My very first California tomato blossom did not, indeed, yield a tomato. Instead, it fell victim to whatever was causing the yellowing of the plant. It browned. It shriveled. It most certainly did not transition to a fruit.
This, which in my world constitutes an emergency, spurred my research into what might be killing all my tomato plants. I began by looking up information about blight.
This, of course, is kind of how I operate: Assume the worst-case scenario is true. If it turns out to be so, then really, it won’t matter, because whatever…you’re already mentally prepared for it. If it turns out not to be so, then really, it won’t matter, because whatever…the outcome’s much better than you expected.
I find this an excellent way to move through life. The constant state of near-panic drives a person forward in a much more efficient manner than, say, a laid-back attitude. We shall not speak here about blood pressure issues. No, we shall not.
But in my early research into the blight I was so certain my plants carried, I stumbled across this other, disconcerting explanation of what could be causing the problem. It appeared I was obtusely missing the obvious signs of drought in my own wine barrels.
Plants: They need soil, sunlight, nutrients and, um, water. Water is key to the whole growth cycle. And apparently, yellowing plants, when accompanied by curling tomato leaves, indicates a plant that is gasping for liquid.
I thought back to how I’d been watering, and realized I’d been using about half a watering can every day, or, well, sometimes every other day, because sometimes a girl is busy, and sometimes she might forget, or sometimes she might have been out too late the night before and she might be running late to work and then she might have something after work and then suddenly she might realize it has been three days since she watered the tomatoes.
And it occurred to me that perhaps, in a giant wine barrel of dirt, half a gallon of water every couple of days for two tomato plants plus, in one case, lettuce and sage and, in another case, basil and beans, is not even close to enough.
Then I noticed that, when I put any water to the soil at all, it sucked it in like it had never heard of water before. Like water was a beautiful tonic. Then, after pouring an entire two-gallon-watering-canful of water into one wine barrel, I noticed something I had not noticed the entire time I’ve had those tomatoes on the patio: Water running out from under the pot. Water that clearly had finally made it to those drainage holes I created with such drama. Basically, this whole time? I’ve barely been watering the surface.
So now there’s a new watering regime in town. I’m hoping it’s not too late to save the tomatoes. And if it does, in the end, turn out to be blight, at least I can rule human stupidity out of the equation.