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In Your Garden: Its’ Planting Time

Planting time, really? Yes, that is if you want a tomato other than Big Boy or Early Girl. There are hundreds of tomatoes and dozens of varieties of peppers available. The time to start these and celery are about the first of April. Remember, the 90 days to maturity stated on the seed packet is not the time from when you plant the seed. It’s the time starting when you put that plant in the garden.

Tomatoes should be transplanted at least twice before you put them in the garden. The first time shortly after the plant has 2 to 3 real leaves, then again when it starts to get leggy. When you transplant it the second time, bury the stem right up to the lowest leaves. Every bump on that stem turns into another root. More roots mean more food getting into your plant. It also makes for a stronger plant.

Nipping the top leaves off the tomato and pepper plants will make them thicker. The chemical in the top leaf, suppresses side leaves. The plant just gets taller. Cutting off that top set of leaves transfers the auxin, allowing the plant to grow more side leaves. More leaves mean more sun available to feed the plant. You want as sturdy a plant as possible when you put it in the garden. It will get a head start on blooming and producing fruit.

You don’t want to do the same thing to your celery, however. This is a plant you want to get tall. There are several nice things about home grown celery. For one, you can cut off the outside stalks and use them all summer without damaging the main plant. Secondly, this tastes like celery, not celery flavored water.  If you use celery in cooking in the summer or canning in the fall, you just can’t beat the stalk you have just picked  from your own garden. The only spray it has had on it is rain. That is unless the dog is allowed in the garden, definitely a no-no. Bunkey had a vegetarian dog.  He dug up carrots, pulled ripe corn off the stalk and loved tomatoes – especially just as they got ripe.  He also liked to baptize garden plants.

Plants started at home are like babies. They need real T.L.C. before they go in the garden. Plan at least a week to 10 days to harden them off before planting out.  An hour a day in a protected spot to start with adding an hour a day and eventually, exposing them to a breeze to toughen up the stems.

Bunkey puts a three-pound coffee can with the bottom cut out around each transplant for about 10 days to two weeks. This keeps the cut worms away and keeps the wind from drying the plant out until it gets accustomed to the real world.

Live a little, try at least one different tomato than you usually plant.  Let your taste buds have a little excitement.

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