If he were here he’d cock one eye and give me his lecture on why it’s too late in the season to plant tomatoes. As it is, I smiled yesterday and planted them anyway…in honor of my dad.
I planted some tomatoes yesterday, and with some hesitation…but I planted them anyway.
The hesitation was a reflex from years of hearing my dad say that tomatoes planted after the first of June was a waste of time, at worst, and risky at best. His theory was that sweet corn and tomatoes planted after the first of June just wouldn’t make a satisfactory crop.
Late sweet corn was prone to having worms in it; and tomatoes planted too late wouldn’t make a good crop because of August heat and dry weather. To his thinking, you planted those things early enough to benefit from spring rains and good growing temperatures. Those were his rules that he learned at home when he was young, and Dad didn’t garden outside the box.
But I planted them anyway because it’s been so wet and cold all spring that I didn’t have an option. It was yesterday, June 15, or never. Bear in mind, if they don’t make it, I won’t go hungry. Rather, I’ll just think of Dad, as I did yesterday, and smile.
There’s a lot of things my dad did that I didn’t understand when I was fifteen – a few things he believed about which I didn’t agree. And simply, we agreed to disagree sometimes and let it go at that. But where gardening was concerned Dad was strictly by the book.
For instance, he always staked his tomatoes because he said it made for a better and cleaner harvest. I didn’t disagree, but it was additional work, and over the years it didn’t matter to me if a few tomatoes rotted from contact with the ground. But that drove Dad to distraction. “No, no, no,” he’d say, shaking his head. “You have better tomatoes if you keep them up and off the ground.”
He had his own calendar for corn, beans, cabbage…and sweet peas. You didn’t planted peas after mid-April because if it turned hot and dry in May they wouldn’t produce a good crop. If you asked him he’d explain, but he had no patience for argument. Years later, after I started growing my own garden, he’d show up and just shake his head.
“You got those beans out too late,” he’d remind me. “Should have saved your money and your time.”
There were years when he was wrong, and I’d remind him of that when the weather and season broke my way. But frankly, more often than not Dad was right. It is hard to grow tomatoes if you plant them too late, even if you water them artificially. Nature has its ways, and Dad understood that better than most.
But yesterday I did it anyway, and if he were here Dad would probably agree that sometimes – in years like this one – late is better than not at all. After all, when it came to food, he was always quick to say that “even a bad crop is better than eating a snowball in winter.”
However you remember your dad today…Happy Father’s Day. I hope your tomatoes turn out well, and if they don’t…just smile. It’s not the end of the world.