Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tomato Time on the Gulf Coast

Earlier than I've ever done a gardening post before, here is my Spring fever report. No matter how long I live on the Texas Gulf Coast, I can't get used to how early the time comes to plant tomatoes. I went to the Urban Harvest Farmer's Market last weekend and bought five varieties of tomato plants straight from their growers. The 10 day forecast showed no freezes expected, so I got them into the ground a few days ago. I still need to hunt down the Juliet variety I've grown with success before, but among this year's novelties as far as new varieties go, I chose Maremmano, Costoluto Fiorentino and Sweet 100s.

The Maremmano tomato is an early determinate, hailing from western Lazio, a province of Rome. We need early tomatoes here to get fruit before the weather gets too hot. The Maremmano is a red, round 3 inch fruit that grows in clusters, said to be good for slicing and sauces. Costoluto Fiorentino is an indeterminate heirloom tomato with pumpkin-like ribs widely cultivated in Italy. Hopefully it will produce numerous mid-sized to large tomatoes. The Sweet 100 is an indeterminate cherry tomato, known to grow as tall as 10 feet - we'll see. Hope springs eternal at this time of year.....

I have a small collection of clippings and Houston area garden books, but this year I decided to put on my librarian's hat and make index cards for each plant, tree or shrub we are trying to cultivate. I had fun collating facts from different print and online sources. Hopefully this will help me focus the right kind of care on each plant. Last year's experiments with beans, cucumbers and squash were not all that fruitful, so I'm concentrating my efforts on the known producers - tomatoes of course, along with herbs, greens, sunflowers, nasturtiums, zinnia, morning glories and coneflowers. The two Meyer lemon trees took a beating from this past winter's 3 or 4 freezes, but I think they will come back around. A friend at church gave me an unknown variety of orange tree that she grew from seed, and we are going to put that young tree in a large, portable planter. It's good to keep citrus trees relatively small so you can cover or move them in the event of freezing weather.

Hard for my family and friends in more northern states to believe, but we've had temperatures in the high 70s this week. With the high humidity, it feels even hotter. Every gardener here knows that familiar sweaty feeling of disbelief. How can we feel so overheated already when there's much hotter weather to come? A big annual event here is the Azalea Trail Home and Garden Tour, taking place March 4 - 6, 2011. Many years ago, I had fun doing the tour with a bunch of friends on bicycles. This year I'll probably be too busy sticking to my own little patch of green. Wherever you are, I hope something green is beginning to bloom.

"Nothing is more the child of art than a garden." - Sir Walter Scott

photo by KAO - Basket of greens & herbs, seed packets, etc.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

Oh, my, I want to plant a garden this year, but it hasn't gotten past the wanting stage yet. I need to dig up the soil, pull the winter weeds, and then buy plants or seeds. And here I am sitting and reading about it instead of working.