the transplantation shocks and started inching up and the one in the kinley bottle too was doing extremely well.  Almost, every day  I would go into my little garden patch , admire them and  oversee their growth.   One of the two saplings growing in the parent pot was doing well, ahead of the others.  I had no stakes or sticks around me to support them so, I had tied them to the small window grill in the patio.

One fine day, around Diwali time, our maintenance staff while cleaning for Diwali, totally unaware of the sapling tied to the grill for support pulled the pot and when I came back from my outing, my heart almost jumped out on seeing the displacement. I immediately went near and adjusted the support and placement and to my surprise I found a beautiful bouquet of yellow blossoms. “I  was excited” will be an understatement, nobody can measure the happiness that I felt that day, especially,  I strictly believe and follow “Winnie the Poohisms” and one of his philosophical quote is “ Sometimes, the smallest things take most room in your heart”.  The blossoms were totally  hidden from my direct line of vision as they were behind the grill and so it was unexpected joy.

 Not wanting to put them them to anymore stress/ trouble, I brought them to my balcony and almost every day  I would begin my  winter morning by watching the blossom through the  misty French Windows of my balcony. I was totally excited when they dried up and almost woke up  daily  with the expectation to see them form little tomatoes. Three days passed, there was no sign of the tomato forming, instead they had shriveled, dried and dropped along with the stalk.  The day  they fell, My whole day was dull and the loss weighed on my  sensitive mind. No amount of consolation from my family helped and that day I realized “ Gardening like life is not all about happiness”.  

Meanwhile the rest of the plants too started blossoming and they too dropped. I almost became an expert on “Blossom drop” subject after reading the reasons and remedies on internet. I experimented with each remedy week after  week to avoid blossom drop  like mulching, adding nutrients, micro nutrients( like hing, epsom salt , compost, sour curd) etc., nothing worked.

I stopped expecting anymore from my plants, I attributed the  “blossom drop” to poor quality of seeds, lack of sunlight, etc. I decided I will accept them as flowering plants and nurture them and……. I nurtured them religiously by adding home made compost and watering them adequately.

One fine day, the tomato plant  that grew in my patio without adequate sunlight  had formed a beautiful tiny green fruit  and the joy that day… …..I did’nt jump with joy….. it  was measured. I felt happy but not overjoyed but the joy, happiness or pride was underlined with the fact that when we fight a few challenges, there is a sense of achievement especially when you fight against limitations and convert them into possibilities. Also, these are the natural instances  that teach that we have to enjoy the present and the future will go on without worry.  This part of my green journey also taught me patience and with patience we can alter every failure into a success story.  This was a huge learning lesson for me especially since I cared to slowdown, pause and learn.

Coming to my tomato plant, At this stage, I did’nt want our maintenance staff to tamper with my sapling in my patio and so I transferred the big pot to my balcony. And then on, I almost witnessed, admired   and clicked the little transformation from a small green round ball to dirty green ( a mix of light green and red) to  a  bigger red beauty without any expectation at any step.

It took almost two months for it grew to this stage. And as for the rest of the blossoms, they have  overcome the  “ blossom drop” puzzle and I see plenty of  small green tomatoes carrying the tail of  the dried flowers.
There is  so much of beauty in my little balcony garden, especially I love the wintry sun glistening on my tomato and through sunset I would watch them through my balcony doors.  Sowing,  transplanting, taking care with watering , organic nutritive and keeping a pest check…..all these are part of my green journey but the additional advantage is the beautiful little sights that it throws at every transformation , this tells me beauty does not lie in the faraway Swiss or  Venice but right here back in my balcony at my little gardening patch. Sometimes, I sit on the moda sipping tea and enjoy the little ajwains, the green lettuce, my strawberry throwing new leaves,thai basil, the little micro green leaves of the just germinated raddish, the mustard micro greens etc.,

I harvested  the red one yesterday and each of us shared a quadrant which was filled with tangy sweetness and enjoyed the fruits of labour and like I said in the beginning  the taste  of the homegrown organic tomato and the smell of the plants released the memory again of my childhood.

A memory which is famous in my family circles especially with my mom’s maternal aunt’s family.It was in the 70’s when we lived in NR colony area in South Bangalore, We had some unexpected guests  from my mom’s side and  there were no vegetables at home.  My mom had to fix a quick meal and I  who was around 5 or 6 ventured into the garden , plucked the raw tomatoes and my mom quickly fixed the meal with roti and thakkali kai kootu( a tasty dal made with unripened tomatoes).  So, I helped overcome the mini crisis at home at such an young age  is a popular anecdote in the family. This is a memory that I don’t remember but  it is kept alive by my mom’s aunt’s family  who often narrates this in weddings and other occasions when we gather. Other than this, I do remember growing tomatoes in my Vijayanagar home and the  unique fragrance of the leaves of the  tomato plants do open many memories of my “Tomato experiences” of my childhood. Some of them remain unchallenged and holds a treasured place in my heart.

some pics which i enjoyed clicking at every step.

The parent pot from which most seeds germinated

On the ledge for sunning

transplanted to a kinley bottle 

                                                             and an atta bag ( this did'nt survive the transplant shock)

the first blossom which dropped and thereafter many blossoms dropped

                                                The first tomato formed in my patio without proper direct sunlight. I shifted it to my balcony. I love the way the dried flower is tailing out of  the baby tomato.

                                                  The next stage and  i missed clicking the dirty green tomato the intermediate stage between the above and below( it happened in just 3-4 days)
                           and this stage reached two months from the baby tomato stage.

Hoping for more.........


  1. Beautiful narration of the ups and downs of raising tomatoes.
    In my house too some some tomatoes are growing slyly, one is the small cherry tomato and the other is the regular one, I have tied them to the pole beside which they are merrily growing. The cherry tomatoes are growing bunches but they don't ripe together, so I pick up two at a time wait for a few more and then make rasam with them. For once the squirrels have not bothered with them nor have our dogs sensed the plant as yet, for once they come to know, that is all we would never have anything to eat.

    1. Oh yes, you have a lovely house and garden space Rama. Nice to know you grow veggies too and thank god the squirrels have spared else they might have a garden salad party. Thank you:)

  2. WOWOWWO .. I cant wait for the spring ot come here as soon i will be sowing some myself in my green house and then when its warmer put them in the garden.. LAst year i had a good produce of tomatoes , chillies and Raddish

    all the best mam


    1. It must be magical to pull out Raddish from the ground, Bikram. Would love to see your veggie pics and wish you sow and reap more. Thank you:)

  3. I bet that first tomato was the finest tomato ever.

    It's almost like bringing up a child !

    1. Yes, it was. The feeling is inexplicable hence such a long post. Btw, My posts on gardening seem to resonate with you, Ramesh. Do you grow too?

    2. No I don't and guess will never have the skills to. But it is the quality of your post that makes even a "non grower" like me to resonate and "feel" your post :)

  4. we tried this once and when the first crop, few small tomatoes arrived, we are just so elated! nice post :)

    1. Yes, Ankita:) I can understand that feeling of elation, Thank you:)

  5. I can imagine your happiness and satisfaction on seeing the final fruits of labour! Reading about your trials in the balcony garden, I was immediately reminded of my experiments with baking! :)

  6. I know shilpa... you will be able to relate to this with your baking trials......I think it is the same feeling with all struggles, i suppose. No?