Friday, February 24, 2012

Garden Karma: Flaming Tomato Bombs and Parsley Seeds

When I was a kid my neighbors had a huge vegetable patch that ran the length their backyard. Aside from tomatoes, I'm not sure what they grew. My brother and I would peek through the fence slats as the woman watered and weeded, her tomato plants climbing six foot support frames, heavy fruit hanging from their branches like giant rubies. But we didn't like our neighbors and, therefore, didn't like their tomatoes.

Constantly deployed or on lengthy remote assignments, our father was rarely home, leaving our exhausted mom, who worked part time while going to school full time, to care for us alone. We should have understood or at least have been on our best behavior, but we weren't. Bored, creative, and unsupervised to the point of becoming slightly feral, we took to fending for ourselves. In an attempt to reign in our free time, we were given chores and my brother was asked to babysit me. He was 10 and I was five or six. Despite being ensconced in the relative safety of a military base, asking my brother to supervise me was like giving an arsonist keys to a match factory. We began to create our own fun by inventing games like Knife Fight, Food Fight (green bean aren't as worthy a projectile as wads of peanut butter), and Road Flare. Road Flare resulted in a couch fire while Knife Fight gave my brother a permanent scar. But our favorite game was Flaming Tomato Bombs.

When we tired of chasing each other with sharp objects or swinging from shower curtain rods, we blew things up. Our favorite target was our neighbors tomato patch. Layers of Kleenex would be wrapped around a cotton ball, tied with string, and soaked in my mom's cheap perfume. We'd run into the backyard, set them on fire, and launch them over the fence. The massive explosions we dreamed about never happened, but the nauseating odor of scorched tomatoes and perfume would fill the air. The woman would burst from her house while we ran for ours. Once inside, we laughed til we nearly peed our pants, and made plans to do it again. 

A few phone calls later, our dad came home, our mom changed her schedule, and the party was over. Our dad was assigned to a new base and much to our neighbors relief, we quickly moved. I wonder sometimes how much good I have to create in my garden to erase the torture we inflicted on our neighbors. If I met them now, I'd apologize.

I'm sowing curly parsley seeds this weekend to help nourish the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars that are born in my garden. They always germinate but I wonder sometimes if they didn't if a Flaming Tomato Bomb would be to blame. 


Parsley is one of the main food sources for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. They're usually found in curly parsley but I had a few in my Italian flat leaf parsley last year.. Soak the seeds overnight in warm water and scatter them across the soil,  barely covering them with loose potting soil. They need a short period of cool, moist weather to germinate so spring is perfect.


Parsley has a long taproot that looks like a parsnip. They need dryish, well draining soil, and grow very well in deep pots. I'll be planting parsley in these pots as well as a few smaller ones. They love full sun but can take a bit of bright afternoon shade. Thin your seedlings since they don't like to be too crowded.

37 comments:

  1. Oh Tammy, we had the same childhood!! Dad was also in the military (as well as my husband). We had water fights in the house with the hose while my mom was at the commissary...oops. Oh the stories. I loved being on post as a kid, we really did have a semi-safe place to run wild. How does wrapping toilet paper around an arrow and soaking it in lighter fluid and shooting it out the second story window sound? Fun right?
    We all have to watch out for karma.

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  2. I love the fact that you are sowing parsley to feed the swallowtail butterflies! Will you also plant parsley in the beautiful containers that you have featured? In my garden I grow curly parsley in a pot, too, but it has never been eaten by a caterpillar only by my husband and I :-). Maybe we don't have this variety of butterflies around here?
    Christina

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    1. Both containers will be full of parsley, as well as a few smaller ones, too. I bought the turquoise one at Lowe's and the blue-purple one at Home Goods.

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  3. Oh my, your poor mother! Of course, there are much worse things you could have done. You paint a very colorful picture with your words, TS. Well done!

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    1. Thanks! No wonder she had such a hard time finding babysitters!

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  4. My mother had to intercept a mail order of real ninja throwing stars that we had pooled our money to send away for and biked down to the post office with our SASE. She replaced them a week later with nerf ones. It wasn't quite the same... it is amazing we all make it this long, huh?

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    1. Real ninja stars?? Incredible! Did you have black outfits to go with them?

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  5. Oh! you and your brother were indeed very quite children ;-). It was fun reading it. I also grow parsley for swallowtail butterflies and they come every summer. The caterpillars grow big and fat, devour the plant and then they vanish!! I am yet to see a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly :-(. And that devoured plant with only sticks and no leaves again transforms itself into lush green plants, once the catterpillars are gone. It's just a wonder to see. I grow them in medium pot, small pot, don't thin, let them self-seed and they grow and grow and thrive and survive.

    Boonton is in NJ. Thanks for becoming my follower.

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  6. Oh! you and your brother were indeed very quite children ;-). It was fun reading it. I also grow parsley for swallowtail butterflies and they come every summer. The caterpillars grow big and fat, devour the plant and then they vanish!! I am yet to see a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly :-(. And that devoured plant with only sticks and no leaves again transforms itself into lush green plants, once the catterpillars are gone. It's just a wonder to see. I grow them in medium pot, small pot, don't thin, let them self-seed and they grow and grow and thrive and survive.

    Boonton is in NJ. Thanks for becoming my follower.

