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Throw a little science into the garden mix

OK, so Aunt Toby just knows that you’ve got this gargantuan pile of seed catalogs next to the chair or on your night stand and the color photos are just amazing. And your list is growing longer and longer and you are just going crazy with the thoughts of the snow off the ground and the plants IN the ground and what the tomatoes are going to taste like this summer and hey, maybe you’ll make salsa!

Slow down, Bucko. Let’s throw a little science on this, ok?

A couple of years ago, we grew tomatoes that we had dreams about. The descriptions in the catalogs were uniformly exquisite.

And then we got a cool, wet summer.

And late blight.

And tomatoes? Well, those fantasies stayed fantasies because we got no tomatoes. And we got no peppers either. Anything that needed ‘hot feet’ was just a dead loss.

So, this year, I decided to do this whole seed thing in a much more scientific way. If I had any sort of clue as to what sort of summer the long range forecasters thought we would have, I’d have a shot at beating the first frost with some red tomatoes and peppers that were not nubbins.

So, this year, I am consulting this site here: Long Range Forecasts

Which has these wonderful maps (Aunt Toby dotes on maps. Bar charts too, but that is a discussion for another time; I’d put one up but they are ‘all rights reserved’ but trust me on this one; they are great maps) which show me that, oh dear. We are not only going to have a cool summer early when I want it to be hot, we’re going to have a cool and DRY summer and then it will get hot later. So, on the one hand, I’ve got to take into account that I won’t have the sun and temperatures working for me in terms of things like tomatoes and peppers, but on the plus side, since it won’t be wet, the blight thing might not be as much of a factor.

What to do? What to do? And what if the long range forecasters are wrong? What if I do have a hot summer? How do I hedge my bets here?

Well, first of all, even the most cold hardy tomatoes and peppers, the ones with the shortest seasons, are not necessarily the worst choices for a hot summer. They will just develop and mature faster if it’s a hot summer, as long as I can provide steady sources of water. Which we can at Chez Siberia because we have TWO sumps which run most of the time all year round (yes, I know but I actually have two separate basements and my house is at the bottom of a hill). The DH has run hosing from the sump closest to the garden so we have steady water for the garden no matter what. And since we’d be running those sumps in any case (because otherwise, the basement would be 18” deep in water in about two hours if we did not), this is as good a use for the water as any.

So, I’ve got my water and I’m going to choose the shortest season, best tasting tomatoes and peppers (and if I was an eggplant person, I’d go for the shortest season, best tasting eggplants I could find too). So, what is out there that is a candidate?

Less than 60 days to first ripe tomatoes:
Early Girl
Early Wonder
Kimberly(will set fruit well in cool temps)
Oregon Spring (nearly seedless)
Prairie Fire
Silvery Fir
Stupice (From Czecholoslovakia – we grew this last year; great taste and productivity)

Sixty to 70 days to first ripe tomatoes
Applause (good for tighter growing spaces)
Better Bush
Bush Beefsteak
Grushovka – 65 days are you have canning tomatoes
Legend (this one has strong resistance to late blight fungus)
New Big Dwarf (2’ plants make these great for container growing)
Red Rocket
506 Bush

We like to can a lot of pear tomatoes; our choices for this year will have to come from this list:
Super Marzano: 70 days
Victoria Supreme: 70 days

For sweet peppers:
Better Belle: 65 days
Biscayne: 65 days
Bounty: 65 days
Corno di toro: 68 days
Cubanelle PS: 65 days
Flexum: 65 days
Giant Marconi: 63 days
Gypsy: 60 days
Roumanian rainbow: 60 days (we grew these last year – they were wonderful)

Now, I love hot peppers but if we have a cool and/or wet summer, they don’t do well here, so I don’t bother.

So, there you go – use a little bit of science to modify what you put into the garden and you just might do better than you think.
(photo courtesy of AJ)

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