Getting ready for tomato season


Ray Baird



GETTING SERIOUS WITH THE 2016 TOMATO PLANTING

You may have already planted a few tomato plants for an early harvest, but now that the nights of May are getting consistently warmer and “tomato-friendly”, a whole row of tomato can be safely planted. When you set our your tomato plants, keep a supply of powdered lime and some peat moss on hand to apply under the soil before setting out the plants. Allow plenty of space between each plant for a cage or stake or both. When you purchase tomato plants, buy plants that have been maintained and cared for by the people you buy them from. Check the tomatoes to make sure the stems are sturdy and blue-green in color. Never buy any tomato plant that is already blooming or that has tiny green tomatoes on them because they have already played out their cycle and will not produce any decent harvest. Buy only plants that are standing tall in the trays and don’t buy plants that are tall and yellowish. Add water in the hole or furrow before covering the tomato plants. Mark the different varieties so you will know what is what at harvest time. Use the label on the trays to mark the varieties.

THE BEST OF AMERICA’S TOMATO VARIETIES

There are several hundred tomato varieties in America and they range in colors or red, pink, orange, purple, wine, white, yellow and green (for frying). Even with that many types to choose from, the very best can be narrowed down to five or six. The very best are in this order, Big Boy, Better Boy, Homestead, Rutgers and Marglobe. Others are good, but these varieties have proved themselves for many years. Homesteads, Marglobes, Rutgers, have been raised in America’s gardens for many generations. It’s better to plant several proven varieties that have stood the test of time than experiment with umpteen choices that will not assure a harvest. We believe gardening can be a gamble, so why take any unnecessary risks when you can plant something proven and reliable and productive over the whole summer? Some of these hundreds of tomato varieties will produce for a few weeks and then cycle out and are short-term experiments.

PEPPERS ARE TROPICAL AND THE SEASON FOR PLANATING HAS ARRIVED

Peppers will only thrive in warm soil and warm nights. They need to be planted from now until the end of May to allow plenty of time to produce peppers over a long summer. The sweet pepper should be planted a distance away from hot peppers to prevent bees pollinating and making all your peppers on the hot side. You can plant sweet bell peppers such as California Wonder, Door Knob, Carnival, and Early Crisp. The most proven and dependable bell pepper is California Wonder because once it bloom’s, it continues production all the way until frost. Hot varieties of peppers that are good but not overheated are Cayenne and Hot Banana and Jalapeno. When you plant peppers, allow several feet between them for cages or stakes to support them during summer storms and wind as well as for harvest. They need plenty of water, so irrigate every few days if rain is not forecast.

STRIKE AND TOP CROP BEANS PLANTING IN MID-MAY

The warm soil in the May garden plot will cause green beans planted this week to quickly sprout in about six short days allowing them to rapidly succeed the ones planted a month earlier. There are several great green bean selections including Kentucky Bush Wonder, Derby, Blue Lake Bush, Tenderettes, and Half-runners.

CUCUMBERS: FROM SEED, OR FROM PLANTS?

The warm nights of May will boost the growth of cucumbers and they can be started from seed or from that can be purchased in four or six-packs and then set out directly in the garden plot. Seeds that are planted now will quickly catch up with cucumber plants that are set out. One important advantage of planting seed is that there are more choices. From seed, you can choose from Straight Eight, Long Green, Marketmore, Poinset 76, Armenian, Palace King, Bush Spacemaster, Boston Pickler, and Burpee Burpless. A sure shot is to plant several packets of seed cucumbers and several six packs of cucumber plants and let them succeed each other for a prolonged harvest.

STARTING A ROW OF SUMMER GOLD THIS WEEK

Squash are a super summer vegetable that needs warm days and nights to produce an abundant harvest. With a maturity date of 62 to 68 days, they thrive best when planted now because by Dog Days, their harvest cycle is over. They can be set out as plants that are purchased in six or four packs in limited varieties or they can be sown as seed that are available in many varieties such as Early Prolific Straightneck, Yellow Crookneck, Saffron, Enterprize. Plant a few six packs of plants and several packets of seeds for a prolonged harvest. Late crops or squash and cucumbers don’t seem to make large harvests in the Piedmont.

THE MIDDLE OF THE BLACKBERRY WINTER

We can experience a couple of more weeks of Blackberry Winter, which means a cool nip in the night time temperatures but no frost danger or threat to warm weather vegetable crops – just uncomfortable for people! This coolness always arrives when wild blackberries begin to bloom along country byways and roadsides all over North Carolina’s Piedmont area.

HOOT OWLES AND WHIPPORWILLS ARE MESSENGERS FO WARMER TEMPERATURES.

We love to hear these two unusual birds singing on warm nights of spring. We very rarely see an owl but every now and then we see a whippoorwill in the area. Both are unsung and seem to keep very much to themselves but suddenly treat us once in a while with a surprise appearance. When owls hoot, you can listen and track them from one location to another by their hoots. The whippoorwills are more stable and most of their songs come from the same perch. Both sing distinctive songs!

A MORNING IN THE PIEDMONT STRAWBEERY FILEDS

What better way to spend a fresh Carolina spring morning than a trip to a local area strawberry patch to harvest the ingredients of a strawberry shortcake or berries to freeze or make jam or jelly. With the scent of the honeysuckles, the chirps of birds, and the sounds of families enjoying a morning in the strawberry patch where even the aroma of fresh strawberries fills the morning air. You can pick your own by the gallon bucket or for just a small fee, you can buy already picked berries. Carolina strawberries are tart and solid with a bite of sweet that adds to shortcakes and jellies.

Ray Baird has been providing gardening tips to the community for years and can be reached at 336-969-9350 or at BSylvia1946@gmail.com.

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Ray Baird

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