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.