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GET GROWING: A monthly gardening series
Cold-weather crops keep hanging on, while a rebel breaks free among the pea pods
A rogue tomato plant has started growing next to the snow peas. The peas were started as a cold-weather crop but haven’t yet retreated from summer’s heat, so they are still in the ground. As a result, Kristen Morales now has the tomato plant tied up to the pea poles. - photo by Kristen Morales

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Last year, my goal was to get just one ripe, juicy tomato out of my garden.

For years, the dream of filling a basket of red-hued beauties has eluded me. So I did lots of research, interviewed some experts and took a class. Armed with a game plan, I started my garden last year with confidence and ended up with mild success — an extremely healthy cherry tomato plant that outlasted all its counterparts and provided yellow, pear-shaped beauties into October.

I might have gotten a couple full-sized tomatoes from the garden, but not as many as I would have liked.

This year, it seems my garden is a fan of irony.

Let me explain.

Having somewhat tackled my tomato conundrum, I entered this year with a plan to extend my growing season into the spring and fall. Usually, I’m the gardener puttering around until April 14, ready with fertilizer, mulch and prepped tomato plants for that official day of planting: Tax day.

But this year, I planned a different approach. I learned last year that it doesn’t’ matter when you get your tomatoes in the ground, as long as the ground is warm. That means instead of rushing to get my tomatoes into the ground — and, potentially, watching them ever-so-slowly grow bigger — I could wait a few more weeks until the ground got good and warm.

In the interim, I figured, why not get some cool-weather crops in the ground and see what they did?

In late February I planted some lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and peas. Yes, it was later than I originally planned but, heck, at least they were in and growing. The plan was to get as much off them as I could and when summer’s heat made them wilt, I’d pluck them out and replace them with my tomatoes, all grown from seed.

Well, we’re now fully into summer, and these guys show no signs of giving up. If anything, the leaf-munching pests will do them in before the heat does.

No matter, I thought. I’ll keep enjoying my broccoli and peas for a few more weeks. But I was itching to get those tomatoes into the ground — this is the longest I’ve ever waited to plant them!

Then, when weeding a few weeks ago, I noticed one weed that looked familiar. Near the base of my pea tee-pee was a green shoot with spiky leaves and a tapered green stem. I let it out of curiosity.

A few days ago, again catching up on my weeding, my suspicions were confirmed. It’s an errant tomato plant, pushing its way up from who knows where, growing right where I had originally planned a tomato plant to go once the peas petered out.

It’s as if the little worms munching through my dirt read my mind, and deposited a tomato seed right where I wanted it.

I’ve since tied up the tomato and it’s about 3 feet tall with a couple buds. Who knew I’d be able to have my winter crops and my summer crops, too?

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