A couple of months ago, I planted some tomato seeds I’d picked up from Wilko. I wasn’t expecting much to happen with them, really: I thought it’d probably turn into a failed experiment, but I was up for giving it a go.
Well, they didn’t fail. In fact they’re doing unnaturally well.
My mother planted her tomatoes the same day I planted mine. My grandmother planted hers that weekend. And yet mine have come shooting out of the ground like the police are after them, whereas my mother’s and my grandmother’s are still barely out of the seedling stage.
My mother has been going on about how I must have done something weird to make them grow so fast. She thinks I’ve cast a spell on them, because she believes in that kind of thing, but I put this down to my mother being a bit strange and didn’t think much of it. Until I went to the garden centre on Saturday to pick up some more bamboo stakes for them after they outgrew the old ones.
When I measured them against myself that morning, I discovered they were about five feet tall. The original stakes were only about two feet tall, so they were in need of something a little more substantial to keep them standing upright. They’d also managed to outgrow the windowsill.
I spoke to the lady at the garden centre and asked her advice on which stakes to buy. She sold me some, commenting that it was good that I was getting ahead. I explained I was actually running slightly behind: my tomatoes were already five feet tall and had outgrown their seedling stakes. She looked stunned.
That was when I realised that perhaps my mother hadn’t been exaggerating her surprise.
“It’s impossible that they’re so big already!” the garden centre lady said.
I showed her a picture.
“Wow. What variety are they?”
I told her I’d picked them up from Wilko. “They’re flowering already too.”
She looked a bit scared.
“Will they grow any taller?” I asked her, “Do I need to buy more stakes?”
“No,” she replied dubiously, “they should just stay at the height they’re at now… but they sound like some kind of monster tomatoes, so who knows? You can always crop them if they grow too big.”
I thanked her, carried my stakes home, and re-staked the plants.
So, how did I grow my monster tomatoes? I don’t know.
I bought them in a little plastic pot a couple of years ago, but didn’t get around to planting them last year. At the beginning of March this year I planted them in the pot. I placed the pot in the living room, right in the centre of the bay window.
I think having a big south-facing bay window is the main secret to their success: it gets the sun all day and acts like a sort of greenhouse.
Well, they shot up, and after a couple of weeks I replanted them into a series of pots, based on what I had lying around. Two of them went into individual large pots; two went into individual smaller pots; and the three remaining plants went into a big pot together. I’d repot them individually later, I told myself, but I never did. By the time I got around to thinking about it they were five feet tall and flowering, so I didn’t want to risk moving them.
I water them every day. Occasionally I skip a day, but generally they get a drink every morning. During the heatwave they got two servings per day: one in the morning and one in the evening, because the sun would dry out the soil in between.
Oh, and I sing to them.
Over the years various bits of research have been done on the effects of music on plant growth. Classical music is especially purported to help them grow.
Well, it’s certainly not going to do them any harm, I figured, and considering I’m a singer anyway and have to practise opera somewhere, I might as well do it in my living room.
So I sing them an aria or two a couple of times a week. Does it make a difference? I don’t know, because I don’t have a control group. Sure, my mother and grandmother planted theirs at the same time, but the conditions in which theirs are growing are different. I suppose I could have set up an experiment at home, but in my flat it’s hard to find a space that isn’t exposed to music at one point or another. I’d have had to move the plants out of the room when I didn’t want them to hear the music, and then it could be argued that it was the moving, and not the lack of music, that made them grow more slowly.
In any case, my tomatoes have grown ridiculously well – supernaturally well according to my mother, and monstrously well according to the staff at the garden centre.
So next time you plant something and you want it to grow quickly, why not try playing it some Mozart?