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Karen Allendoerfer

Compost

October 24, 2008 at 11:31 AM

Last night, in anticipation of a possible first frost, I composted my remaining tomato plants. This latitude has a short growing season and my yard is shady, so the plants lived on my rec room roof, where they got sunlight. They grew right above where my daughter and I both practice our violins every day. One experiment I didn't do: a control for music. Would they have grown better or worse without the violin music coming through their floor?

Two of them I grew from seed, carefully nurtured and "hardened off". One I bought at a greenhouse. The greenhouse plant, of the "Sweet 100" variety, yielded approximately twice as many tomatoes as the two from-seed plants (I don't know what variety they were, "red cherry" it said on the envelope). This is the first year I kept statistics. Red cherry were redder, bigger, and rounder. Sweet 100's were smaller, oranger, and more prolific. They were sweeter too, but both tasted good. Many evenings they wouldn't make it from the plant to the salad because I'd just eat them on the way.

As in music, I enjoy the careful nurturing part: the anticipation, the potential, the "what could be" when you open a new seed packet or buy a new piece of sheet music, or start a series of rehearsals. I'd rather not just buy from the greenhouse. Or the supermarket. Or the CD store. But, as in music, I have trouble with endings, and closure. With "product." Even though they were not looking their best anymore--brown leaves, spots, no more tomatoes since I'd harvested them all, even the green ones, in anticipation of this moment--there was something sad and edgy about dumping them unceremoniously into the compost heap. I'd been putting it off for that reason. And now trying to make it more ceremonious by writing about it. I tend to be all about process. Not product.

I know that next year they will contribute nutrients to next year's plants, and so it goes. That musical analogy is harder for me to make, though. As the days get shorter and colder and winter closes in, I feel less able to imagine the fruit.

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