Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Susan Reimer
In Greece, it is the men who tend the gardens, my Greek friend Tom tells me, and a man cannot hold his head up in the community if he can't grow a simple tomato.
While in high school, Tom planted and tended his family's huge vegetable garden in Annapolis and produced bushels of peppers, tomatoes, onions and squash.
When he moved into my neighborhood, among my Greek neighbors, he brought his vegetable gardening with him. And while we ridiculed the foundation plantings around his house - his yard had a distinctly bachelor look to it -- his vegetable garden did well.
Something happened last summer, however.
Married, with three boys, Tom still found time to plant some tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
But the garden grew to look like something that had endured a nuclear winter. The plants were nearly leafless and almost completely lifeless.
And Tom was the butt of all sorts of jokes from his Greek relatives and our Greek neighbors. What kind of man can't grow a simple tomato
This spring, he said, "I decided to start from scratch."
He resolved to dig his way to respectable manhood, and he removed soil from his garden -- 20 inches deep.
He built a raised bed frame and filled the garden with topsoil, manure, and tilled it all together.
"I am going to keep it simple," he said. "Tomatoes, onions zucchini. Some jalapenos in the other bed I built last year for the herbs."
All Tom's Greek relatives and all his Greek neighbors have been giving him old-country advice. But that only serves to re-enforce his embarrassment over last year's failure.
"All the old Greek guys are telling me what to do. I am through with advice," he said. "I am going to figure this out for myself."
After all, he has three sons, and someday he will have to teach them how to grow tomatoes.
Every garden has a story. What story does your garden tell? Send me yours, with some pictures, to email@example.com and I will share it here on Garden Variety.