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Unexpected advice sometimes the best kind

We often bristle when someone offers unsolicited advice.

But the other day, an exterminator came to the apartment on a mouse-catching mission. He didn't start out talking mice or bugs. Instead his first words were, "You need tomato fertilizer and bone meal. Also tomatoes need to be watered daily when it's hot like this."

He spoke with an authority and confidence gained from years of raising tomatoes. So I listened. The bone meal is needed to prevent blossom-end rot. He must have checked out our tomatoes as he came up the walk. The more mature ones were showing blossom-end rot.

So the next day I went to the neighborhood hardware store and checked out the garden center. They had tomato fertilizer but had sold their last bone meal. Mmm, wonder whether the exterminator had advised others about bone meal and they got to the store first? So we bought the fertilizer and ordered bone meal.

The guy also knew what he was doing when it came to catching mice. He put dabs of peanut butter on four traps. He let me put three set traps in place in the kitchen. But the one he set in the bathroom caught our furry visitor later that day.

Now back to gardening. The Black Cherry tomato plant growing in a Topsy Turvy bag is loaded. I would estimate this one plant should yield more than 100 tomatoes. About a half dozen tomatoes are turning a dark red to almost black and should be ready in about a week.

I separated this tomato from the others, hanging it on a patio, with a six-foot wooden blocking it from having any contact with the other tomatoes. It seems quite happy with this solitary lifestyle.

With the other tomatoes it's been some wins and some losses. Despite spraying fungicide the Brandywine tomato that was a gift from fellow We're Digging It blogger Cathie Rowand is not looking healthy. It has three large tomatoes, but I'm afraid that's all it's going to have.

Two Granny Smith plants have two large tomatoes each. They are also not looking healthy and will not produce any more tomatoes because the blossoms, while numerous, have fallen off.

Now a hybrid tomato that replaced a failing Abraham Lincoln has performed just as I expected. Although getting a start about a month after the heirlooms, it quickly caught up and is loaded with fruit. The leaves look healthy. It's impervious to any blight or fungus. That comes with being a hybrid. Only hail and earthquakes and drought can harm hybrids.

With all this talk of tomatoes, you'd think we don't have any other plants. But we have a couple of peppers plants and pots of herbs and tons of flowers. But these plants, as long as they get water and a little deadheading for some, seem to take care of themselves.

Journey through gardening season with Rosa Salter Rodriguez (feature writer) rsalter@jg.net, Anne Gregory (Web editor and writer) agregory@jg.net, Frank Noonan (copy editor) fnoonan@jg.net and Cathie Rowand (photographer) crowand@jg.net.

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