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Four-year-old follows family tradition of giant tomato plant

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

When Christopher Lee was 7, he grew a 13-foot-tall tomato plant with help from his grandfather, Bobby Lee.

Sixteen years later, it was Christopher Lee's turn to help his son, Blake Lee, grow a giant tomato plant.

Everyday, Blake Lee, 4, has seen a 1991 newspaper clipping about his father and the original tomato plant that was grown that year. He has continually asked his father to let him grow a plant like that one. His wish was finally granted when Christopher and Blake Lee planted a six-inch-tall plant 10 weeks ago. After weeks of watering, fertilizing, watching and tomato picking, the plant is now 12 feet tall.

"My favorite part about doing this is watching the tomatoes grow," Blake Lee said. "I don't eat them, but my mammie does. She loves them."

Watching Christopher help Blake grow the plant brings back lots of memories for Bobby Lee. It is all taking place in nearly the same spot at Lee's Riverdale home in which the original plant was grown. Christopher is also teaching his son to use the same method that Bobby taught to Christopher in 1991.

A four-inch-wide piece of PVC pipe is put in a hole. One end of the pipe curves upward toward the roots of the plant, while the other end sticks out of the ground. Five gallons of water, and two or three tablespoons of Miracle Grow are poured into the pipe each week, so the roots can feed on the mixture.

While Bobby Lee, 73, helped Christopher plant and grow the original plant, he sits back and lets father and son do all of the work this time. Blake does most of the work on the plant, including feeding it water, and checking it every morning for fat, red tomatoes. When he sees a tomato that has turned red, he grabs his wooden, 3-foot-tall step ladder and pulls the ripe tomato down.

During the summer, the family was picking roughly six, red tomatoes off the plant daily.

Christopher and Blake grow several vegetables in their grandparents' garden, including squash, turnip greens, broccoli and green beans. And there are even some grapes.

Blake likes to help out by watering the plants, when he can. He also likes to feast on the green grapes when they are fully grown. "I like the green grapes, because they don't have seeds in them," he said.

"Do you think you'll ever see your grandson doing this?'" Bobby Lee asked Christopher on Thursday, as they watched Blake pick plump, green tomatoes from the plant.

"I hope so," Christopher Lee responded.