Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gardener Grows 16-Foot Tomato Plant; Keystone Family Amazed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gardener Grows 16-Foot Tomato Plant; Keystone Family Amazed

Article excerpt

Byline: Anne Sponholtz, County Line correspondent

George Winterling, the WJXT TV-4 chief meteorologist known for his gardening skills, might have some competition.

Keystone Heights resident Vance Johnson has 16-foot tall tomato plants growing in his back yard. And according to friends and relatives, they are about the best tomatoes you could hope to put in your mouth.

"Red and juicy. They should be on the produce shelves," said Dale Davenport, a friend of Johnson, who claims to have eaten dozens and dozens of the tomatoes.

The heat in recent weeks has taken its toll on the plants, which are not bearing as much as they once were. Still the plants appear to be healthy with a fair share of tomatoes on the vines.

Johnson, 45, is a drywall contractor who has lived in Keystone Heights all his life. He has been tinkering with growing cherry tomatoes for years, and this year the outcome was spectacular.

Although some vines in his garden look similar to the average tomato plant, many appear to be more like a large tree.

He planted the Sweet One Million variety in mid-March. As the vines grew taller and taller, yielding more and more tomatoes, Johnson resorted to using a ladder to pick the tomatoes. Soon his 6-foot ladder no longer did the job, and he had to begin using an 8-foot one. He said he really doesn't have a secret to his gardening success.

"Ain't no secret. Just tender loving care and lots of Miracle Gro," he said.

Besides the tomatoes, Johnson's yard is filled with bell peppers, cucumbers, grapes, oranges, lemons, plums, kumquats and an apple tree. He said the hardest thing he has found to grow is the apples.

There is hardly a time of year when there is not something growing in the yard that can be put on the table.

"We're always eating something out of the yard. …

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