April 24, 2017

Attack of the Six-foot Tomatoes

Get them before they are gone
The vegetable greenhouse at Glenburn Gardens; lurking to the left are the giant tomatoes.

Janine Pineo Photo | The vegetable greenhouse at Glenburn Gardens; lurking to the left are the giant tomatoes.

One giant tomato just out of the car from the trip home.

Janine Pineo Photo | One giant tomato just out of the car from the trip home.

Note to Readers: Puttering Around is a new feature on Garden Maine. It is the place where Janine waxes on about things when the mood strikes.

• By Janine Pineo •

Most gardeners have a favorite place – or more than one – where they find the plants they want in their garden.

One of mine is Glenburn Gardens at the corner of Union Street and Kelly Road in Glenburn, run by Dick Smith, a former work colleague who retired only to work half the year at the greenhouses he set up on his property. He then spends the rest of summer and into fall tending his own vegetable gardens. I think he might get a week or two of rest between November and December, but I could be wrong.

I am probably wrong.

I wait every year to hear “Hullo, Jah-neen” on opening day at Dick’s and then immediately give the man a big hug.

The great thing about Dick is how he downplays his hard work. I always hear about the failures, the tribulations, the setbacks. I commiserate because that is what gardeners do. And friends, too.

The truth is that you never know what is going to grow well any given year. To be honest, some years it is miracle anything does well. We are all at the mercy of Mother Nature.

But the proof that Dick does more than OK is in the greenhouses, with the neat rows of flowers and vegetables lining the tables.

Oh, and those rows of GIANT TOMATOES towering over my head.

Dick had this magnificent brainstorm a few years back that it would be a great thing to grow tomatoes in five-gallon pails. You charge a bit more for a plant that size, but the advantage is that you get a tomato that has been growing since January or February.

And it already has tomatoes on it.

Yes, indeedy. Easily topping 6 feet in height, these beauties are dripping with tomatoes and hanging with blossoms.

The trick is to get them home.

The first year of this phenomenon, Dick drove the plants to me. The next year, I was determined to bring them home myself and so put the front seat of my Neon in the recline position. The tomato reclined comfortably with the bucket on the floor and the tomato riding shotgun.

See? Tomatoes already.

Janine Pineo Photo | See? Tomatoes already.

I loved going through the drive-thru with my passenger a giant tomato plant.

This situation persisted until I bought a new car. Is it any wonder at all that I had two things on my mind when I finally did: Would the dog be comfortable and would the car hold my giant 6-foot tomato plants.

Insert hysterical laughter here.

I found that the Dodge Caliber does this neat trick of the back seat folding down and then the passenger front seat folding down, creating EIGHT unobstructed feet of room from front to back.

Now I can stack my tomatoes like cord wood and make a single trip.

Thus far, we have managed to place in the car five plants, including a giant cucumber that has cucumbers on it already. (Yeah, he does a few of those, too.)

It may be extra work to dig a hole to China to get the plant into the ground, but the payoff is simple: I have ripe tomatoes before the end of June and plants that produce all summer long.

Last year, those plants gave a couple of bowls of fruit each week into September.

That means they easily paid for themselves when you think that ripe tomatoes are $3 a pound or so.

What strikes me as odd, though, is that Dick never sells all of the tomatoes. And that means he still has some this year. So get thee to Glenburn Gardens and get your own giant tomato.

Sweet peas, just because Dick grew them and I love them.

Janine Pineo Photo | Sweet peas, just because Dick grew them and I love them.

You will be glad you did.

Just remember to put the front seat into the recline position if you don’t have a magic Caliber.

Or a pickup.

Directions to Glenburn Gardens: Head out Union Street in Bangor toward Levant. You will pass through Hermon before reaching the little corner of Glenburn where Kelley Road connects to Union Street. The map is here.