The $64 Tomato

So, I read this book over the past few days. It had come pretty well-recommended by friends, blogs, even coworkers.

I don't know if I just didn't like it or if I am just too disturbed because I relate to the author, William Alexander, on way too fundamental a level, in terms of impulse-gardening, having big ideas that are pretty unrealistic, and then not thinking plans through.

To get the easy stuff out of the way, it was kind of a frustrating book for me to read--most of the chapters are about how the guy hires all these contractors who always end up costing more than he expected and never do what he wants, but he doesn't say anything and then just gripes about it and seethes internally for years. After a few experiences, you'd think you'd be a bit more assertive with people who YOU are paying and who are coming to YOUR home to do work for YOU. So what if the landscaper thinks grass would look grand in your vegetable garden paths? YOU don't want it! Tell her that, and tell her to go to heck 'cause she was months late with the design (not to mention half-a-year starting the construction).

Poor, delayed service irritates me more than almost anything else. When I go to a store, I generally don't browse--I know exactly what I want (unless it's a garden store, of course). Last year when I was looking for real furniture, I went to Marlo to buy my bed. But then they said I hadn't called to reserve it or something, so they didn't have everything in stock (despite my having ordered the bed, paid for the bed, and requested a specific shipping date at the store). A day later, the day before I was supposed to have received the bed, they called and said "Whoops, we have the wrong box spring, so we'll have to ship everything later." The next day, I get voicemail saying that the delivery people are on the way--I call them back, and they tell me that they don't do shipping on Saturday.

I drove to the store, demanded a refund, and dropped four times as much money at the Room Store for an entire bedroom set. Stores, or contractors (I have had one or two before), who jerk me around do not get my business. But this guy, half his book is about all the same exact hardships he has with many different contractors. Constantly. Continuously. Really. The same problems.

Other than how irritating it was to read about someone who just complains about not getting what he wants because he thinks they'll kill him or because they have sexy dirt under their fingernails, the book was definitely a jaunty read. My favourite part is when he talks about pollinating the apple trees and how, er, it made him want to pollinate his wife. He described her as surprised at his ardour, and all I could think of was her laying in bed reading a book and then an incredible look of shock on her face as her husband suddenly is there, pollinating her with zeal. Surprise!

There are fun tidbits like that scattered throughout the book, but most of it? Most of it is the same story, told over and over, with different names scattered throughout.

It is a bit of an eye-opener, in terms of how much money people spend on gardening. I calculated costs of putting my garden together, and it was pretty staggering. I'm certain that I've spent at least a few hundred dollars more since then. It has, after all, been almost two months, and that calculation was before the fluorescents, before the nematodes, before the grapes and tomatoes and South African squill and the peanuts and the chard and the nasturtium and the list goes on and on. I just spent another $47 on seeds, most of which aren't even edible.

I've got the bug, bad. And that is how I relate to Alexander. No matter how disheartening, uplifting, back-and-forth, relaxing, or anxiety-inducing gardening is, the excitement for planting new things is always there. Watching them grow up, from tiny seed to giant plant full of edibles or pretty flowers or just full of leaves, that is what keeps people in the soil and cultivating. That promise, that hope, and that curiosity about each seed and what it will bring in the year(s) to come. That's what gardening's about, and that's why Alexander puts up with the contractors, the back-breaking work, the failures, and the expense--oh, the expense!

Whoever thought growing your own would be cheap? It can be, sure, but those of us who are more impulsive than logical, more obsessed than rational, more spur-of-the-moment than thoughtful, for us who are those things, gardening is pricey, because we just have to have that new seed packet or variety of basil or cute little flower for the planter box. Even I, who tries to offset the impulses and rash, half-brewed schemes by waiting a few weeks before doing anything about it, still go a bit crazy at times.

But, really, don't we all?

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3 Responses to The $64 Tomato

  1. Hiya,

    When I saw the title of your post today, I couldn't believe my eyes: I am in the middle of an experiment known in our house as the "$300 strawberry".
    Would you Adam and Eve it?

    Fed up with years of slug-infested, botrytis-ridden half-ripe strawbs, I have been going to extreme lengths to produce at least one decent healthy undamaged berry.

    Not turning red yet, but come over and visit serious-grouching in a week or so to compare notes.

    I am also far too familiar with your gripes about stores and constructors, having just gone through a five month renovation of our house after flood damage.

    The final straw was the painters cleaning their brushes in my 200 Liter rain barrel, which we spent three hours enptying and cleaning out last night.
    Brrrrrrr.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Holy heck, they cleaned their brushes in your rain barrels!! Jeez...

    Hm, that's probably why I had Botrytis on the brain the other day. The word kept popping in my head for no good reason. Hm.

    So if you have strawberries, and suddenly each and every plant ends up succumbing to some sort of fungus and dying... What's that? 'cause I don't have any strawberry plants left, and the fungus didn't bother the azuki beans at all, which coexisted in the same pot.

    And by "extreme lengths," do you mean standard chemical treatments to prevent pests/fungi? Or maybe sleeping in the garden and thwacking and slug or zapping a laser beam at any fungal spore you come across?

    ReplyDelete
  3. All of those measures and more :-)

    Botrytis turns the plants a mucky grey with fuzz all over them. I have also had it on my grape vine. It is usually caused by being too dry at the roots. So I'm told.
    A gardener's lot is not an easy one.

    ReplyDelete

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