Planning for Tomatoes
As I write this article with my windows open enjoying the warm weather, it reminds me that we can start planting now. We could have frost until the middle of March so you will have to protect tomatoes and peppers if you plant now. Of course the warmer weather also reminds me that we will be battling the weeds sprouting in grass, flower and vegetable beds and it will be imperative to get control of them before they have a chance to spread seed.
If you haven’t started preparing your soil, now is the time so you can plant this month. You can continue sowing vegetable seed for Beans, Beets, Chinese Cabbage, Carrot, Chives, Collards, Endive, Herbs, Kale, Kohl Rabi, Leek, Head Lettuce, Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Pepper, Radish, Rutabaga, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Tomato, and Turnip. Sweet Corn, Okra, melons and cucumbers can be planted after frost. A vegetable planting guide is available at HYPERLINK “http://www.gardenpro.net” www.gardenpro.net, just click on Knowledge Base and look for “Greens from the Garden.” Also, follow the planting depth suggestions on the seed packets.
Tomatoes are quite a popular choice and there is a huge selection of tomato types and varieties The main types of tomatoes are:
Beefsteak Tomatoes: Beefsteaks are the very biggest tomatoes. Their pulp cavity has the “marbled” appearance of a steak and they hold together well when sliced. Also their large size makes them the ideal for sandwiches. Because of their high fruit wall-to-pulp ratio, they also cook down well for sauces. There is a lot of variation between varieties, whether they are firm or very soft when ripe, and in the size and softness of the central core. Flavor, as always, can vary according to the ratio of sugars to acids.
Salad Tomatoes: The abundant seed pulp makes them a slow reducer if they are being used for sauces. But their smaller size makes them ideal for cutting in half or in quarters to have with a salad.
Cherry Tomatoes: Tiny tomatoes for putting whole in salads and for snacking. These tomatoes vary from pea-sized up to where they tip over into small salads. They are usually very prolific, and some have been bred for high sugars as a snacking “fruit.” They are very colorful as a whole tomato in a salad and their size makes them ideally suited to this purpose.
Paste, Pasta and Drying Tomatoes: These have almost no seeds so they dry or boil down to paste more quickly than all others. Roma is the most widely known variety of this type.
Heirloom: This is an old variety that has been maintained either because it has appealing attributes like extra-large size, unusual coloring, special connoisseur qualities, or because of family sentimental reasons. Because heirloom tomatoes haven’t been “worked on” by plant breeders, they don’t usually have much disease resistance. Many diseases can be essentially prevented or delayed by mulching the soil surface to prevent disease spores in the soil splashing up and infecting the young plants. Mulching plus fungicidal sprays (if you choose) mean that heirlooms can usually be grown successfully in all but the very hot humid areas notorious for tomato disease.
Also, this month try sowing herbs like Basil, Chives, Cilantro/Coriander, Dill, Lavender, Oregano, Parsley, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Sweet Marjoram, and Thyme. Herbs are an amazing culinary addition to your garden and, I think, also lovely plants. Establish annual and biennial herbs by planting seeds directly into the soil. For early harvest, you can start your seeds indoors and transplant the seedlings into the garden as soon as the weather is frost-free. Just think, a few fresh Italian herbs and tomato plants and you can make your very own pasta sauce. Herbs are great additions to salads and sandwiches too.
Weeding is the gardener’s chore. Unfortunately, there’s no magic treatment for taking care of those pesky weeds. We need to be quick with prevention and control of weeds that are coming up from the wonderful rains we have enjoyed. The old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is especially true when it comes to controlling weeds. The appropriate use of pre-emergent herbicides can save you a lot of grief, money and labor later on. After all, the best way to control weeds is to not let them germinate and grow to begin with.
Pre-emergents are products that prevent seed germination. We recommend them for areas where you don’t want seeds to germinate like grass, annual flower beds, granite areas, and around shrubs and trees. There are several types of pre-emergents available to homeowners in liquid and granular forms. For those of you concerned about using chemicals for weed control, Concern is a corn gluten-based product and non-toxic. Be aware that after using a pre-emergent, seeds of desirable plants can’t be planted for six months.
For weeds growing now, try to deal with them as soon as possible – don’t let them go to seed. There are a wide variety of products to address the situation: Remuda, Com-Pleet, and ProSedge (formerly known as Sedgehammer). The last, ProSedge, requires the use of a spreader sticker, like Herbicide Helper, but this is the most effective substance for eradicating Nut Sedge. Remuda kills both weeds and grasses. Spurge power kills weeds in residential turf. Always follow the directions and precautionary statements on the labels of all products. Of course there’s always the good old-fashioned garden hula hoe, standard hoe and shovel for getting rid of weeds if you have a small area or don’t mind the hard labor. My wife, Sharon, swears by the weeder tool if weeds come up in small areas or very near plants. It has a small tip to get below the roots. Although some weeds like nut sedge and unwanted Bermuda grass can’t be eradicated by simply pulling it out; the only effective control is an herbicide.
You will soon have wiped out the weeds, prepared the soil and planted the seeds. Now maintain a good watering schedule and watch your beautiful garden take shape. Happy planting.