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A $20 tomato provides a lesson in gardening

3 mins read

By Lee Scott

One day, a few years back, a gardener who was helping with the yard work gave me some good advice about lawns, gardening and fishing. He followed up with “you have to be really dumb to starve here in the Lowcountry.”  

He was referencing all the good vegetables you can grow and the fish available.

This year, we finally decided to plant our own vegetable garden and we discovered, we are not too smart, because we have now officially grown a $20 tomato. 

Why, you ask, would someone want to grow a $20 tomato? Obviously because we are too dumb to do it correctly.

We started with our three little tomato plants. We bought a bell tomato plant, a grape tomato plant and another kind, which for the life of me, I cannot remember. 

We bought cages for them so the deer and rabbits would not chomp on them. We watered the plants, tested the soil and we waited. But the plants appeared to have stunted growth. 

We researched the problem. We retested the soil and added tomato fertilizer.  We made sure they had enough water, but not too much. We read that we should pinch off the suckers (we didn’t have any). 

Finally, it happened. Five little grape tomatoes. They were beautiful. 

But that was it. 

Our poor little plant gave it its best, and that was all. The second plant did not even bother to produce anything. 

But the bell tomato plant finally started to grow. Out came its one lonely prize: an orange/red tomato that looked beautiful. We cut it up, sprinkled some Italian dressing on it with some fresh basil and ate it. That was all. Our $20 tomato – gone in minutes. 

The plant it came from expired from all the effort. 

I thought back to what that guy told me. What happened? We are not dumb. Our problem is that for the better part of our lives, we did not have a garden and obviously do not have green thumbs.  

Then it occurred to us: We do not have to grow our own vegetables. All we have to do is drive down Sea Island Parkway and buy any fresh vegetables in season. The gardener wasn’t talking about us doing it, but the local farmers.    

As for the fish, well, you can find places up and down U.S. 21 for shrimp and any fresh fish in season.

Yes, eating that $20 tomato was great. But as we calculated the cost of everything, we could have bought a lot of vegetables for that same amount of money. Maybe we are not so dumb after all.

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