Soon It Will Be Time For Gardening

There is nothing like gardening to get most of us thinking about spring. Those of us who like to dip our hand in dirt are anxiously awaiting some drying March winds and sunshine so we can get to work on our gardens.

This has been an unusual winter on the North Carolina coast. Our normally successful winter gardening got short circuited by all the cold weather.

Still preparations go forward with thoughts of spring. I planted my tomato seeds on January 1. As I write this on March 7, 2014, they have spent considerable time outside, but still need a week to ten days to get ready to live outside full time.

Then there is the issue of the ground. While I was able to dig up our smaller tomato patch and my wife cleared the debris of our winter vegetables from another piece of ground, I have not been able to do anything yet with the new raised bed I was planning to create behind our bulkhead. Hopefully the nice days in this coming week will give me a chance to get that ground ready.

I did scratch up the ground where we are going to plant our English peas so I should be able to get them planted soon. However, with the way this spring is going, I plan to be a little cautious. We have seen frosts that reached down to the water as late as March 29 and that was in years when the Great Lakes were not nearly as frozen as this year’s near record.

I have some great homemade compost to help my fantastic set of plants. I also have the last of one of my magic ingredients. It is a treasured bag of dirt/compost from a chicken yard at my Aunt Sally’s house. The bag is over ten years old and I have used it sparingly. This will be the last year for it. I hope it still has its magic.

The picture is of some tomatoes from our 2013 garden. You can read more about my tomato gardening including some of the varieties that I have tried at my article The 2011 Tomato Season. We will have more on the varieties we have chosen for 2014 soon. I will be putting far more than eight plants in the ground this year if all goes well. I have some homegrown-tomato-starved friends that need a taste of some great tomatoes.

This article was originally written on March 19, 2012. It is about the time of year that I try to get my tomatoes in the ground here on the coast.

If you are living in the South and not taking advantage of the great gardening weather, you are missing a big part of what makes life here so special.

Just a little gardening can make you feel like a native Southerner.

There are few things that I enjoy more than a tomato sandwich made with one of my own homegrown tomatoes.

I grew up with my mother growing unbelievably tasty tomatoes around our house near Lewisville, North Carolina. Mother was still growing tomatoes well into her eighties when she lived on Pine Street in Mount Airy, NC.

I have faced some really challenging tomato climates in my life. The north shore of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley barely had enough heat to produce tomatoes by September.

When we moved to Tay Creek, New Brunswick, we found more heat, and tomatoes that could reliably be counted on to ripen by the second or third week of August. They also seemed to have more flavor than our Nova Scotia tomatoes.

We picked up a good month when we moved to our mountainside in Roanoke Virginia. With our spring tomato ritual and some good luck, we often got tomatoes by early in the second week in July but sometimes the cool mountain fog made them much closer to the middle of July. Unfortunately the exploding deer population in the mountains of Virginia eventually made it impossible to grow tomatoes.

The real game changer was moving to North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks. In 2008 I got a ripe tomato on June 1, and my first ripe tomato was June 5 in 2009. We have gotten ripe tomatoes as early as May 28. In 2013, we got a ripe one on June 2. We have picked tomatoes as last as the middle of December in one remarkable year here on the coast.

Living on the North Carolina coast has made the first week of June a reliable date for our first of the season of tomatoes. This year my plants are in the ground the earliest ever, and they are considerably bigger than they were last year when I planted them.

However, I have backed down in 2012 from almost fifty plants to only eight. At least that is all I have in the ground so far this year. In 2010 we had a cornucopia of tomatoes. I believe we picked over one hundred one day at the peak of the season.

I will be very happy if we can manage a May tomato. Growing tomatoes in the South is not very difficult, but it is very rewarding. We live off of tomato sandwiches during the summer, and we often enjoy them well into December.

If you would like to read more about the Crystal Coast and why we are living here, you will find some helpful posts at this link.

More information about life here can be found at my Crystal Coast Life blog.

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