Radio Tomatoes

Bobby liked his job on the farm. It was great to be out in the fresh air all day, even when it was raining or snowing; much better than being snowed under with paperwork. He recalled a time at year-end when his entire desk was filled with files, a foot deep or more. Now there was only rhubarb and squash to wade through.

“I’ll take care of the tomatoes!” he shouted to his fellow worker, pointing towards the eastern polytunnels. “You can do the peppers.” These were the two main hot house crops here, with two hundred metres of each in tidy rows.

The tomatoes had started the season really well, shooting up and flowering early, but they had slowed with balmy weather. Aphids were a bother too. The new batch of ladybugs had helped.

Bobby wondered why tomatoes in the corner were doing so well. The plants were taller and the fruits were bigger and brighter than elsewhere in the hothouse. He went to the western polytunnel to ask his colleague. “Did you use a special fertilizer in the corner? No? Any extra inputs? No? What? They were just the same as the others last week? Okay.”

Why were they so strong and healthy? So picture perfect, like the image on a seed packet. Yes, there was more light in that corner in the mornings, but when the sun crossed over there was more shade, so there was no real advantage. Maybe being near the door provided extra ventilation, the airflow helping to regulate temperature, and deterring pests. Or did they benefit from heat flowing past them?

There could be something special in the soil here, like a small rotting animal providing a sustained supply of nutrients. A microclimate? Other beneficial bugs?

The tomatoes looked like large coloured party bulbs. They were sunset red and fist-sized, with flesh like ripe mangoes and juices like nectar. Over a few days Bobby checked everything, but could find no explanation for why they grew better. He wasn’t a proud person, but would be pleased to get some credit for this. These were the healthiest, tastiest tomatoes he’d ever seen. The best ever. They would soon be ready to harvest.

He thought about the tomatoes on his day off, and found himself licking his lips.

When he returned to the hothouse the tomatoes had wilted, and some of the plants had collapsed. The fruits were looking sick and pinched, as if somebody had strangled them in the desert. He checked the drip irrigation. It was still working.

Bach provided a tender soundtrack to this sorry state of affairs. The combination of dying fruit and sad music could be a still life by a renaissance painter. Or maybe the bright colours were more Van Gogh. Tomatoes fell as he stood there; the ground was covered with dead bloody bombs.

Then he recalled something. Last week the radio in the corner of the hothouse had been tuned to a commercial station. It was another worker’s choice. There was inane banter and non-stop ads. Had this affected the plants somehow?

Maybe they didn’t like classical music as everyone supposed. Maybe they felt it was plain and boring. He re-tuned the radio to LVR. A chorus of jingles began immediately.

“Good climes with Arctic Vodka!”

“Generali Cigars – Get Smoky!”

“Double-double burgers – only at Quenchers!”

“It’s party night at Dirty’s Bar!”

“Half-price cars this month at Valley Cars!”

Bobby started humming along. The words and music were designed to please. The wilting tomatoes raised their heads.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: