Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
share post

Staking Tomatoes

June 22, 2023

Jordan Durbin

When in the course of plotting a vegetable garden, it is of great importance to plan where the tomatoes will receive their allotment.  Make sure they have far, far more space than seems reasonable, for in due season, they will bear fruit.  Tomatoes require lots of air, sun, personal space, otherwise they succumb to various types of fusarium wilt, blight, mildews, and molds, and they shall surely die.  Or at least look seriously ragged and not bear very well.  

Tomato stakes are an act of faith, a promise and declaration of ‘may it be’.

Tomatoes are, first and foremost, a vine, and as such, they climb on, over, around, and through things.  They are kinda needy that way.  And if (shudder) you forget to appropriately support them, they will adopt that most distasteful gardening stance, the sprawl.  ‘The Sprawl’ is when a tomato decides that it is not appreciated and throws itself on the ground like a toddler in a tantrum.  It will still bear fruit, but it will also cover your paths and stretch into the yard.  The fruit will likely lie upon the soil, where it will find itself subject to the evils of slugs and assassin bugs and beetles of every kind.  

Can you tell from these two paragraphs what I’m doing this week?  I’m not necessarily planting tomatoes yet.  I’ll probably wait another week or two for Ohio to warm all the way, but I’m planning and plotting and hoping to put stakes in the ground.  

Staking is intentional.  No one ‘accidentally’ weighs anchor, and neither does one ‘accidentally’ put stakes in the ground.  It is a purposeful, definitive act of faith and intention.  I will drive my tomato stakes with a four-pound sledge hammer after carefully weighing their location.  I’m not planting the stakes.  They are either hardwood or metal and won’t grow. They are a shadow, a framework, but also a promise.  When I plant my tomatoes, they will be small, adolescent saplings, grossly overshadowed by the height of the stakes beside them.  But within a few weeks, the plant will completely overwhelm the support.  By the end of the summer, it will be difficult to see the stake at all, but the evidence of its existence will be immediately obvious!

The decision of where and how close together will be based on quite a number of factors – where were they planted last year, which bed is properly amended, will my green bean tunnel offer them too much shade, etc.  Tomatoes can sprout anywhere, and I’ve grown a number of mildly successful plants in my compost pile.  But they are a non-sentient being without discernment about what is actually best.  It’s up to the gardener to determine these things on behalf of the plant.  

In Ephesians, Paul beckons us to “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:14-16, ESV

Do you hear that??  Christ is the stake!  He is the thing that holds us up, gives us strength, joins us together!  Without Him, we are blown by the wind, sprawling on the ground.  He give us purpose and meaning and calling, in spite of our own willful rebellion and disobedience. 

He is also the Gardener, calling us where He knows we are designed to flourish. 

He plants us with a body of believers so that we will grow and build one another up in love, each holding up the other like a wild tangle of tomato vines.

I have never called myself a writer.  In the spring issue of The Cultivating Project, I wrote about my daughter calling me a potteress and how right and comfortable that felt.  When I labored over that article, I never once considered the title ‘writer’ or ‘author’ as something that fit me.  It feels like a jacket with a collar that’s too stiff or a dress that shows too much leg for a forty-something mom.  But the things that we’re called to aren’t always what feel good, are they?  We need a tomato stake to grow into what we’re supposed to be.  

All winter and spring, I’ve written.  Nearly every day for months on end, I have been driven to write.  I don’t exactly know why, which makes me feel like I’m treading water with no shore line.  I have no publisher or agent, but visions of a leather-bound manuscript with weird chicken marginalia and illuminated dropcaps push me forward.  I have no deadline, but am pressing hard and writing like my life depends on it completing this tale!  I have decried and mocked the story I’m working on – I think because it makes me feel like I don’t care about it – as if I have no emotionally vested interest in it.  But that is untrue!  Any conversation I have longer than five minutes will inevitably be about medieval chickenery and how the pecking order came to be.  I cannot escape my characters in wakefulness or sleep.  The chances are good that no matter what my hands or feet are doing, my brain is far away in an imaginary poultry world filled with racoon overlords and half-breed peacock-chicken-witches and zombie-ghost-chickens.  

And I wonder – what if I put a stake into this ground?  What if one has already been driven for me by the Author and Perfector, the Master Gardener?  And of course, the ultimate stake already is – on a hill far away stood a stake that proclaims every true thing that was and is and is to come.  What if I dare to climb on it, instead of sprawling like a disgruntled toddler, yelling and hitting the ground with my fists, ‘I am not a writer!  I! Am! Not! A Writer!’  Maybe these vines that are trailing all over the ground can be picked up and tied to a stake.  Maybe this fruit won’t have slugs and worms eating it, but will actually bear a harvest worth consuming.  Maybe I was meant to climb this bean-stalk (tomato vine?) all along.  Maybe.

The featured image is courtesy of Jordan Durbin and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Carolyn B says:

    Yes!!! I love this, Jordan, every word – because it resonates with me (I don’t consider myself a writer either – musician first and most comfortably, and then someone who pens and speaks words ad nauseam but who really isn’t A Writer…), but also because it gives me such an intriguing glimpse into your garden, your thought life, and ultimately into who you are. [Psst: It’s not simply okay but *wonderful* to have more than one magical quality, even if they’re still “in progress”…] I really really really want to read your medieval chicken story. Please. ASAP.

A Field Guide to Cultivating ~ Essentials to Cultivating a Whole Life, Rooted in Christ, and Flourishing in Fellowship

Enjoy our gift to you as our Welcome to Cultivating! Discover the purpose of The Cultivating Project, and how you might find a "What, you too?" experience here with this fellowship of makers!

Receive your complimentary e-book

Explore the

Editions Archive


organized for ease by author and category.

View Our Editions Archive