Gardening Matters

I’ve been cheating. There it is. I said it. But when it comes to homegrown tomatoes, I’m not ashamed to admit it.

This past year I bought a soil- heating cable. It comes with a thermostat that turns it on when the ambient soil temperature drops below 70 degrees. That is the necessary soil temperature to grow tomatoes. Then I went out in early March and bought a tomato seedling. I usually raise them from seed, but my own seedlings were pretty puny at that time and I wanted a vigorous specimen with a good root system to start with. I buried the soil cable in my tomato plot. Then I dug a hole and added some crushed egg shells to give the plant a little calcium boost so as to avoid blossom-end rot. Then I planted my seedling, held my breath and waited to see what happened.

What happened was that little sucker started growing and is now almost two feet tall. It is already setting early blooms. If all goes well, I should have fresh, homegrown tomatoes by sometime in mid-May.

To badly paraphrase the late Senator Goldwater, “… extremism in pursuit of early homegrown tomatoes is no vice.” Of course, given the cost of buying a seedling and the heating cable, each tomato I get will cost about $5.00 apiece, but that’s OK with me. Really, we’re talking about homegrown tomatoes here folks!

On other matters, I have recently received news of two ways you and your family can help researchers learn more about a couple of important gardening related matters. Both of these projects are great ways to get kids, families and schools, involved in learning more about gardening and nature.

You may have heard about concerns with what is happening with bees. Bees are the major pollinator of our plants. Our food supply, our farms, our forests and gardens are all at risk if we lose our bees. Colony Collapse Disorder is causing devastating losses to bee populations. The Great Backyard Bee Count has been developed to get families and gardeners involved in counting bees that appear in our suburban yards. Check out their website for more information (greatsunflower.org).

Similarly, Project BudBurst, sponsored in part by the wonderful Chicago Botanical Gardens, is asking people to sign up to report on when various plants bloom in your garden. Given our early blooming this year, this project is very timely. You can read more at their website neoninc.org/budburst.

Finally, the good people of the North Fulton Master Gardeners have announced their Garden Fair 2012. This will be held at Bulloch Hall in Roswell on April 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to their announcement, the event will include, “Botanical bargains and unique, hard-to-find plants, gardening accessories, delicious food and much more will be featured at the North Fulton Master Gardeners 9th Annual Garden Faire held on the grounds of historic Bulloch Hall in Roswell. This year’s theme — “Scarecrows in the Garden” – will showcase five unique scarecrows that will be available for sale.”

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 30 years. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. gardeningmatters@hotmail.com

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