The Definition of Optimism: A gardener in February


It’s that time of year, here in the Deepest South, to get crackin’ on the Spring garden.  I’m making plans. There’s 4 4×8 raised beds here. Cinderblock beds filled with a mix of potting soil, composted cow manure, and this incredibly…um…aromatic organic fertilizer. Whoo…


The decision I have to make now is precisely WHAT to grow. Last year I got all Organic-Heirloom stuff- Indian golden snow peas, Black Krim tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, all sounding like lovely stuff and would make us all Healthier and Closer To The Land. Only…

There’s a reason why there’s hybrid new fangled varieties. Disease resistance, productivity, special qualities like size and flavor and meatiness.  Mind you, I love the idea of using heirloom seeds, keeping the old things going, all that. I like old things!

Anyway,the productivity on all those heirloom things was disappointing. Maybe I was doing something wrong,but I’d never had those issues with the standard Burpee normal seeds. The golden snow peas were lovely, and were fantastic for picking because you could SEE them easily…but…barely a handful a day (out of 60 plants) was disappointing. I got a grand total of 5 tomatoes from 6 plants- 2 each of Black Krim, Brandywines and one other kind I don’t remember. 2 lemon cucumbers (delicious!!) from 6 plants.

So. This year, going against everything all the gardening magazines and online organic people, etc, I am going to get nice modern varieties. Big Boys and Better Boys and Sweet 100 tomatoes.  I see these new Heatwave 2, might try those, as they’re supposed to hold up to 95F, and it would be great to have tomatoes in August!

It’s a philosophical quandary, it is.  The whole “back to the old ways” gardening movement, I can appreciate that. Really I can. But I get frustrated easily and need tomato plants that are going to reward my hard work and the bit about getting over the squishing of hornworms because MAN, those things are gross. I have to use tongs to pluck them off, then squish them with a brick because I don’t want to get that nasty stuff on my shoes.  If I am going to endure squishing worms, I’d darn well better get some BIG tomatoes for it.

So…here’s what’s on the list:

Tomatoes: Heatwave, Big Daddy, Sweet 100– 2 plants each, will fill one bed,  with 6 basil plants interspersed

Snow peas, trellised with mixed salad greens planted underneath. I’ve done this before with great success. This will all come out mid-May and planted with pole beans.

The third bed will be filled with herbs-parsley, cilantro, chives and garlic chives in the cinder blocks.  The fourth bed will have sunflowers in it. It is up against a fence, and the flower stalks can be tied to the fence. Possibly also cantaloupes, as the fence can be used as a trellis for those as well. I grew some accidental cantaloupes one year, from compost, and they did VERY well in that bed.

The garden isn’t big enough to provide produce for putting up, but hopefully eventually we can get all the pine trees out of the back yard, and have enough sunny space to quadruple the size of it, then I’ll start canning tomatoes and freezing beans.

I will not, however, grow okra. Ever. Not happening.

actually, this picture  cracks me up so I was looking for an excuse to use it.

actually, this picture cracks me up so I was looking for an excuse to use it.


About rootietoot

I do what I can.
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2 Responses to The Definition of Optimism: A gardener in February

  1. Elizabeth says:

    You’re not old enough to grow heirlooms. ; ) The seed packets are out at some of the stores here probably for those who start indoors or those lucky enough to have greenhouses. I wait til the plant sellers start showing up at the various grocery stores and pick up my early girls and sweet cherry plants along with some fresh herbs to plant. I did try one heirloom variety last year and it yielded one rather tasteless tomato. Guess I’m not experienced or old enough.

    I envy you the signs of spring.

    • rootietoot says:

      Mom always grew Brandywines with great success, but she has a degree in horticulture and could grow spaghetti by planting popsicle sticks. I have, in the past, had good luck at starting things with those little trays with the clear lid, then transplanting to the garden under a cold frame. That’s what I’m going to do this time.

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