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.