I guess summer has arrived. The weather is warming up and now we are getting the weather we have been waiting for. The garden is doing well and the upcoming warm weather is going to put it to the test. Make sure that your plants will handle the heat well. Take time to wander the garden and look for stressed plants. There are certain plants that are indicator plants. These are plants that start to wilt and show signs of stress before others. Find those in your garden and use them to tell you when the plants are getting too hot. Also remember to get some water for yourself! The heat can hit you, and your plants, hard if you don’t drink enough water.
This week we featured...
Al’s Tomato Tricks
The tomatoes are showing up on your plants and some of them are even starting to ripen. We were wondering what you can do to make them ripen faster and how to get the best production from your plants. To answer these questions we stopped by the garden of Jack Bigej from Al’s Garden Centers. Jack has a very large garden and he loves to share information with fellow gardeners. We found him tending his patch of ‘Dorothy’s Delight’ tomatoes (his favorite). The first thing we noticed was that he had tied his tomatoes to poles. Every few days during the growing season Jack has come out and tied his plants up. He does this for a couple of reasons. First, he doesn’t like to bend over anymore and this allows him to harvest while standing up. The second reason is that it helps prevent the ‘blossom end rot’ because the increased airflow and keeping the fruit off the ground.
We also talked about some of the products that are available to help grow tomatoes. We first talked about the Wall of Water. This is a sleeve that goes around the tomato when you first plant it. It helps hold the heat in and gives your plants a better start to the season. Some people will leave them around their tomato for the entire season since tomatoes like dry and hot conditions (they are natives of Mexico). Next we talked about the Red Mulch and the Red Tomato greenhouse. The common denominator here is the color red. This color has been proven to help tomatoes grow and ripen. It has something to do with reflecting the red wave length of light. Jack said he has a friend that swears by the red greenhouse. Another product that we talked about was the Blossom Set spray. This product is used when you get your first blossoms and this will help them pollinate and set fruit so you get an earlier harvest. We also talked about fertilizer and garden lime. You should use a good organic fertilizer when you first plant your tomatoes and also add some garden lime to the hole to help prevent ‘blossom end rot’.
One of the biggest tips that Jack gave was to limit watering once your plants set some fruit. Tomatoes respond to light watering, in fact, Jack doesn’t add any water (other than rain) to his tomatoes once we get into July. This rule only changes if you have tomatoes in a container. Containers dry out very quickly and so you will need to keep them watered, but don’t over do it. If you have any tomato questions you can stop by any of the Al’s locations around the metro area or your local independent garden center.
Molalla Garden Train
Adding a train to your garden can bring a whole new element of fun to your yard. Garden trains are known as ‘G’ scale trains and we heard about one in Molalla that was a must see! This train is located at the Molalla Train Park (503-829-6866). It was recently added to the park as part of an Eagle Scout Project by Ben Ririe. Ben has autism and but that doesn’t stop him from getting things done! He recruited over 50 family and friends to help him build this great little train. His mom, Kari, told us about all the work that went into building the layout. Is looks great! One of the things that make it special is all the tiny plants that are located around the layout. These plants came from Mini Forest by SKY (503-632-3555) nursery that specializes in tiny, slow growing plants. Sharon Yankee joined us to tell us about some of these great little plants. The recent interest in garden trains and fairy gardens has made these plants much more popular and that is where Mini Forest can help. They give advice and ship plants all over the country. But, Sharon and company had one more surprise for us.
The Molalla Train Park is home to larger trains as well. These trains are 1/16th scale and can be ridden! We met with two members of the club to fill us in. John Nye told us that the park was started in 1954 by Harry Harvey. He loved trains and wanted to share that with the public. The Molalla Train Park at Shady Dell was the realization of his dreams. We then talked to Carl Jacobs who was one of the engineers. His engine was custom built and cost over $10,000. He told us these trains are worked on all the time and can have incredible detail. Some of the engines are gas operated and some are steam operated, but all of them are fun. The best part is that the general public can come out on Sundays from noon to 5pm (May – October) and ride the trains for free! They graciously accept donations. If you want to get more involved you can come out and help work on the train! If you have a weekend where you just want to have a blast, take a picnic and head out to Molalla for some ‘training’!
Triple Crown Cobbler
It is still berry time in the Northwest. We found one of the best cane berries still producing right now is the Triple Crown Berry. Jolene from Smith Berry Barn (503-628-2172) took us out to the field to pick some of these wonderful berries. The Triple Crown is a great late summer berry. It has a great taste, holds up well for eating or canning and is thorn-less! After we had picked a big bowl we went in and learned a brand new recipe to make a tasty cobbler. This recipe is located on the Smith Berry Barn website as a peach cobbler, but we easily changed it to use the berries. First we mixed the berries with some ingredients and baked the berries, and then we made the topping and added that to the mix. When it was finished we had a great dessert that was done in about 40 minutes. Check out the Smith website for more delicious recipes and a daily update of what is fresh from the fields.
Parr Small Planter
No matter what time of year we can look to creating colorful planters that can bring more gardening space closer to your doorstep. Amber Kozlowski and our friends at Parr Lumber (503-644-1178) have come up with a simple plan for a small cedar planter that uses only 2 boards. With a couple of minutes, a hammer (or a power nailer), some 5d galvanized nails and a miter saw we were able to construct a planter that will last for years. The best part? It cost less than 10 bucks to build. Amber also recommended that we seal the cedar so it lasts longer and that we drill a couple of drainage holes too. Still, not bad for a simple, quick to assemble planter!