There is a forest in my basement

I should have known this was what would happen. In fact, I should have thought this was a 100% probability event, with my luck.

When I set off on vacation, my mind was still on the house, at least until I reached the airport. I didn’t worry about whether I had locked the front door, or whether I had switched off the gas. I worried about more improbable events, like whether a sudden severe thunderstorm would flood my basement, or whether I was wise to leave my dishwasher running – what if it suddenly decided to malfunction and flood my kitchen?

Flooding, as you can see, figured strongly in my worries. Lack of water did not.  So I certainly didn’t worry about my plants. I was leaving my plants for more than a week without water. Most of those plants were tender seedlings, and yet I did not worry.

In fact, in my mind, I had it all planned out. I didn’t have high hopes that my seedlings would survive anyway.

When I first announced to my friend A that I had bought 2 packs of tomato seeds, she was shocked.

“How many seeds did you buy?” she asked.

“Oh, one has 20 seeds of hybrid tomatoes, and the other has probably a hundred seeds of cherry tomatoes”, I said airily.

“Oh my god, don’t plant all of them!” she implored urgently. “Every single one of them will grow!”

This looked like a very good scenario, but I was less hopeful.  “No, not with my skills and my luck” ,  I assured her.  “I am sure half the seeds will never germinate, and then most of the seedlings will die mysteriously, and then there is always the good chance that I will forget to water them for a few days.  Given all this, I am assuming probably 2% of the seeds will survive.”

It was in this spirit that I set off for vacation.

I had planted the twenty hybrid seeds in individual seed containers.  The packet had promised twenty seeds, but I found there were actually twenty two seeds.  And the hundred or so cherry tomato seeds I just strew in a tray.  All these sat in my basement, near the large glass doors that brought in plenty of sunlight.

The seedlings came up  a few days before I left.  I watered whenever I remembered, and then, of course, they were on their own.

So when I came back, I had a good idea what to expect.  There would be a famine in my basement, I knew, and I would see some malnourished plants, and some unfortunate deaths.

But what do I find instead?  Rows and rows of healthy seedlings which seemed to have not missed me at all.  Beside them, the hibiscus shrub had even put out flowers!  You could see that not only was there no famine, the plants were probably partying in my absence.

This was very upsetting.  Now, I can understand if those tomato seedlings didn’t want to die, even though that upsets all my percentage probability plans.  I can even go so far as to forgive them for it.  But  couldn’t they have had the good grace to droop, or wilt, or look just a little uncomfortable?


Do they have to look fresh and cheerful, and put out multiple leaves?  Do they all have to germinate?

At a glance, I could see that twenty one of the twenty two hybrid tomatoes had come up.  This was awful.  But I also found myself wondering what had happened to the twenty second seed.   I was vaguely disappointed it hadn’t come up as well, but on the whole I was inclined to like it for staying away.

A few days later, when I started replanted the seedlings in larger pots, I found the twenty second one too – there were two seedlings in one container.  (Can you spot the container with 2 seedlings in the picture? Tell me which one it is. )

Then there are the hundred cherry tomato seedlings.  Yes, all those seeds have germinated too, or at least that’s what it looks like – I have certainly not tried counting them.  My basement now resembles a miniature tomato forest.

But I am fortunate for now – they are still seedlings.  I wonder how I am going to be able to manage them when they grow older.  Will I need a hundred and twenty two pots for the tomatoes?  How long before they outgrow the pots?  I am having anxiety attacks already.

There’s nothing else to be done, I will need to dig a vegetable patch for them in the backyard.

Folks, it looks like Twisted Ankle and Busted Back will be back in action this summer.


33 thoughts on “There is a forest in my basement

    • That’s a possibility. The issue with giving away free stuff on Craigslist though, is that you will have a stream of visitors who will tie up your weekends 😦

    • You mean the one where only one leaf is visible? Nope. The entire container is in the picture, I assure you. Try clicking on the picture to enlarge it.

  1. You think these are apartment-patio-friendly? The cherry tomatoes. Wait, make that apartment- patio-in-a-very-rainy-place-friendly. I’ve always wanted to have cherry tomatoes, basil & cilantro. But I’m apprehensive given my gardening skills and the perpetually horrible weather here :-


    • I think you should give it a try. If it’s a rainy place, even better – you don’t have to water at all πŸ˜€ The seedlings don’t take up much space at all (think one two foot long cardboard tray). As for when they become plants, keep a few and give the rest away!

