Monthly Archives: February 2011

Wind Blows

When I decided to gamble and plant a few vegetable plants early this year, I only planted as many tomatoes as I had spare plastic trash cans. Heavy plastic trash cans are useful in such a plethora of ways that I couldn’t help myself a few years ago when, upon entering the garden section of the local Home Depot, I noticed eight or nine big trash cans listed for sale, but with no matching lids to be found. I negotiated a cheaper price as a result of their lidlessness, and have been completely delighted with the purchase ever since.Year's first tomato, spied on Feb. 26

They came in handy yesterday. I was a little worried that we’d get another cold snap, and I’d lose my gambled maters. But no, it turns out the wind is this spring’s culprit. We had sustained wind of 20 miles per hour, with gusts up to 30 mph or so. I could see it was really beginning to stress out some of the plants, so I moved all my still-potted tomatoes and peppers into the garage, and turned the trash cans over on top of each of the already-planted tomatoes. The plastic retains heat, but not excessively, since they let in no sunlight. As a wind-block, they are great.

The wind was supposed to be just as strong today, but it hasn’t turned out to be so. Right now it’s 66 with just the beginnings of a westerly breeze. Tonight, and for the next two after that, the temperatures allegedly will drop to 45. While tomatoes can easily survive that slight chill, it could be enough to shock them sufficiently that they stop growing for a few days. (It’s called “checking their growth.”) That would undo my whole purpose in planting the ‘mater plants early. So to prevent it from happening, I’ll just make sure the plastic trash cans are in place over the tomato plants this afternoon, to give the air plenty of time to warm up inside. While the rest of the grounds may hit 45, inside the trash cans I expect it will remain above 50 degrees – warm enough to prevent growth check. It’s worth the small effort to me, as several of the plants already have tomatoes, which is a ranch record. Fastidious care, or global warming?

Visions of sugar plums dance on the lawnElsewhere on the expansive One Acre Ranch, the spinach has been growing fast, and I’ve been harvesting it quickly, too, trying to suppress any urges it may have to bolt to seed.

Also, at least one of the fig trees has decided it’s OK to start setting fruit. This doesn’t mean spring officially has arrive early, however. Figs and other fruit trees are easily and often fooled by an early warm spell.

This year, I hope they’re right.

Posted in Fruit, Garden

Not Only Is Fast Food Bad For Your Health…

When 'drive-through' becomes a whole new concept...It can be dangerously addictive!

Posted in Duh Files, Factory Food

Hamster Wheel ‘Round The Sun, Part LIX

After the year’s first sweet garden sweat I swig a beer and watch the new plants undulate in the breeze, the moment connecting me somehow to my grandpa maybe 45 years ago in Cleveland, before he escaped back to his Florida homeland, tending his tiny, immaculate plot next to the garage – were they plum tomatoes? – small plants with short stakes, Still Life With Shoveleach set precisely (3 feet?) apart from the others, in all directions, ready to grow their way past grandma’s ice chest, down the stairs to the basement pantry with the canned sauerkraut and applesauce and beans and something to do with those little purple plums. And my late brother (a real misnomer since in fact he died so early) never forgotten and especially now, at planting time, he’d be on the lookout for something new to grow that couldn’t be grown, in a way that’d never been attempted, spurred on by something cheap negotiated on the spur of some moment like the contractor cleaning up the lake, with all those trailers full of seaweed and so little time, fertilizer extraordinaire delivered free to the garden gate. That pulling sensation, smack in the middle of the old DNA, right Uncle Casper? completing the ceremony again, magic plants impaled in the prescribed manner, deep in Earth and blessed in the traditional way, stoking the manna engine in return for nothing but a little sweat and maybe a young apprentice or two, and the promise to make another go of it if blessed with another season’s worth of Time.

Posted in Garden, Metaphysics

Rolling The Dice

This is gambling time in the garden, when your tomato plants are like poker chips, and you have to decide whether (and if so, how many) to bet that you can plant them safely in the ground now, or whether a late spring freeze will sweep in from the north and strike them dead.

I wouldn’t be inclined to gamble at all if I lived a few hundred miles north. Up in central Arkansas, for instance, the summer heat is less intense, and you can expect at least several weeks (beyond what we get down here at the Texas Gulf) of weather below 90 degrees. That’s the temperature at which many varieties of tomatoes begin to complain and stop setting fruit.Yum!

So you gamble in the Gulf in order to get as many tomatoes to fruit as possible, between the start of spring and the time when too much heat will bring a close to the early growing season.

In the last couple of seasons, we’ve had frosts or freezes in mid-March and even later. But this is a good year for me to gamble. First, both the short and long-term forecasts call for warmer-than average temperatures. Second, I have at least twice as many tomato plants growing as I have space for around the grounds. So even if I plant half of them in the ground and lose ’em to a late freeze, I’ll keep the rest containerized and inside over any cold weather – and thus be able to cover my losses.

It seems almost crazy to me to start them in the ground this early – the earliest I’ve done in the past was Feb. 28 – but while our current La Niña conditions are supposed to be keeping the Pacific Northwest and the upper western states colder than usual this winter, the weather service geeks predict the same conditions will cause more rapid warming from Arizona to Texas to Florida. We’ll probably get less water than usual, too, but that’s another story.

Given all of the above, I’ll be looking for a 7, 11 or doubles by about this time tomorrow.

Posted in Garden, Nature