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and this is why I never put out tomatoes before Memorial Day

That photo was taken this morning about 8:00 a.m. EST. It was 31 degrees F and very windy. Yesterday, we had rain, sleet, and obviously snow overnight.

Anyone in our area who had already put out tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants, and not with protection, woke up this morning with damaged plants. There are all sorts of clever protective devices, most of which revolve around the strategy of encompassing the plant with a double wall of plastic filled with water. Most gardeners are not so prepared and tend to try to use the “throw something over” which mostly does not work against this sort of onslaught – wind, combined with freezing temperatures and moisture tends to create so much damage that even if the pant survives, it’s set back so badly that all your early work is lost.

But I’m not talking about that here.

Look at these photos taken at 2:00 p.m. This is the remains of my “get things started early under glass” bed. We took off the glass when it got horribly hot several weeks ago. So, these plants were fully exposed to the wind, rain, sleet, snow, and subfreezing temperatures yesterday and last night. Take a good close look. Damaged? No.

What is in there? My favorite early spring friends:
— anything in the cabbage family – in this case, several different sorts of kale, cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
— winter and spring lettuces
— anything from the beet family – including rainbow chard and beets (those are the seedlings with the red stems)
— carrots
— spinach

The ones I transplanted and put under row cover are in even better shape, but these photos should inspire you for this fall and next spring. These babies are tough and hardy and a way to get fresh veggies on the table long before anything else is available. If you haven’t gotten seeds, look for them now or send away for the and then save some in a zipped up plastic bag for the fall and spring.

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  1. toby, you are such an inspiration!

    the peas i put in the ground the second week of april are about 6-8 inches high now, and have cheerfully survived the occasional nights where temps flirt with freezing. I’m going to definitely try more cool season crops next year when i have some of the yard dug up.

    I’ve transplanted some of the seedlings from the batch of seeds you sent. Since they were a bit leggy from not enough light, i trenched them in 3″ pots, and stuck them under fluorescents which i finally got set up. They look so happy! *crosses fingers* Hoping i have a plethora of tomatoes for canning!

  2. Toby Wollin says:

    Not that I am not a fan of hot season subtropicals like tomatoes and peppers, but they are a challenge, and from a nutrtional standpoint, the “green leafy” and cruciferous veggies are not only so enthusiastic at growing through everything except for a sandstorm that it’s might easy to throw things like tomatoes on “the ash heap of history” because they need so much pampering. My tomatoes and peppers are in our sunroom at the moment, soaking it up, rubbing on the suntan lotion, reading trashy novels, the usual. And looking mighty robust – but I am not fooled.

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