The Garden Patch: Seeds sprouting, new leaves, the smell of spring is here

Eager gardeners are spouting tomato seeds in anticipation of transplanting them about two weeks after the last frost of the year. (Typically April 15 in our area.)

 

Well, hello! Here’s hoping all is well with you and yours and that your gardening appetite has reached a fever pitch! If it’s OK with you, let’s talk trash for just a little bit. No, no, no! I mean leftover cooking trash! Where’s your mind today? Bear with me on this one …

The plants in your garden need calcium. Where ya’ gonna get it? Simple. Ya’ gots a lot uv it! Here’s the way this old guy does it – you use eggs – if not for breakfast at least for a lot of other things you make in the kitchen. When you’re done with them, DON’T throw away the shells! Rinse the shells out with plain old tap water and set them up to dry (we put them on the back of the sink). When they’re dry, put them in a container (I use a formerly discarded whipped cream carton) and then crush them (I have a 10” piece of bamboo that I use). When you have them pulverized, or at least broken in small pieces, set the bowl up and wait for the next batch of shells. They don’t smell because you washed them, right?

Step two. Throw your used coffee grounds in with the egg shells and mix them up. Then you can just let them set until you have (step three) more coffee grounds and/or egg shells.

Step four. When you have a batch of any size, you can go out and throw them on your garden. Now you’ve added calcium which your plants will need, you made good use of some landfill material (didn’t want to say “garbage”) and you can dream about gardening all the time you’re working with the eggs and coffee. Or, if you prefer, you can dream about tomorrow morning’s breakfast! Ain’t this fun?

Just had to write about the above ‘cause I just got done doin’ it! Oh, and when you throw the mixture out on the garden, your birds will pick up a few egg shells…they need calcium too, you know!

Tomatoes, anyone?

OK! Now we need to get down to the serious stuff. Can you handle it if we talk about tomatoes one more time?

Argue with this statement (if you dare), “Nothing tastes quite as good as a fresh-picked, garden ripe tomato.” And … you can easily grow them in pots or in your garden!

Tomatoes need full sun, but they need to be protected from high winds. How do we do this? Plant them downwind of other tall crops (did someone say corn?) or devise a man-made windbreak for them. Oh, yes – and give them well-drained, loose, rich soil. Here’s a place where a little equine extract (that’s horse manure to you rural types) can come in very handy. Why horse? Because they digest weed seeds better that any other farm animal which means less work for you!

Tomatoes need to go into the ground a couple of weeks AFTER the last spring frost. The lowest set of leaves on the plant should be at soil level. Personally, I remove some of the leaves first and set the plant deeper into the ground. Where the branches were, roots will form. Remember? Grow the roots – the rest of the plant will take care of itself! Good advice! Remember to press the soil down gently around the plant and leave a slight depression to retain water.

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Why tomato stakes or cages? They provide support – keep the fruit off the ground and reduce the risk of disease – thus giving you a better harvest. ALWAYS water tomatoes from the bottom – gently – and make certain their water supply is consistent!

Once the plants become established, apply thick mulch around them to conserve moisture (and make the water supply more consistent) and to discourage weeds. As the plants grow, watch for bugs, worms or other critters that will restrict your harvest and destroy your emotional stability.

And remember this – never put tomatoes in the refrigerator; cold temperatures spoil their flavor and texture!

I’m ready for spring, warm temperatures, seeds sprouting, new leaves, the smell of spring soil and all the other good things that signal the coming of summer. I’m ready to not only plant and cultivate but to enjoy the fruits of my labors, and the fresh tastes of garden produce. Are you? I’d take bets on that one!

Keep thinking garden, vegetables, fruit, flowers, picnics and good times! Till next week!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.

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