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Someone asked the other day how my garden is doing, but I suspect what they really wanted to know was how the tomatoes are doing, angling for my offer to bring them a couple. No one cares how the squash are doing, but the tomato is entrenched atop the vegetable garden hierarchy, right above sweet corn.

I figured that others might be curious as well. Glad you asked.

This year I planted squash, green beans, okra, bell peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and, of course, tomatoes, which chew up a good half of the garden’s 200 square feet. That is enough about the squash, green beans, okra, bell peppers, zucchini and cucumbers, whose yield has continued a decade-long decline and has me totally rethinking my gardening approach.

So, let’s talk tomatoes.

They are, in three words, bigger, better and more delectable than any batch of tomatoes I have produced during my 35 years or so of gardening. I do not know if the ability to produce nice plump tomatoes is a measure of a man’s masculinity, but let me tell you, I am feeling pretty dang virile right now.

There are nine tomatoes perched on my windowsill, either ripe or on the verge, and a similar number on the vine, a day or so away from exchanging the suffocating heat and humidity for 71 degrees and the comfort of my kitchen.

There is also a Tupperware container that has a variety of cherry tomatoes, which serve as snacks throughout the day, being consumed as if they are M&M’s. Those Golden Sweet cherry tomatoes will forever have a corner in my garden.

In an hour or so, one of the large tomatoes will go under the Cutco knife as I enjoy a BLT sandwich and some soup for lunch. By the way, the L in the BLT is also home grown, the product of a hydroponic kit that looks to be passing a trial run. The bread, bacon, Hellman’s mayo and pepper are all store bought.

Calm down, I was kidding about the mayo. It is Duke’s. Mayo and the medical center are the only redeemable things named Duke.

I always plant a variety of tomatoes, but it seems each year I am reminded that the same ones – Beefsteak, Better Boy, Celebrity, Early Bird earning a shoutout – do best. But I always mix in a few other varieties only to be disappointed.

My quest for a bigger, better and juicier tomato took root last summer when I realized just how inadequate my tomatoes were size-wise. A fellow who plays golf brought me some of his home-grown tomatoes, telling me that the best thing about growing tomatoes was sharing them.

They put mine to shame. In advance of this year’s garden, I googled the question: What is the best way to grow bigger tomatoes?

There were ample suggestions, but the most popular was incredibly simple, which was to provide more elbow room for the plants, at least 2 feet each. So I went with fewer plants, with more space between each one.

As appreciative as I am that my golfing friend brought me some of those goliaths last year, not once, but twice, he is wrong about this: The best thing about growing large and luscious tomatoes is not sharing them.

It is clearly consuming them.

Reach Donnie Douglas by email at [email protected].

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