Steve Smith, Sunnyside Nursery
With the last two sunny weekends, gardeners have been coming into the nursery anxious to get their gardens going for the season. And one of the plants that everyone wants to get established early is tomatoes. Now, I could give you a lecture about the futility of planting tomatoes before the soils warm up to 55 degrees but I think I would probably be beating my head against the wall. When a gardener is ready to plant it’s best just to get out of the way. So my strategy is to do what I can to help the gardener succeed despite their best efforts to fail!
When it comes to tomatoes we need to remember that they come from a much warmer climate than ours. And in that warmer climate there is one heck of lot more sunshine and the soils are way warmer. So if we can find a clever way to warm up our soils and the air around our tomato plants they will start growing and setting fruit a whole lot faster. Enter the “Tomato Greenhouse”.
The “Tomato Greenhouse” is a 28 inch red-tinted cylinder of plastic with perforations to let the air come in and out. When you put a hunk of this over a tomato cage and tie it at the top you have an instant greenhouse. The air inside and eventually the soil will be at least 10 degrees warmer then the outside air and that will result in a much happier tomato plant. And because you have tied it at the top no rain will touch your plants. You can use this same cylinder for growing peppers or eggplants or pretty much anything that needs some extra heat. I am even scheming on how I can pull it over a horizontal cage and grow melons inside it. The greenhouse can be left on until June when hopefully the weather will be warm and dry. For less than 10 bucks you get 20 feet of this stuff which seems like a good deal to me if it will get my tomatoes ready before the guy down the block.
Speaking of cages, it is time to get some kind of support around the peonies. In our garden the missus uses grow-thru rings which look like barbeque grills on stilts. She actually leaves them up all year long so they are in place and ready to support the plants from the get go. The rings are around 16 inches in diameter and stand not quite 2 feet tall. As the stems grow up and through the grill they are supported. This system works wonderfully but is hard to get on after the fact. If your peonies get too full then the next best bet is the Link Stake system which is a series of “L” shaped wires that link together to form a corral. Either way you go, get something on them in the next two weeks or they will all be on the ground when the next rain and wind event comes our way and that can be really depressing.
Perennial Pick of the Week: My perennial of choice for this week is the durable low growing Candy Tuft. This perennial is evergreen so it looks nice all year long and there is nothing a bright white as candy tuft. Grow it in the sun and shear it back after the blooms fade then forget about it. It makes a nice edging plant or rockery filler and I have never seen a slug on it. Plant it with creeping phlox or Aubretia or Arabis for a colorful early spring blooming border.