(HOST) With Memorial Day fast approaching, commentator Henry Homeyer is thinking about planting his garden – still just thinking about it – and he says his reasons are sound.
(HOMEYER) Politically, I’m a staunch liberal. In the garden? I’m pretty conservative. I realize that Memorial Day weekend is the time when many gardeners plant their frost sensitive plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Not me. Here’s why:
First, we could have another frost. Not very likely, but I started 23 kinds of tomatoes this year by seed and I’ve babied them since early April. No way am I going to take any chances. A cold night in the thirties won’t kill them, but it won’t do them any good, either. I don’t want them sulking.
Second, it doesn’t really matter when I put my tomatoes in the ground. I’ve got all of mine growing in 4-inch pots, so they have plenty of space for roots. A week or two more in the pot won’t be bad: the soil is warm, they get plenty of sunshine outdoors during the day, a warm place to spend the night, and they get a little dilute fish fertilizer every other day. What more could a tomato plant want?
Lastly, by not planting them I have more control over how much sun and wind they’re exposed to every day. If there’s a strong breeze, I can carry them back into the greenhouse for a little protection. They are beyond getting sunburned now, but a young tomato can dehydrate pretty fast on a hot, breezy day.
And here’s some good news for you: the late blight that killed so many tomatoes last year – including most of mine – is not likely to be a problem this year. The last time I’d seen it was in the mid-eighties and I’d like to think it will be a long time before we see it again. Last summer was rainy, cool and the winds were carrying spores up from southern parts, and from the infected plants that were started in the south and brought up here for sale. It was a perfect storm of conditions.
But if you had late blight last summer and also grew potatoes, please don’t let any volunteer potato plants grow. Pull them up immediately. Spores could theoretically survive on a potato. But you need not worry about spores in your soil or on tomato cages – freezing temperatures kill the spores.
If you buy your seedlings at a nursery, be sure to ask if the plants have been hardened off. If not, you need to introduce then to full sun over a period of days – don’t just plant them because it’s Memorial Day. You can plant your tomatoes and peppers whenever you want, but I’m going to wait a bit longer with mine. And I bet I’ll get to eat my first tomatoes when you do.
(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Henry Homeyer on-line at VPR-dot-net.