Home Grown

Tomatoes taste best on a late afternoon in August, warm soil underfoot, dragonflies weaving spirals above the garden. The little cherries are my favorite, plucked warm from the vine and savored.

But tomato season here in the Northeast is fleeting. Painfully short. The tasteless, waxy look-alikes heaped on grocery shelves during most of the year qualify merely as distant relations. So I was surprised when I spoke to Ralph Snodsmith. He lives in upstate New York, and when I called in mid-October, he had just picked a handful of Sweet One Millions for his salad. What’s more, he told me he planned to harvest them all through the winter.

The secret, it turns out, is simple. Snodsmith is an enthusiastic owner of a StandUp Garden – a tomato-lover’s dream. Host of the popular “Garden Hotline” syndicated radio program for more than three decades and former gardening editor for “Good Morning America,” Snodsmith knows gardens and gardening equipment. “Over the years, I have tried perhaps 25 or 30 different kits for container gardening,” he says. “This one takes the cake.”

Originally conceived as a way to make gardening accessible for people who aren’t able to bend and crouch easily, or for people in wheelchairs, StandUp Gardens are perfect for city apartments, suburban decks, and living rooms. The- table-high, moveable planters (about 6 cubic feet) are also finding their way into office lobbies and waiting rooms.

They’re catching on partly because their design is so classy. “Like a fine piece of furniture,” says Snodsmith. One model comes with a Shaker-style panel doors, another features an arbor of red oak with eight hooks for hanging plants. And then there’s the little matter of assembly. “It took me longer to fill this one with dirt than it did to construct it,” says Snodsmith. He ticks off other advantages: wheels that work smoothly, a leak-proof basin, state-of-the-art high-intensity lighting, built-in irrigation and drainage.

Every traveler needs one, insists Snodsmith. No more wondering if your prized orchid or your beloved herb collection will be shriveled when you return home. No more roping neighbors into watering while you’re away. Instead, put a timer on the light system, hook in to a nearby water source – Snodsmith recommends regular garden hose or plastic surgical tubing hooked beneath the kitchen sink – and head out. Only problem is, you’ll miss some good tomatoes while you’re gone.

For more information, or for a StandUp Garden catalogue, call 1-800-To-Stand.