Saturday, March 12, 2011

Letter to an Impatient Gardener

Dear Mikey,

You have taken custody of several plants before it is time to plant them. They are four heirloom tomato plants, several eggplants and a cucumber. I know the weather is very pretty, but if you plant them in the ground now, you take a risk of them either being killed by a late freeze or stunted by cold weather. They are also too tiny to put in the ground yet. They should double or triple in size before it is time to plant them.

The nursery staff that are already selling tomatoes and peppers are laughing behind your back because you will probably be back to buy more when your plants die from the cold.

Please wait until April the 1st to put them in the ground. At that time, check the forecast and make sure it is not supposed to get down into the low 40’s. If it is, wait another week. In the meantime, continue to let them grow in the containers and bring them inside at night if the temperatures dip down into the low 40’s or colder. Keep them in the sunshine otherwise. Make sure the potting soil stays damp, but not soaking wet.

The tomato plants are the heirloom varieties Green Zebra, Ladano de Panichio, Turks Mutt (not a dog) and Avivvi. The only one you might find in local nurseries is Green Zebra. They are all indeterminate, which does not mean they don’t know if they like boys or if they like girls. It means that they will continue to produce fruit over the season rather than making all of their tomatoes at one time. This also means they will be vines rather than bushes, so give them plenty of room and support. These are not going to make big tomatoes. They will make small, sometimes flattened, often weirdly colored fruit. The Green Zebra tomatoes are ripe when they are green with yellow stripes. They all taste fantastic.

The cucumber vine variety is Armenian cucumber. The cucumbers are going to look a little funny, sort of freakishly long, but that is never a bad thing. These cucumbers sometimes twist into odd shapes. Last year, mine produced a cucumber in the shape of the number 6. They are light green with thin but firm skin which helps keep them from getting easily bruised. They will keep for several days after being picked. I have never tasted a better cucumber.

I can’t remember what variety of eggplant I started. The fruit will either be short and fat or long and skinny. Pick them early and often unless you like bitter, seed infested eggplant.

You can save the seeds from all of these plants and grow your own next year, or just wait for me to do it. I always do.


Debra, Your Rogue Master Gardener.