I finally gave in and transplanted my January-planted tomatoes into the greenhouse. They were beautiful three-foot-high-plus plants with tomatoes already forming. After covering them with a row-cover material, they did very well for the first few days. Then it came--the gardener’s nightmare--an event that occurs easily in our Highlands area: a heavy freeze rolled over the area and crushed the life out of the branches of all my tomato plants, leaving them shriveled up and dead.
This is a situation I’ve come to expect in these upper elevations where we live. The first time I lost my tomato plants in such a “cold” wave, I must admit I cried! But as I often do, I decided I had nothing to lose and tomatoes to gain if I tried an experiment with the remaining roots. It became a valuable experiment, one with a result that left me unworried this time when history repeated itself.
Eight years ago when I walked into our greenhouse and found all my beautiful tomato plants black and dead overnight, I decided to try giving them a second chance--and it worked. I repeated this same process on the tomato plants in my current greenhouse, and they, too, are on their way back!
When my eyes fell on such “death,” it appeared to me that only the parts of the plant above the ground were probably affected. Tomato roots can be very strong and persistent. So I carefully cut away the dead leaves and stalks, leaving a bit of stem sticking up above the ground and began watering the remaining roots with warm--perhaps lukewarm--water. I watered the plants after that as if nothing negative had taken place. Within a few days, new shoots of tomato plant life began sprouting up from the roots of those plants! I may not have had tomatoes as early in the season as I’d originally hoped, but every one of those tomato plants survived and provided a healthy crop of tomatoes. It was another lovely experimental discovery. And it sure beat starting tomato seeds from scratch in June!
I fully anticipate another healthy crop of tomatoes from the plants that froze this spring, too. It will just take a bit of TLC to coax the remaining roots to give their all to the survival of the plant. And it sure doesn’t hurt to refrain from giving up too fast, and giving life a second chance! Life, and tomato roots, can be full of surprises!