A big thank you

Susan Manzke
Russ (left) and Bob work together at a raised bed to clean out tomato plants before a possible frost.

If you have read this column all year you might remember that I started a lot of tomato plants from seed last spring. To my surprise many (too many) grew. 

I gave a lot of tomato plants away—since I didn’t expect the old saved seeds to grow, I hadn’t bothered marking the trays so the plants were a mystery. 

2017 became the year of the tomato. I didn’t plant any annual flowers. The tomatoes took their place. Almost all my raised beds, flower boxes, and pots held growing tomato plants. A few onions and potatoes went in one area, but otherwise it was tomatoes.

It took a long time for my fruit to mature since I hadn’t started them early enough. But when they started to ripen, we got more than enough. The tomatoes were shared with family and friends and still I had too many.

Green growing tomatoes were still clinging to the many vines this weekend. One weather report said we could have frost. I groaned at all the work it would take to clear out the plants.

Saturday, family arrived for a visit. I begged for help—actually I drafted them.
Rebecca and Andy, Russ and Cynthia, even three-year-old Harrison helped with my garden clear-out. Oh yeah, Bob was there, too.

It was quite an endeavor, as rain was on the horizon. Tomatoes were picked, even green ones, as the vines were pulled from the soil.

Andy and Rebecca cart off tomato vines.

To start with, Cynthia packed up many to take home. Rebecca didn’t need any. She had planted some of my seedlings earlier and had plenty at home—which she was sharing, too. Between the two of us, we were slipping tomatoes into guests’ cars just to get rid of the extras.

While everyone was harvesting the last of the fruit and/or pulling out the vines, I was running back and forth to the house.

“Mom, we need more containers.” “Do you have some bags?” "Where are the clippers?”

Then there were other questions.

“Where do you want us to dump the vines?” “What should we do with the empty pots and the tomato cages?”

Sometimes Bob could answer, but often he turned to me to make sure he was on the same track as I was.

When it came time to bring in the last green tomatoes, I was scurrying around to find flat boxes. Luckily, Bob had saved the cardboard boxes left when we bought cases of canned cat food - yes, we feed our critters too well. The barn cats don’t eat dry cat food any more. It has to be mixed with a can of flavored cat food or they just walk away.

The last of our tomatoes are on our enclosed porch as are the potted house plants that were outside. All will stay safe there until the weather really gets cold.

I can’t say enough about my helpers. I did feed them well, but that’s not enough of a thank you. They went beyond the call of duty.

Next I will plant my fall bulbs, replacing the now cleared garden spaces. This was the year of the tomato. Next summer will be the year of flowers. Of course, I will have a few tomatoes, but not a hundred. I know I can’t eat my flowers, but the change will be good and hopefully beautiful if they make it through winter.

Next fall our children won’t have to worry about vegetable garden work. Of course, if I do plant spring bulbs some of those might have to be dug up in the fall and I may need help. 

Just kidding, kind of. I don’t want family to avoid visiting if they think I will only put them to work. Better to have happy company. That doesn’t count for Bob. He can’t get away from helping.

Right now, I’m sending a big ‘thank you’ for all the garden help given. It is well appreciated.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;