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Our First Upside Down Tomato Garden

Our First Upside Down Tomato Garden

Finally, after 43 years, I'm getting my own vegetable garden.

Well, not really a vegetable garden. More like a vegetable pot. And it's not really mine. My wife did it.

But it's on my back porch, and I can look outside and see tomato plants growing in it, as it hangs from a bird feeder pole. So for lack of a better word, I have a vegetable garden.

It's actually based on the upside down tomato planters you've seen on TV. It's a small 3-gallon plastic bucket with four holes drilled in the bottom and it's filled with dirt. The tomato plants are placed in the holes, and will grow upside down so the tomatoes can hang like apples.

Frankly, I don't know why the tomatoes should grow upside down, or what benefit that would be, but that's what they did on the commercial. It's not like one of those exercise machine commercials that show people herniating a disc in their back whenever they do an "old-fashioned situp." There's supposed to be some kind of benefit to upside down tomatoes, but I'm usually flipping stations to quickly to pay attention.

Sure, picking the tomatoes would be a lot easier if the plants were hanging at shoulder height, but it's not like you're farming 200 acres of land by hand, working 12 hours a day in the fields. It's a freaking bucket of tomato plants, and if you're going to hurt yourself picking a tomato, then you need to start exercising more.

But I'm hoping these tomatoes will be big and plentiful, and that we can grow them by the sackful, like when I was a kid.

I grew up in the '70s in Indiana, back when it was more fashionable to grow your own vegetables. The hippies had all settled down, and were now accountants and insurance brokers. They were also growing different forms of organic matter these days, and took great pride in their vegetable gardens. While we didn't have any hippies in Indiana, I think some of my parents' friends had spent time with them at a weekend conference or something, because they were all about the wonders of nature, growing your own food, and fondue parties.

My parents, despite being the furthest thing from hippies you could get and still not be a Republican, had their own vegetable garden. Every year, my parents would till up the soil with a roto-tiller. Every year, they would plant corn, tomatoes, green beans, and zucchini. And every year, despite his best efforts, my dad would get infected with poison ivy, which would see him bed-ridden, nearly sobbing at times from the pain and itching of the rash.

But it was all worth it in the fall, when we had sackloads of our own vegetables, some of which we ate, and some of which we shared with friends. Since ours was a fairly large garden, there were always sackloads of vegetables to share with people from my parents' offices at the university.

The problem was, a lot of their co-workers were also not-quite-hippies themselves, so there were sacks of vegetables being handed around like some homegrown vegetable swap meet. My dad would leave with a sackload of tomatoes and zucchini and come home with two sacks of green beans and a watermelon.

It grew to be a little farmer's market in the psychology department each fall, although I think some people weren't growing their own vegetables, but instead would regift the vegetables they had received from everyone else.

So now we have our own vegetables, despite 16 years of non-starter vegetable gardens at my house, although not because I didn't want one.

One year, I built a garden box on the side of the house, went to the hardware store and picked the last set of tomato plants they had. I planted them, watered them, and cared for them. And when the first blossoms began to show, I staked the plants in preparation for the fiery tomato explosion that would shower us with tomatoes in a couple months.

I brought my wife outside and proudly displayed my efforts. "Look, I planted my first tomato plants. In a few months, we'll be able to eat the bountiful harvest that I have created. You may have to start calling me Johnny Tomatoseed."

She bent down and carefully examined my handiwork.

"I don't think you're going to want to eat these," she said.

"Why not? Those are going to be awesome tomatoes."

"Guess again, Johnny Tomatoseed," she said, standing up and brushing off her hands. "Those are marigolds."

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.
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