The Accidental Farmer

A Surprise How-to
Durell Godfrey

I became a tomato farmer by accident. My neighbor Lynn King happily grows cherry tomatoes every year, and even more happily, for me, she doesn’t like to eat them and shares them with me.

Last August, she brought me a large bowl of them, and I ate most of them standing right there chatting with her. I saved the rest for dinner, but I noticed that a few were cracked and on a whim pushed them into a small plastic flower pot of dirt that was near my back door.

The pot still had some miserable-looking dirt left over from an avocado pit/plant that had failed to thrive. I was basically intending to do nothing to prepare for a harvest — except, thinking that mother nature might be interested, I watered the dirt, and when the weather got iffy I brought the little pot inside.

Windowsill space being limited, I tucked it onto the soil of a moderately successful geranium I had kept alive indoors for years. In the back of my mind, I knew that when I watered the geranium I would also be watering the pot with the hidden pieces of cherry tomato. What fun. Soon the little green sprouts filled the top of the pot.

By November, the sprouts had begun to leaf and branch, and the plant began to grow up and up and out until it started to flop. I just couldn’t bring myself to pinch off the ends (the vine seemed to be trying so hard to grow) so I let the whole thing go crazy. Eventually, I intervened with some string and small stakes, but that was all. The tomato and the geranium were now sharing an east-facing window, and my frequent watering seemed to make them both happy. There were buds — and they were buddies.

By Christmas there were three yellow flowers on my cherry tomato plant. Flowers! My geranium and the tomato plant, which had worked its way through the bottom of its little plastic pot, were now firmly bonded. I kept on watering and soon the flowers were replaced by three tiny nubs that eventually became tomatoes.

My little red tomatoes! They reddened slowly on their own schedules, and I ate one tomato per week. Thank you, Mother Nature, for spacing out the harvest.

Thrilled by what I had accomplished by doing just about nothing, and wondering what would happen next, I kept on watering and watering and watering. By the end of February, the vine was a tangled, three-foot-high and two-foot-wide mess. It eclipsed the geranium, which was now in bloom but pushed to one side. I got longer sticks and more string and tied my tomato plant up higher. My window was a garden and my 16-year-old cat, Dilly, stood guard.

Mother Nature soon surprised me with another batch of flowers even though it was barely spring. And as I sat down to write this, nine cherry tomatoes were maturing on the vine on my windowsill. By summer I might even have a salad. (By the way, the geranium was then in full bloom, showing off, I think, for its companion.)

Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey