Mom grew up on a farm. My father’s grandfather was the first florist in New England and my grandfather and father grew up gardening. My siblings are avid gardeners. What I am getting at is that genetics means jack doodly when it comes to successful horticultury, and I am the proof, if my experience with tomatoes is any indication.

I’m late to this. I love flower gardens but my protocol is to jam things into the ground and pull them out if they die. Eventually most of what is visible is what thrived for no reason I’m aware of. It certainly wasn’t me. Entire tables of flower starts try to hide behind the asters when I go to the nursery. Vegetables get even less of my attention. Even when I grow a vegetable successfully, I forget to harvest it. Every year I’d plant peas, achieve peas, watch them turn yellow and dry, and pull them out at the end of the season.

But I’ve learned some things. Tomatoes: yes, the stores stock them in early April. If you plant them then, they will sulk until Memorial Day and then bitch about you to the other vegetables on the social media for the rest of their stunted lives.

They’ll take off nicely once it gets reliably warm but then shit happens. Blossom end rot. This produces a stout brown custard with a tomato hat on it. Fortunately, we have the internet. It’s a calcium problem, it’s a water problem, it’s a soil problem, it’s a pH problem; and those little princesses, the tomato plants, need to be on board too. You need to water in a consistent and reliable manner. Your soil needs to step up. You need calcium in the form of lime, eggshells, or ground unicorn horn; you need blessings from a priest and ideally you should plant at midnight on the Feast of St. Augustine. If that doesn’t work, the next year you add in shredded amulets. (Get the handy 3-cubit box.) Three years in a row of tomato failures and it’s time to plant sage and set the bed on fire. Then buy lima beans. Nobody cares if lima beans fail.

This year I planted at the end of JUNE in plain-ass soil without any lime or fairy dust and the tomatoes just keep on coming and there is no blossom end rot in sight. Also? No ripe tomatoes. Every day I take a look and think: Ah! Caprese salad tomorrow! And the next day, same thing. All of my tomatoes are ripe tomorrow.

Finally I realized the squirrels are systematically removing my tomatoes, taking a single bite, and leaving them on the fence. They can’t lift the acorn squashes so they just take a chunk or two out of them and leave them on the vine. Yesterday I found a nearly-ripe tomato and plucked it off to ripen on the windowsill, because we hardly ever have squirrels inside, and it had a green worm in it.

The broccoli that was wildly successful for the last two years pooted out a few little loose heads and quit. The collard greens were pasted with white flies and bolted. The kale looks like lace. The peas were great. They’re still out there, yellow and dry. I’m stocking up on squirrel heads and pikes in the handy 3-cubit box.