  2. This brought a smile to my face πŸ™‚ you surely will have an overdose of tomatoes. How does the tray with 100 seeds look like waise?

    Is it the 5th one in the first row btw – the one with two seedlings?

    If you’re put up close to Dallas, I’ll come over n take a few and then you won’t have to search for prospective caretakers on craigslist or otherwise πŸ˜›

    • The 100 seedlings didn’t fit in 1 tray πŸ˜€ I’ll post a pic soon.
      And yes, don’t tell anyone, but you got it absolutely right ! It is the 5th one in the first row, the one which has 2 extra leaves peeking below the original 4.
      I am not anywhere near Dallas, but you are welcome to come over and help yourself πŸ™‚

  3. Make a good vegetable patch for ALL tomato plants, let them grow and give you lots of tomatoes. Then put them in a “tokari” and go selling πŸ˜€
    You can shout “Tamatar le lo tamator. Taja taja fresh fresh tamator” πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

    I will certainly buy 1kg if you pass by my house. πŸ˜›

    • Selling tomatoes in a tokari? Sounds like what they do in the farmers’ market, minus the shouting of course – no one would understand Hindi here.

    • Correction – I have enough tomato seedlings. Now, as to whether they will actually bear any tomatoes, or decide they are really ornamental plants, only time will tell πŸ˜‰

    • You forgot tomato sauce, jam, juice, eaten raw (especially the cherry tomatoes).. methinks my blood might well turn into tomato juice soon πŸ˜›

  4. This is why I live in a city!! No question of such things happening to me! On the other hand I wouldn’t mind some of those tomatoes mailed my way…

  5. You could give them away to neighbors who are into gardening. Is there no community garden near where you live? There’s also freecycle – you decide on who gets the stuff and on what day/time. My basil seedlings have made an appearance, but I’ll buy the tomato plants from a fair next month.

    • I’ve already made a standing offer to my neighbor πŸ™‚ But given that they had a huge tomato patch last year, I suspect she has seedlings too πŸ˜€ I’m also giving some seedlings way to friends.

      The city organizes a free seedling exchange which will be in a few weeks, there are other gardening groups which do the same thing.. there’s also freecycle.

      But even if I only keep half a dozen plants, the experts say I’ll still need that vegetable patch 😦

    • Yes, that’s what we’ll do. Do you remember the story of Twisted Ankle and Busted Back? Digging a bed, raising and leveling it and so on is going to be a weeks-long process..

    • No, no, I am going to grow my tomatoes to be God-fearing and non-violent and Gandhian; they will not throw things (or be thrown) πŸ˜‰
      Which reminds me, I hear there is a massive tomato surplus in India now?

  6. L:

    I have a friend in Texas who goes to a farmer’s market every weekend to sell her baked goods. You can explore options near you for surplus crop (it is perishable after all).

    BTW why not just visit me? My neighbour keeps saying she wants to make one of our fence posts into a gate so they can expand their veggie garden into mine. Today she said she will bring me some tomato seeds to grow. :-/ I think you and she will get along very well.

    • I can see myself purΓ©eing lots to tomatoes this summer πŸ™‚ But at this point it’s all in the future, and I’d rather not count my tomatoes before they grow.

      I can see your neighbor is a kindred soul!

  7. Lekhni

    I should give you an update. My lovely neighbour today went to the garden centre and bought planters and tomatoes. Then she came over, and planted them all and covered them with the polytunnel which she had also thoughtfully bought. Now I am only to water them regularly and every now and then feed them. They are organic alicante and moneymaker varieties. I am still shaking from the responsibility placed on my shoulders (although I had said ‘yes’ to her yesterday not knowing she had asked seriously; my shoulders have previously responsible for carrying the janaazaa (pall) of serranto chillis earlier in the year.

    I borrowed her trowel and spent many hours weeding the patio at the back and the yard in front. I hope the tomatoes grow. I may recover my nerve and take a photo and blog about it so that I can later publicly document my humiliating defeat at the hands of a few saplings :-/

    PS I have a feeling I should blame you but she thinks it is not your fault and I may learn a few things from your gardening experience. Now, there, the burden on your shoulders!

    • Nice! I am quite convinced your tomatoes will do very well. Don’t bother watering them daily – infrequent watering seems to be the trick. Apparently, their roots grow deeper in search of water if you water them every few days. So as long as you remember about twice a week that you have tomato plants somewhere, they will grow fine πŸ˜€ (See, now that’s a good way to grow plants)

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