The last two years it has been almost impossible
to grow tomatoes during our Oklahoma summers.
We start the seeds in February
and nurse them along indoors
waiting anxiously for April 15th,
our last frost date.
Then we start the planting process.
Everyone has their own concoction
to get tomato plants off to a good start.
The combination might include
egg shells, blood meal, bone meal, bananas,
compost, Epson salts…
Then we plant the plants
and watch and wait.
The last two years the plants have grown beautifully.
But about the time the blossoms are ready to set
the temperature heats up and it gets hot.
Very hot!
The last two years
the crop has failed.
Some friends have watered the plants all summer
(we couldn’t last summer because our pond—
the garden’s water supply—dried up.)
Friends who did water heavily
during the heat and drought
were able to bring in green tomatoes
just before the first frost—
to ripen inside and eat as late as Christmas.
But the dream of a fresh, beautiful, sweet-and-tart, red tomato
picked right off the vine in the middle of summer hasn’t materialized.

Last fall at the Oklahoma State Master Gardener’s Conference
I heard a talk about tomatoes.
The speaker had his own method
of how to beat the heat and grow tomatoes.
To start, he buys seeds that have the shortest germination period
and plants them indoors in January.
By the first of March he starts
working the garden soil and puts his concoction
into the holes he’s prepared for the tomato plants.
Then he covers the holes with
black plastic to heat up the soil.
In mid-March he plants his little plants.
He covers every plant
with a device known as a “Kozy Coat” or “Wall of Water.”
It’s a plastic tipi filled with water
that is set around the tomato plant.
The sun warms the water during the day
and the heat is released in a cold spell and during the night.
The more even temperature helps the plant grow
and prevents freezing.
By Memorial Day Weekend
he is eating fresh, ripe tomatoes from his garden.

Newly planted tomato seeds

I planted tomato seeds today.
I’m so looking forward to my first bite of home-grown tomatoes
on Memorial Day!