Carol from May Dreams Gardens (Zone 5), Mary Ann from Gardens of the Wild, Wild West (Zone 6) and I decided, last year, to exchange letters from our vegetable gardens. We had so much fun we continued the tradition this year and hope to give everyone an idea of how gardens grow in three different USDA hardiness zones. I garden in Zone 7a, where it’s been raining for days, an odd occurrence in Oklahoma.
Dear Carol, Mary Ann and all of our other friends,
What a difference a week makes.
I just woke from the most delicious nap to the sound of the Diva screaming, “Get the ball!!!” The Oklahoma City Thunder is playing in the playoffs, you see, and we’re apparently getting beat. She does love her sports.
After two and a half days of rain, the gauge shows a little over two inches, but HH says the gauge leaks. Why we have a leaky rain gauge, I can’t imagine, but I’m not in charge of such things. Because it was raining so hard, we left the chickens up in the coop and didn’t collect the eggs yesterday. HH got 55 eggs today. Anyone want an omelet? If you live locally and want fresh eggs, just let me know. Oh, and start collecting those egg cartons. I’m running thin.
After such a good soaking, all of the plants, including the weeds, are rejoicing. I can see lots of weeding in my future. As I set out more tomatoes this week in the potager, I was thinking about how planting in these raised beds is like gardening in large containers. So easy to work the soil and place the plant within.
The Lycopersicon esculentum, i.e., tomatoes, I’m growing so far this year are Mortgage Lifter (hit by hail, but still kicking), two Rutgers (a good all-purpose variety with loads of disease resistance), Whopper (new to me), Arkansas Traveler, Super Fantastic, Sweet 100 (a cherry), Porter’s Dark Cherry, Champion and Cherokee Purple (a real performer in year’s past). I still need Beefsteak (a slicer) and Sungold (the sweetest golden cherry tomato you ever laid a tooth to). As you may have noticed from this list, I still have a lot of heirlooms although I swore I was only going to grow disease resistant hybrids. What can I say? I was lured by descriptions. I am only trying two new varieties this year and mostly sticking to known performers. So, when I planted the tomatoes, I didn’t give them a lot of manure as that will cause too much top growth.
Grandma Nita always had a little tomato growing competition with her neighbor she called “the Old Man.” According to her, the Old Man went to great lengths with his tomatoes preparing the holes with compost (a good idea) and planting them deep (even better), but she would chuckle as she came to the punchline.
“Then, he pats them in the hole and sprinkles some of that fertilizer all around the plants, and he comes over here and brags to me about how he’ll beat me this year.” I didn’t understand, so she elaborated. “His plants grew beautiful and tall, but bore no fruit.” I can still see her chuckling as she sliced a succulent beefsteak for our lunch.
Tomatoes need enough potassium to fruit well. Also, if you have eggshells, sprinkle some crumbled ones in the hole to prevent blossom end rot. Of course, don’t plant tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant or peppers in the same place for three years to prevent diseases and get a soil test if you haven’t done so.
Now, where this advice begins with Grandma Nita and ends with me, I’m not sure, but that’s how I do my tomatoes. I do give them a boost of a balanced organic fertilizer once the blossoms appear or are set with little tomatoes. Gives them the energy to complete the job.
I planted squash seeds in hills: Sweet Dumpling, Tatume and Clarinette Lebanese. I have more, but I’m waiting for the irrigation guys to fix the water supply for the potager. They need to raise the valve and add Netafim tubing. Supposed to come next week. Not holding my breath though. If anyone locally knows a good irrigation company, please let me know. My original guy quit the business.
This week, I also planted a trio of scented basil seeds from Renee’s Seeds plus several basils in containers on the back deck, including Windowbox Mini, Salad Leaf and Mrs. Burns’ Lemon. There’s a salad bowl I’ve planted with Garden Babies lettuce. Some of the seeds were planted in the fall and didn’t come up until a few weeks ago, but I planted Forellenschuss lettuce in an empty spot within the bowl.
I also planted Dragon Tongue bush beans and Blue Lake. I still have some Black-Seeded Kentucky Wnder pole beans I want to try in the lower garden. Meanwhile, the carrots are up, the pak choy cabbage and tatsoi mustard are both doing great along with the red lettuces I planted in the back garden.
