Gardener in Martinez tries for a BIG tomato

When it came down to it, even flowers couldn't lure me out at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, so, I apologize for not having a report on the open house at the University of Georgia's garden.


It's too hot to fawn over flowers, anyway. Let's talk about something else that's important: tomatoes -- in particular, those growing at the Martinez home of Robert Rogers, a fellow graduate of the Master Gardeners' class of 2009.

He is set on growing a 5-pound tomato. He called recently to report that he has hit 2 pounds, 9 ounces and that there are plenty more on the vines.

Robert planted 75 tomato plants. Each is in a 30-gallon container equipped with a drip-irrigation connection. The Big Reds are Boxcar Willies, and he has some of what he calls everyday varieties.

There are also a lot of peppers, which Robert credits with his longevity. He is 76 and strong enough to chop a stack of wood that measures, oh, probably 20 by 10 by 10 feet.

The world record for giant tomatoes is 7 pounds, 12 ounces, which was set in 1986, Robert reports. That champion grower achieved the goal by treating his tomato plants like royalty, however, and he limited each plant to one tomato. That seems wasteful to Robert and, of course, to the Gnome.

A visit to Robert's garden is always a treat, in more ways than one. (He makes a killer pepper relish.)

There are 150 camellia bushes in his yard, and he has more than 200 cuttings potted up and protected from squirrels by chicken wire. (Another reason to hate squirrels -- they dig up the cuttings to bury nuts in the pots.)

Robert has been into camellias since 1951. His family's farm was about a mile from the American Camellia Society in Fort Valley, Ga. He knows the names and flowers of every one of the 150 camellias in his yard.

Robert also has redwood cuttings rooted. He has rooted up a ginkgo tree cutting, something that Richmond County extension agent Sid Mullis said is nearly impossible to do.

The Gnome is rooting for Robert.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or

Join the growing conversation with the Garden Gnome at


In The Garden is a roundup of gardening events, club meetings and seminars. Send listings to, or post on the Garden Gnome at

NORTH AMERICAN BUTTERFLY COUNT: 9 a.m. Saturday; all-day count; volunteers needed to help identify butterflies; Phinizy Swamp, 1858 Lock and Dam Road, Augusta, or Silver Bluff Audubon Center, 4542 Silver Bluff Road, Jackson; (706) 650-8959

GROWING HISTORY: 10-11 a.m. Saturday; program about the third Redcliffe Plantation owner, Julia Hammond Richards, and how she used her garden to make a profit during hard economic times; members of the Aiken Master Gardeners Association will be present to discuss growing tips; heirloom seeds will be given away; Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site, 181 Redcliffe Road, Beech Island; $4 for adults, $3 for children, $2.50 for South Carolina seniors; (803) 827-1473



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