Tomato Patch: Unlikely helpers for cleaning it up

Little Buck browses on trashed tomato vines

Frost wiped out the Tomato Patch Saturday morning.  Suddenly tomato leaves hung on their vines like limp dish rags—if you’re old enough to remember what they were, literally—and green fruit littered the ground.

Starting tomato seeds in April for transplanting in May is a great spring tonic.  Setting the young tomato plants into the garden in late May signifies hope.  Watching the plants grow and bloom and then picking the ripening fruit from summer till frost is the priceless reward.

But cleaning up the Tomato Patch after frost has wiped it out?  That’s just not fun, but Tuesday turned out to be the day for that chore.  The day was almost picture perfect—sunny with red leaves of sumac and maples and golden leaves of tulip poplars fluttering in the cool, autumn breeze.

Tomato Patch after weekend frost

I cut the nylon strings holding the PVC pipes to the iron endposts that hold my tomato cages in place during summer squalls.  Then I stacked the pipe, posts, cages, and drip-irrigation buckets. Then I tossed the ghosts of tomato plants past and some frost-damaged fruit over the split-rail fence.

What?  Tossed the dead plants right over the fence?

Yes, I toss them right over the fence for several reasons.  That gets them—and any insect or disease pests they may harbor—out of the garden.  That also gets them about four feet closer to our woodside compost pile, where they’ll join the endless cycle of dust to plant to dust.  And, finally, that gets them to the correct side of the split-rail fence so my four-legged clean-up helpers can browse on the few remaining leaves and fruit.

Four-legged browsers?  Yes—deer.  As most gardeners know, deer love tomatoes—leaves especially and sometimes fruit, though they don’t insist on sliced Celebrities on whole wheat with lettuce, basil, and mayo.

One fall chore: done

When I looked out the kitchen window just after dawn this morning, I saw a young buck munching away on the tomato snack.  I couldn’t imagine what he liked about the limp leaves, but, hey, I’ve never sampled frosted tomato leaves. 

I’ll still have to cart a wheelbarrow of vines down to the compost pile, but that job will be easier after the buck has eaten an ounce or two of leaves, and as the buck’s digestive track recycles the food into deer droppings, the yard likely will benefit from a light dose of fertilizer.

That’s about all the excitement we can stand today here in the Tomato Patch in Deer Country.

2 Comments on “Tomato Patch: Unlikely helpers for cleaning it up

  1. you have a lovely outlook! I bet you say the glass is half full!! enjoyed the little story-have you read Robert Waller of Bridges of Madison COunty fame? I think you would like his work—Anne

  2. Thanks so much for posting these pics. While frosted tomato plants don't look great, I loved seeing how you rig up the cages! I am implementing that next year (assuming I can save my mangled cages from this season that between deer and storms are about bent in half).

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