If the weather warms, I plan to put in cucumbers and corn this week. It needs to be warm, or the corn might rot, and that wouldn’t be good. I also want to grow two kinds of okra, but I’m not sure where I’ll put them. Okra and corn take space, and I’ve used a lot of it for flowers. I’m still thinking. Don’t tell HH. He’ll plow up another spot in the yard.
Well, it’s a lot of hurry up and wait right now. With the rain, my feet are cold and have been for two days so I’m ready for some warmer weather.
Till next week, I hope your seeds are easy to sow, and you find trellises for your tomatoes.
Lou Murray's Green World
Lovely bunch of spring crops. Very nice. But wow, 55 eggs in one or two days? You must have a LOT of hens. We have three here in urban Huntington Beach CA, and give away a half dozen eggs here and a half dozen there. We’re eating a lot of eggs and greens these days. Bring on those tomatoes!
.-= Lou Murray’s Green World´s last blog ..Earthquakes, volcanos and food security =-.
Lou, I have 40 hens and two rooster. I am chicken poor. 🙂 ~~Dee
Wow, I can’t believe how much things have grown in the potager already! It’s the middle of the night here … I couldn’t sleep so I’m reading blogs. I’m all caught up on your posts and am happy for you that the gardens look so lovely after that long hard winter.
.-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..Sunday Surprises =-.
Pam's English Garden
Your garden is fabulous! I love your raised beds. We get frosts until the end of May, so it is a joy to see your lush vegetables.
.-= Pam’s English Garden´s last blog ..April Flowers, August Temperatures =-.
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening
I agree with Kate. You are so much further along. Your photos look like late May to me, which, if we’re lucky, will be when our frost is over!
.-= Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog ..Precocious Spring: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 2010 =-.
I see major weeding in your future — and gorgeous raindrops on your red cabbage. I love water on cabbage leaves, and I’m glad to know someone else has noted how pretty that can be.
I’m in zone 7(b) and almost right on track with you for many of these plantings, and very much enjoying reading your letters with progress reports. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a fan of old-fashioned correspondence and good writing. 🙂
.-= Meredith´s last blog ..if a tree falls in the forest… =-.
nola at the alamo
If it weren’t for spring showers, we gardeners wouldn’t get any rest this time of year.
That ruby chard is too pretty for a veggie, love the striking colors.
.-= nola at the alamo´s last blog ..Rambling About the Garden =-.
kate/high altitude gardening
Beautiful gardens, Dee. I’ll bet your growing season is at least a month ahead of mine… It’s fun to see all of these lush, lovely greens.
.-= kate/high altitude gardening´s last blog ..Mish Mash Monday =-.
Wonderful post! (I love reading letters). Everything looks gorgeous on your end and remember the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers” (and helps veggies grow leaps and bounds).
.-= Jo´s last blog ..Sharing Spring In My Neck O’ The Woods =-.
I’m in love with your garden, Dee. Everything looks so lush and yummy and that large red pot looks like the ruby swiss chard … perfect!
.-= joey´s last blog ..SPRING PANSY PARADE ~ (SUNDAY BRUNCH) WILTED SPINACH & GRUYERE FRITTATA / ORANGE-ALMOND SCONES =-.
Gardener on Sherlock Street
Get some more rest. All that rain will make the weeds grow. All your veggies look so good. They’ll be happy about the rain too.
.-= Gardener on Sherlock Street´s last blog ..Every Thing Old Is New Again =-.
Carol, May Dreams Gardens
Rain? Here in my zone 5 garden we had two gorgeous, cool spring days this past weekend. There were freeze warnings at night, but so far my garden has been spared. I won’t even think about setting out my tomato plants until mid-May. The weatherman said this morning that the record for the latest freeze here in Indianapolis was May 27, 1961. I got frozen out on May 25th a few years back, so I am very careful about planting too early!
.-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..Dear Friends and Gardeners: April 19, 2010 =-.
Glad your garden is doing so well. Fingers crossed for no freeze.~~Dee