A Tomato Blether

Tomato growing is an occupation fraught with conversational danger. Just inadvertently mention your under-sized spindly tomato plants to a tomato enthusiast (and there's thousands of tomato enthusiasts out there) and you could be stuck for hours listening politely to every conceivable way of nurturing these smelly plants. And such strange names too: Big Boy, Supersonic, Tiny Tim, Outdoor Girl, Money-maker - the list goes on and on.

Apparently Bull's Dung is an excellent medium for growing tomatoes. Something to do with the testosterone content. It brings on the 'Toms' a treat. Good grief, what a thought, but undoubtedly an excellent conversation stopper should you ever need one. And then there's the tomato-ripening properties of the humble banana. Bananas give off a barely detectable gas, you see, very subtle and undetectable to the human nose, a gas that aids tomato ripening. Put the green ones in the kitchen drawer, on newspaper, and add a banana. That should do the trick. So there you are, another conversation stopper.

Now let me tell you this. I could win prizes for my tomatoes if I wanted to. How? Because I know how to grow the best tomatoes in Scotland, juicy, red and tasty, and probably the best in the country. But I don't grow the best in the country. Why not? Well read on, for here comes the ultimate 'conversation stopper' as far as tomatoes go.

Many years ago my grand-parents employed the services of a part-time gardener to help out in the garden. A man called Tom. He was very good at his job and particularly renowned throughout the district for his tomatoes. A tomato grower par excellence. Champion tomatoes they were. Tomatoes with exceedingly good flavour. But strangely enough the plants themselves were quite spindly, quite poor-looking, and not really the sort of specimens you would expect to bear good fruit, though the end product was truly magnificent.

Whenever there was a family gathering Tom's tomatoes were always on the menu, always discussed. "Tasty Tomatoes, these ....lovely flavour....prize winning fruits....splendid texture....wonderful colour..." and so on. And that's the reason why we called him 'Tom' when his real name was actually John.

Just recently, and from a very reliable source, I discovered that Tom had a secret ingredient for growing his tomatoes and, to be perfectly frank, it put me off tomatoes for life. Urine. His special ingredient was urine.

The house had a septic tank, you see, emptied once a year, and Tom held on to the top layer to use as a liquid feed for his tomato plants. He may even have given them a personal sprinkling himself on the odd occasion too. So I could grow the best tomatoes in the country if I wanted to. I really could. No doubt about that. And win prizes for them too. But I don't fancy the idea, not now. Do you?

(Copy write 2002. Patrick Vickery)

Patrick Vickery runs a small garden nursery in the Scottish Highlands growing and selling hardy perennial plants. His first book was published in January 2002 by Capall Bann Publishers, UK: "In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden" (ISBN: 186163 1480)

A book about propagating and growing hardy perennial plants outdoors in an environmentally friendly way using an innovative raised bed system, about how to make your garden self-financing, and even how to sell surplus plants if you so wish.

The book is available via the internet from Amazon Books, from Capall Bann Publishers or from bookshops of course.

Capall Bann Publishers

Amazon.co.uk

Patrick's e-mail: aldieburnplants@aol.com