When the Ninja Freeze of March 2014 hit, many of us lost our early vegetable plantings, especially the tomatoes. And with the multiple chilly nights since, many of you have thrown up your hands in despair.
Put them back down ... let's just start over!
Admittedly, if you started your veggies from seeds back in January or early February, you simply don't have time to do that again. But I've found that several of the region's great independent nurseries, garden centers and feed stores have mightily re-stocked since then. Vegetable transplants are relatively cheap, so as long as you've done a good job building your beds, you can still achieve success.
Since we are technically over a month late, the best advice I can give specifically for tomato enthusiasts is to find varieties with the shortest days to harvest — I suggest 65 days or even less!
Here are some general rules to live by for all veggie gardeners on their first attempt. Print and post it where you can see it daily.
- 'Tis better to plant a 25¢ plant in a $5 hole than a $5 plant in a 25¢ hole. (In other words, build proper beds.)
- Compost, humus or organic matter - You say tuh-mey-toh, I say tuh-mah-toh. Whatever you call it, it's a wonderful thing. Use it!
- Ensure good drainage - With our feast-or-famine rainfall, you'll eventually see why this is so important. Or you'll drown your first attempt in a gully-washer.
- Let the sunshine in - Pick a spot that can provide up to six hours of sunshine. Filtered light won't cut it.
- Pick proven varieties - Be sure it's approved for our growing region. In fact, check with your county extension agent for proven varieties.
- Cheat Mother Nature - Because of our heat, if you can start 'em early, more power to you ... especially if you're willing to protect them on late-freeze nights.
- Control your appetite - Don't over-plant; rein in that desire.
- Feed me, Seymore!!! - Veggies are heavy feeders (Just ask the Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors"). The compost is a good start and a nice addition throughout, but amend that feeding with some kind of fertilizer, be it granular, liquid-organic or water-soluble.
- Keep your shadow in the garden - Get out there on a consistent basis, looking for insects, weeds and diseases. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Consistency, consistency, consistency - Regular watering and repeated feedings are critical. Don't ever allow things to dry up before you water.
We will be paying a visit to the Kingwood Garden Center, 1216 Stonehallow, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. this Saturday.
I've been told that they are extraordinarily well-stocked on every vegetable and herb transplant you could possibly want. Whether you're re-starting, or just getting started, this is the place to find your plants. And you've heard me applaud Kingwood Garden Center's voluminous collection of soil, amendments and fertilizers, so if you haven't built those beds yet, see them for everything you need.
While I'm there, I can also hook you up with free Lady Bug Natural products! Just come talk with me ... bring me your plant samples to look at, or ask me to identify your weeds. Tell me you need a free bag or bottle of a Lady Bug product and I will give you exactly what you need to succeed. And, yes, I'll even have some of the last few copies of "1001 GardenLine Questions with Randy Lemmon."