Spring in Delaware

delmarvaWe actually are having (or possibly have had) a real Spring here in Delaware this year. A normal Delaware Spring is 3 days long: three, balmy, lovely days which may or may not occur in a row. Then it’s straight on to four months of tropical heat and humidity that makes a mockery of the term “Temperate Zone.”

So the garden is in, with the exception of the warmest weather planting: beans, watermelon, cukes, and squash. The peas, garlic, and shallots are a foot tall, the eggplants and peppers tucked into their 5 gallon buckets, the lettuce and spinach sprouting, the crucifer sets: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lance-leaf kale, and broccoli getting themselves established. Tomatoes just went in: two Romas and a yellow cherry with ground eggshells dug into the soil surrounding them to help prevent blossom end rot, which is caused by a calcium deficiency exacerbated by uneven watering.

The native plums we planted last year bloomed for the first time, but not at the same time. I think they’re not the same variety: different shape, different blooming schedule. The more vertically oriented one was loaded with blossoms. The other, more spready one, had a total of two blooms. So no plums this year, but the raspberries look set to make up for it. The dwarf cherry, which was so affected by last summer’s heat that Ralph had to put shade cloth over it, survived and is putting out leaves. The iris, which smell like grape Charms, bloom at the foot of the driveway. We had to make the cages around the blueberries bigger: Missy the dog thinks blueberry twigs taste great!

I retired in March and finally got to move back to Delaware, back to my beloved husband and garden. Or husband and beloved garden. Whatever. It’s hard to tell when you’re a garden fanatic.

Either way, it feels good to be home.


Turbocharge Your Tomatoes

My spindly little tomato plants, preparing to grow mighty roots!

My spindly little tomato plants, preparing to grow mighty roots!

This is a cool trick to give your tomato plants a head start. If you’re buying tomato sets, pick tall spindly ones. If you started yours indoors, they probably will be anyway.

For each plant, get a 2-liter soda bottle. Using a box knife or pruners, cut off the neck. (Tried skipping that step one year. Bad mistake.) Cut a vertical slit 3/4 of the way down one side. Cut two horizontal slits–across the top and bottom of the vertical slit. (So it looks like a capital H on it’s side.) Cut a notch in the middle of the vertical slit to make watering easier.

2-liter soda bottle, prepped for planting

Lay the bottle on it’s side, slit side up, and fill halfway with potting soil.

Pull off the lower leaves, making your tomato plant look like a miniature palm tree. Lay the tomato plant on the soil, with the leafy part sticking out of the neck of the bottle. Fill the bottle with potting soil, and water well. Put in a sunny place and keep the soil moist. The buried part of the stem will grow roots. You can duct tape the slit shut. Just make sure you keep the notch open for watering.

That photo didn’t come out as clear as I wished it had, so here’s a drawing. soda bottle

What I like about this is that you can move the plants indoors at night, and out into direct sun during the day. Plus the dirt stays put.

When the weather turns warm enough to set out tomatoes in the garden, dig a deep hole, once again trimming the plant back into a palm tree, cut the bottle off the plant and lay the root ball in the hole. Fill the hole with soil or compost, right up to the bottom leaf, water well, and stand back.

My experience has been that you will see noticable growth within a couple of days. That giant rootball wants a big plant.