I had family visiting over Halloween weekend so I took a nice break away from the computer. It was really nice to have family in town and the boys loved the attention. One of these family members is my Aunt Jill - she's one of those long-time gardeners who knows what's she's doing and has more mad skills than she knows what to do with. She even has a greenhouse and knows how to use it. She's got one of those English country gardens that you see in magazines and romantic movies with gorgeous big blooms and bees darting from patch of color to patch of color. It's really quite sick. The downside is that since she's from England (as are all of my family) there are some different growing conditions between England and Florida - obviously. But she still taught me more in one day than I've learned in the past 5 months.
We walked out in the garden together and she eyeballed each of my plants and then asked me for my secateurs. I, of course, stared at her dumbly and after much discussion we figured out that it's the English term for handheld pruning shears. I gave her the shears so she could prune up a few things and came in the house to tend to the boys.
When I walked back out to the garden I literally felt ill. I never thought any gardening incident could cause my heart to pound in my chest like I was watching an intense horror flick, but it did. My tomato plants were in the middle of a scalping of epic proportions. The pile of discarded tomato parts and severed limbs was enormous, and where my bushy plants had once thrived were little green naked sticks inside tomato cages. I wanted to knit them little cozies to wear because they looked so sad and exposed.
My aunt saw the look of pure horror on my face and spent the next 20 minutes reassuring me that she had done the right thing. She told me that my tomato plants were full of "sucker shoots" that grow off the main shoots but do not produce flowers, but merely take the goodness from the plant. She also showed me that one tomato plant that happens to have one strong main stalk has 3 very large green tomatoes, but that the plants with 8 or 9 stalks have lots of tiny cherry-sized tomatoes. She assured me that if I would keep them pruned (preferably from the get-go) that I'd end up with bigger fruit and less useless crap and small tomatoes.
Just when I was getting used to the idea, Farmer B strolled up. His chin hit his chest and he stood there mouth agape for a very long time. Yeah, I was there 20 minutes ago - I knew how he felt. It was quite funny.
Then she told me that some of my problems were probably coming from caterpillars. I assured her that I don't have caterpillars anymore since I've inspected the plants for days and haven't found any. She then pulled some off my peppers and tomatoes and well…what could I say? She is a gardening genius in my world and I felt quite honored to have been scalped by a pro.
(Oh and if you're wondering why my tomatoes look a bit yellow in the photos, I accidentally left the sprinkler on again - for about 14 hrs. Don't tell Farmer B. I didn't. He was very understanding the first time...but...I'm sure I'd get that look and a discussion about how much the well pump cost the second time around.)