Archive for April, 2013

Sharks and Tomatoes…one in the same?!?


I have learned over the years that sharks and tomatoes have a lot in common.  No…tomatoes haven’t been genetically modified with shark DNA so they grow teeth.  No…playing the theme song from Jaws will not make your plants grow bigger.  Sharks are like tomatoes in that sharks need to keep swimming in order to live and tomatoes need to keep growing at a steady pace or they often die as well.

Last year’s debacle with the hot compost killed more pepper plants than I ever thought I could lose in a year, but this year’s cold temperatures, clammy moisture, and total lack of sunshine for days on end have killed well over a thousand of my pepper, tomato, and herb plants.   I’ve re-potted and re-planted and re-potted and re-planted and have managed to replace most of the tomatoes and some of the peppers, but the herbs have been hit hard and only a few have survived.

I suppose if I had a true “hot house” and used loads of artificial lighting that I could have saved most of them.  However, my philosophy of growing is to mimic the conditions of nature as much as possible and to only intervene in the least possible ways.  Raising plants that are going to spend their days in the ravages of our weather requires that they are exposed to the extremes in weather as much as possible throughout their life cycle.  The ones that die were likely weak…the ones that survive surely must be the toughest ones.  Call it evolution, selective breeding or whatever…it’s survival of the fittest.

Besides the drama I’ve had in the greenhouse and the back patio, this crazy weather will affect your garden as well.  Despite the past few days of way above normal heat, the soil temperatures are still cool.  My 12 inch high raised beds are reading 55 degrees at 10 inches deep right now, but will surely be much colder with the nasty weather and high temps in the 30’s they are calling for this Friday and Saturday.  I would imagine that the soil temperature for gardens that are not raised is considerably cooler.  If you plant a tomato plant in cold soil, it will not grow…if it doesn’t grow, it will likely die.

We need several days of highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s in order to get the soil temperatures up to the 50’s or 60’s so that your tomato plants will grow rapidly once they are planted.  As of right now, I’m thinking it will be May 7th or 8th before we get some soil warming weather.  Waiting until the weekend of the 11th may be an even safer bet for planting.

Last year, planting in mid-March was a good bet…this year a full 2 months later will be the safer bet.  Last year we had most of our harvest in June and early July.  This year, it may be early/mid July before we get our first ripe cherries and early varieties and late July before the big slicers start ripening for those BLT’s.

Always remember that patience is a gardener’s finest quality.






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Slow is an understatement!

It’s been 4 days since we have had any sunshine and weeks since we’ve had anything close to warm temperatures.  My rain barrels have been brim full and the garden beds are soaked completely due to lots of heavy rain and few dry days between them.  This is the exact opposite of last year’s super warm spring and dry and hot summer.  As a result of all of this, everything is growing, but growing super slowly.

As soon as it warms up and the sun shines for a few days, everything is going to grow very rapidly, but until then….patience.

As you can see, my plants are tucked inside the greenhouses with electric and propane heat.  I’m out of room for them all, so I wrapped one cart of peppers in Agribond and put a small electric heater blowing into it…fingers crossed they all stay warm enough tonight.

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The tomato plants are still very small this year.  They’ve been growing roots, but top growth has been minimal for most varieties.  We’re still three weeks from planting them outside, so they should be plenty big enough by then.

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The good news is, the cool season crops are loving the weather and their Agribond coverings. The spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, garlic, snow peas, onions, beets, cabbages, and myriad other cool season craps are doing pretty well considering most were planted when there was 20 inches of snow on the ground!

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The most important thing you can learn as a gardener is how difficult it is to grow your own food and how we should appreciate the food we have.  We should never complain about the price of quality produce at the farmer’s market and we should question why the produce at the supermarket can be so cheap at times.   Gardening is a test of patience and a chance for use to get as close to Nature as possible.  With all the ups and downs the seasons bring, we still plant our seeds with hope and dreams.

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