This time of year, like a lot of other people, I get the itch; the urge to grow something. But there’s something holding me back — and that’s called experience, which for me translates into "Nice try, dummy. Didn’t you learn the last time?"

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve planted seedlings, hoping I can harvest some of those delectable home-grown tomatoes, but things seem to be against me, as I wind up with nothing growing the way it’s supposed to and I’m left with two choices.

I can buy tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market, or I can rely on friends, whereby now I’m on the verge of wearing out my welcome.

Buying grocery store tomatoes is out of the question as it seems that no matter how plump and juicy they look, they usually leave a lot to be desired in the flavor department, so I’m going to have to wait until friends offer one or two from their thriving tomato patch, or go tomato-less.

I’ve asked far too many times to ask again, so I’ll just have to mind my manners and hope.

My own efforts have not borne fruit for quite a few years now, and I’ve reached the point where I refuse to subject myself to any more home-grown humiliation, like the time I allowed a friend to help. In that episode, I got blind-sided, as the friend told me to “Just wait. I’ll have you hip-deep in Beefsteak Tomatoes by July.”

It didn’t happen, and I soon found out why. In an effort to protect the roots from cutworms, she had wrapped the roots in aluminum foil, which sounded like a good idea at the time.

But fate stepped in as I should have double-checked, since after a couple of weeks, she neglected to remove the foil. And no matter how much TLC I gave those dad-burned plants — watering them faithfully, industriously clearing away trespassing weeds, and all the other things you do when you’re striving for success — those plants never looked healthy. But I kept on trying to coax them into flowering (I got about a third of what expected), finally achieving a few fruits (small and puny), and at the end of the season winding up with a few wormy tomatoes that even the birds refused to sample.

Well, there’s not much a person can do when a friend spikes your guns, so I shrugged it off, remembering where a road paved with good intentions leads.

Then there was the year when I got things started as usual with a half-dozen sturdy looking plants, which grew just fine but seemed to just plain quit halfway to maturity. I checked but found no roots. Yep. That’s the year that we had a bumper crop of cutworms, and no tomatoes, of course.

Switching tactics the next year, I ordered one of those "foolproof" kits that even included a tub for my tomatoes to grow in, completely protected — according to the ad.

That was the year I had high hopes.

Following directions to the letter, I watched that tub and its eight tomato plants like a hawk. And they grew and they grew and they grew. At last, they flowered right on schedule, with tomatoes sprouting on just about every stem. The bigger they got, the better they looked, and I practically broke my arm patting myself on the back.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and harvested what looked like the biggest, juiciest tomato, and built myself one of my favorite sandwiches: bread, mayo and tomato slices.

Alas, it was not to be.

The “hoodoo” was still working, as when I sliced into that beauty, it was rotten to the core, and so were all the others — every last one.

Why? I haven’t the slightest idea, but I finally have to admit that I’m a “city boy” and that I’m just not meant to grow tomatoes — or anything else, for that matter.

I have accepted the fact that my thumb isn’t green.

It’s brown.


— Newton columnist Mike Morton writes weekly for the Kansan. He can be reached at