July 6, 2008

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Deep down I know that some of my practices in the garden may not actually impact the health of my plants, but are simply garden myths passed down through the ages. I grow marigolds because they are supposed to keep pests away and basil near tomatoes because they are supposed to be good companions. Most gardeners do these things too. We're a superstitious bunch I think.

One of the other "rules" I try to follow is to keep my tomato leaves dry when I water and space the plants far enough apart so that the tomato leaves don't touch each other. Both of these practices are to prevent the spread of diseases and I have seen plenty of sad, spotty tomato leaves after a lot of rain to believe that they're a good idea.

Now I'm not perfect. My garden plot is a little bit more than 100 square feet and It's simply not possible to plant 6 tomato plants and have none of them touch, but I do a pretty good job for the most part. I water at the base of the plant. I cage AND stake and prune (at least a little) to keep the branches moderately under control.

Okay, so the plot right behind mine has some new occupants. They are a lovely couple with a toddler. They are absolute beginner gardeners and magically have strong, healthy looking plants with no signs of bad bugs or diseases. I'm pretty impressed -- beginner's luck for sure! They also planted all of their tomatoes right behind mine in a big row. They put in stakes, but don't seem to be tying the plants to the stakes at all and they haven't pruned anything. As you might imagine, their big, leafy, crazy tomato plants are all over mine. This is not good. For a week or so now I've been feeling pretty helpless. I rarely see the couple and I don't know what I would say to them if I did. Community gardening is supposed to be about community building and getting along. Yeah, ok, but it is ALSO about growing some awesome tomatoes right and fighting against the calamaties that could prevent this? What am I supposed to do?

Two days ago, after pruning and tying up my own tomatoes, I walked around the back of my plot, through the tomato thicket, and sort of pushed (gently I swear) all the branches I could, back over to their side. I was amazed at how well this seemed to work (see the photo.) I just went back today though and all their tomatoes are back over, cuddling up to mine. Grrrrr.

I don't wanna be a jerk or unneighborly and, as I've said, I'm not 100% sure that their tomato plants touching mine is absolutely, definitely a bad thing, but I don't like it -- at all. I also don't like the fact that I don't know how they're watering and my guess is they're just spraying that whole row of tomatoes with a hose from above. Which means that they are spraying MY tomatoes too. So all of my careful watering at the base of the plant so as not to get the leaves wet might be for nothing. Geez, I know I sound uptight here, but c'mon!!

I honestly don't know what I will say if I see them. I like them and I want to be nice : "Heeeey, hiiii, so I wanted to give you some advice about your tomatoes over here." I just don't know how to say it without it coming out snarky. So far everything looks ok though, so perhaps there is nothing to worry about.

Anyway, perhaps I will really try peas next year...as a fence.


Bobbi said...

I'm not much for conflict, so I have no words of wisdom. You would think common sense would tell them their tomatoes were invading yours.

Hope things get better!

Gina said...

It's a matter of what is more uncomfortable to you. 1. pissed off garden neighbors, or 2. a ruined tomato crop.

Can you say "hey I noticed that you have staked your tomaotes but havnt tied them yet, I have some extra (insert whatever you use to tie yours) if you'd like to borrow it. I'll show you how I do mine.

Brandon said...

This is exactly like when one of your biking partners wears their helmet way too loose... How do you breach the subject? How do you try to offer a suggestion to someone and not have it sound like a smug commentary on how they "do" things?
But then again, you would be in the right saying "Hey, get the f-off my tomaters, if you know what's good fer ye."

Chuck Bartok said...

I love the "tongue-in-cheek" sense of humor.
gardening does bring out the good side of people.
Yes talk to them.
AI would appreciate if would visit my Video series and comment

Growing Tomatoes for Health and wealth

Thanks and keep up the good work

Mia said...

maybe they would take it as advice, if they are beginners; especially if you gave it with a smile!

Mama G said...

Exactly, they may not know what they don't know. It may have never occurred to them that the way they're growing their tomatoes is affecting yours. You could approach it by just starting up a friendly discussion about growing tomatoes. You could comment and how great theirs appear to be growing. You could say things like, "When mine get big like that I like to tie them to the stakes with (insert whatever you use) to keep them from touching each other. I've had trouble in the past with diseases if they touch each other too much. Etc." Honestly, they probably have no idea that touching leaves or watering from above could cause disease. They might really appreciate your help.

Eve said...

I think I would just overlook it and next year, plant your tomatos some place else. Better to have freindly neighbors, than losing a tomato or two.

kate said...

I think you could talk to them about it without it being a big deal. I mean, i can't imagine being upset myself, if someone tried to give me a little advice. That said, i personally plant my tomatoes too close together & generally neglect stuff & i still get lots of tomatoes. Though not as many as i would if i took care of things properly i am sure. So even if their tomatoes are invading yours, i think you will still get a good harvest.

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