Green Thumb


Trays with Seedlings


I’ve never been good at growing plants.  Actually, let me rephrase.  I’ve never been good at keeping plants alive. 

It starts with good intentions.  I pick out a hearty looking plant that is the biggest in its pack.  I read the instructions and I take it home ready to water it, give it proper sunlight, and nurture it so it can grow.  Once in my home things start out well, but quickly disintegrate. 

My last parsley plant was dubbed “street parsley” as it was on its own for survival.  It sat on the fire escape outside my kitchen window and was left to deal with the severe drought that Charlotte found itself in.   My parsley died.  It was one of countless, green victims of my “survival of the fittest” approach to gardening.

Since he is well aware of this particular weakness in me, I was shocked when this year’s Valentine’s Day gift from my husband was seedlings for heirloom tomatoes.  Yes, getting heirloom tomatoes is a fabulous gift, but let’s take note of the fact that he gave me seeds.  He didn’t want me to keep tomato plants alive, he actually wanted me to grow them.  Obviously, he has a weakness for the tragic-comic.  This gift had disaster written all over it.

Yet with the enthusiasm that so easily comes with all new projects (that have not yet been started), I did some homework on growing tomatoes, bought the equipment, and spent one hour carefully placing seeds the size of poppy seeds in tiny containers.  I actually poked the holes for each seed with the tip of a pencil which was all the evidence I needed to know that this project was destined for failure.

I persevered though and weekly since March the tray of seedlings has sat in our upstairs bathroom near the window.  Following the instructions, I’ve waved my hands over the leaves to stimulate wind (suppose to make them stronger), I’ve rotated the tray to give all sides equal light, nurtured my plants with organic sea kelp fertilizer, and dutifully watered the plants every couple of days.  And the result?

Sprouted Tomatoes

It’s two months later and miracle of all miracles, I have almost 40 heirloom tomato seedlings that are ready to be transplanted.  I’m now praying to the heavens that my green thumb holds out until this summer and that we’ll be fortunate enough to be eating our own homegrown tomatoes.  I’m already envisioning the tomato sauces and caprese salads that I’ll be able to make.  In the meantime, I just need to find a home for the 36 seedlings that we can’t use.  Did I mention the fact that we live in a townhome without a yard?


These heirloom tomato seedlings were purchased from Gary Ibsen’s TomatoFest website.  The seeds came with detailed instructions (crucial for a plant-killer like myself).  I planted four different varieties:  Ananas Noir, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Italian Heirloom, and Italian Tree.  If, and it’s a big “if”, I manage to get tomatoes from these plants I’ll be sure to post an update.


  1. Good luck with the tomatoes Nikki! Glen forwarded the chicken recipe to me. I can’t wait to make it. Thanks again. Tell North it was great seeing him.


  2. hi nikki! don’t give up on your tomatoes and don’t be disappointed if you lose some. it’s a great experience and i’m sure that one day you’ll be surprised with the results. keep up the good work!
    love, alice


  3. Fresh tomatoes from your own garden taste so sweet! If you are able to keep enough around your townhouse (pots and more pots), then you will find the real joy of growing tomatoes is giving them away to friends.
    Great Blog!


  4. Dear Nikki, Greetings from Davidson! Your tomato adventure brought back memories of our garden when the children still lived at home and could work the garden! Tomatoes, potatoes and asparagus were our favorites, but PEANUTS were a little victory too, a very little victory–they were the size of sweet peas!
    Keep writing! Yrs, S & G


  5. My grandmother used to grow her own tomatoes and make chili sauce out of them in late summer. We would eat the chili sauce all year long on everything-Kim has the recipe-I don’t think Kim has ever used it, but if you have a bummper crop, you might want it! It was delicious!!! What a wonderful blog-John is reading it too!!! Love you!


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