“I’m at Andersons,” I said into the phone yesterday to my brand-new mother-in-law, Brenda. “And you had mentioned wanting to buy some tomato plants. I was wondering if you’d like me to pick some up.”

Brenda seemed slightly surprised, but she gave me her order for a Big Boy tomato, a Better Boy tomato, and two California Wonder peppers. She wanted a cherry tomato as well, but, she said, “They always go very quickly.” I didn’t find any. She wanted the ones in the big pots, “since we’re getting so late in the season,” and they were only fifty cents more than the smaller ones anyway–which surprised me. I also found it interesting that the only tomatoes in the big pots were Big Boys, Better Boys, Early Girls, and Romas. I got myself a Roma, since I have that empty space from the tomato I killed and I’ve heard Romas are especially good for drying.

Today I took the plants over to Brenda’s and planted them. (I also planted my Roma and did some weeding and–organic gardeners, skip to the end parenthesis–sprayed Round-Up on the terrible grass and weeds in my garden path and on what I learned is called four o’clock, otherwise known as bindweed, otherwise known as That Damned Weed That I Can’t Get Rid Of That Even Grew Under the Stupid Landscape Fabric the Previous Owners Put Down.) Her roommate, Edith, who does the gardening, is away in Germany attending to her father’s funeral, and had asked me before she left to help with the gardening.

“I don’t want to deal with much of a garden,” Brenda said. (Edith had indicated otherwise; but then, Brenda owns the house. Also she’s my mother-in-law. So I didn’t question it.) They don’t have much of a one to start with; it’s a small back yard and they have dogs. But there are interesting bushes and flowers all around, and on one side is a strip of land for vegetables, maybe three feet wide. “Plant the tomatoes on one side and the peppers on another. Just one row. But you’ll have to even out the dirt and clear out some of the weeds first.”

When I examined the weeds I was able to give her some good news: “You have volunteer tomatoes. You might get cherries after all.” She was pleased. I moved them into the middle of the garden strip, so they might have a chance at developing into healthy plants. I also discovered that Edith put rocks around her tomato plants last year. Rocks.

Then I took a look at the tray of seedlings I had given Edith several weeks ago. It was a sad sight. Everything was drooping, almost everything had yellow leaves, the zucchini had died, and nothing had grown any bigger except the globe basil (which was doing surprisingly well). The same plants in my garden are two and three times the size. Based on the space I had left, I selected four tomatoes that might have a chance and called the others a loss. I put the two Genovese basil in Edith’s herb bed and the other basil in a small pot, planted the cantaloupes in a bigger pot, left the cucumber (at Brenda’s instruction) for Edith’s return, and called it a day.

Back home, I realized I hadn’t put the strawberries in a bigger pot as I’d intended, nor done anything with the indigo (which needs starting) or the toothache plant (which needs transplanting). But I was dead tired, having already planted an entire garden’s worth of plants that day, as well as some extensive straightening up of my own. So I gave up on gardening for the day–listening first approvingly and then with some alarm at the torrential rainstorm going on outside–and headed for the shower.

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