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    1. I have a little pot of parsley that's been going strong for about four years with no help from me. When my own kids were little I admitted to being a mischievous kid but didn't give them any details to avoid inspiring them to similar shenanigans. :o)

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  7. I have to laugh at your childhood memories. Wouldn't you just love some neighbor kids like that now. :) Have a nice weekend.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. If I had neighbors like that now, I'd be furious!

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  8. Oh my! What little rascals you were! I think it is wonderful that you became such a passionate gardener despite your adventures as a child. My parsley has been green all winter. I do want to add more since one can never have enough butterflies in the garden! Great idea to start the seeds now! Love your pots too!

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    1. I have two patches of parsley that have been green all winter, too. They're tough little plants. :o)

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  9. I really love the header, great view of the caterpillar. So you were a little hellion? Oh, your poor neighbors. Funny though.

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    1. Guilty as charged! I do feel sorry for my neighbors. I'm sure they didn't deserve me.

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  10. Sooooo funny! Sounds like there was never a dull moment at your house.
    Good parsley tips!!

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    1. I made sure my own kids' childhood was significantly duller than mine! :o)

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  11. ...slightly feral childhood...I like that terminology!
    I think you've got me beat on childhood antics.
    I do suddenly recollect that as a kid we would throw aerosol cans into a local incinerator and wait for them to blow up. The resulting explosion caught the attention of our neighbors since it sounded like bombs going off. We also blew up fire ant mounds with firecrakers.
    Maybe we were both slightly feral.
    LOL
    Enjoyed your post.

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    1. Oooh! Sounds like fun! We would have had a blast together! No surprise we're both now teachers. :o)

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  12. judging by some of these stories it's a miracle that any of us made it to adulthood! while we didn't set things on fire my brother and i did try to maim one another with darts. isn't it strange now to think that injuring your sibling was fun at a certain age?

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  13. Wow! Catchy title, and the scientist in me instantly wondered "how are tomatoes flammable?" Kleenex and cheap perfume... obviously!

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    1. I like to think I helped invent "fire roasted tomatoes". :o)

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  14. Anyone who grows plants to feed the butterflies can be forgiven for being a naughty child. But then again, I can say that because I wasn't your poor neighbour.

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    1. Thanks! I'll take forgiveness! But I'm guessing you weren't my neighbor!

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  15. I can see now that I was much too well behaved as a kid. Lol Well not really my mom would have killed us if we'd pulled those stunts, but my dad wasn't deployed and my mom wasn't overextended. ;)

    The swallowtails enjoyed our parsley too! DH was kinda miffed about it but we'd never had so many Black Swallowtails before. This year I'm going to plant more parsley and try bronze fennel as well.

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    1. Bronze fennel is a great plant! Mine comes back every year. It attracts a ton of beneficial insects.

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  16. I was naughty back then as well:) Sometimes we took rotten tomatoes off the vine and threw them at each other. Once, and I am by no means proud of this, I egg'd a neighbor's roof. Why? I don't know. I was young and stupid and wanted to see how far I could throw and egg. Sounds like a really great project you have going there. Good luck!

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    1. My parsley seeds are usually successful. It's a cheapo way to grow a lot of parsley. :o) Yay for super cheap!!

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  17. I grew up in Italy (Air Force family) and remember spending quite a few afternoons in my neighbor's garden picking her snapdragons. Her name was Gisella, a true Italian, and she would always yell at me in her native tongue while I ran home. Then one afternoon when I had finally learned how to speak conversational Italian, she yelled at me again but I had to nerve to explain to her how I was justified in picking her flowers because they were for my mothers and would she like me to pick some flowers for her, too? We became fast friends - eventually she invited me over to have Coca-Colas with her and hang out with her farm cats. I was probably about 5 or 6 years old and to this day snapdragons are my favorite flower.

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    1. How awesome to have grown up in Italy! I's jealous! My mom made me apologize when I cut some of my neighbors flowers, too. I've always liked flowers more than tomatoes!

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  18. Hi Tammy, your childhood games sound much more fun and creative than the kind of safe boring plastic toys sold in toyshops. I love green salad too, so I feel I have something in common with that beautiful striped caterpillar. I'm lucky, I plant one parsley plant, and babies keep popping up all over the garden. I guess we have the right climate. At the moment, anyway. It keeps changing. cheers, catmint

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  19. I laughed my head off at this. I had a circumscribed childhood but I'm making up for it now. My kids and their friends built a graveyard in our front yard every year for Halloween.The rest of the year the props, including a realistic coffin, were stored in the rafters of our garage. A repair man came to fix the door and was taken aback at the coffin. "What the *! is that?" he exclaimed. "That's grandpa" I replied, "We couldn't afford to bury him." My kids were appalled.

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  20. I'm glad you and your brother survived childhood. My three sons came up with some audacious pranks of their own. I'm glad they never thought of flaming tomato bombs!

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  21. Hi Tammy, You always get me laughing, but this time I couldn't stop. Good thing no one is around to see me staring at the computer screen and hear me chuckling away. They would think I was mad! This story should definitely work its way into that book you should be working on.

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  22. Beautiful planters!!! In need of any planter dollies:) I so love reading your posts.....you always make me laugh. Spring is right around the corner:)

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