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Cherry tomatoes are picked nearly everyday from the plants on the patio of the Good Samaritan Senior Living Center. The tomatoes are then served with the noon meal on the salad bar for residents to enjoy. Photo by Christen Furlong.

First crop blooms at Living Center

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Residents of the Good Samaritan Senior Living Center of Blackduck enjoyed bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches during their noon meal on Tuesday, Aug. 20 after resident Ray Klug harvested his first bushel of tomatoes from "God's Garden" the day before.

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Klug managed to pull over two dozen ripe tomatoes from the potted plants sitting on the concrete patio just outside the front door of the Living Center. Klug planted the crops this spring and hasn't been able to pull tomatoes until Monday due to a calcium deficiency causing rot.

"We did some research, and someone managed to find the problem and it was calcium," he said. "(The tomatoes) were rotting on the ends. As soon as they started to turn ripe, the rot would start."

Klug managed to save the rest of his crop by adding egg shells and bone meal to the soil, which added calcium into the roots of his tomato plants. He also faced problems with the lack of bees this season, which normally aid the self-pollination process of tomato plants. But with the lack of bees and the shelter of the Living Center, even the wind couldn't tackle this task — Klug pollinated the plants by hand, using a paintbrush.

"I'm not the only one who had a shortage of bees this year," he said. "I was afraid for awhile that I wouldn't get any tomatoes out of the garden."

His other plants, however, experienced no problems. Klug also has sweet red peppers, cucumbers and zucchinis in pots on the patio. The red peppers were a surprise.

"The 'sweet red pepper' are anything but sweet," Klug said with a laugh. "They are hotter than a pistol."

On Monday, when he brought the tomatoes in from his garden, Klug requested that tomatoes be served with the next day's lunch -- via BLTs.

"A treat for kids is candy," he said. "A treat for residents is tomatoes."

According to Klug, the residents of the Living Center have been clamoring all summer for the tomatoes to be ready. They tell him that homegrown tomatoes are leagues ahead of ones you buy in a store.

"It's nice to have fresh tomatoes," resident Helen Petrie said, as she enjoyed her BLT and potato chips. "I used to have three gardens (back home). One garden was all corn. One summer we decided to wait just one extra day before we picked it, and then the next day, we found that some animal had come and eaten all the corn during the night."

Petrie and Good Samaritan Senior Housing Director Roxann Roberts laughed. "You've got to get it before it's gone," Roberts added.

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