by Charlene Burgi
I am running out of time. The clock is ticking and the winter garden sits in seed packets waiting to go into the ground. Purchased trees remain in nursery pots waiting for the perfect location to sink their roots into the rich soil, and an ill-chosen tomato plant carries an abundance of green tomatoes that refuse to turn red.
At this late date, I turn to my library of books for answers I should have researched before purchasing! I knew just enough to be dangerous while selecting some plants. First, I wanted a plant that would provide foliage with lovely shades of purple-maroon for the southeast corner of the house. But the books state that the tree I purchased, a Cercis ‘Forest Pansy,’ will not maintain the purple-maroon color if exposed to afternoon summer sun. In addition, some varieties of Cercis are indigenous to California and don’t appreciate wet feet. I looked at the location where I wanted to put the tree and realized the snow load coming off the roof would land in close proximity to the root ball. This was strike two against this location for the tree. The last strike was realizing the space wasn’t wide enough to accommodate a twenty-foot spreading crown without infringing on the entry to the front door or driveway. In my book, tree location is paramount before installation, and this tree needs to be featured to show off its beauty. But the clock is ticking!
The stubborn green tomatoes also sent me back to the books to find out why they are not turning red. I learned that indeterminate tomato plants take much longer for fruit to mature than determinate tomato plants. I also learned that hybridized tomatoes go through an added ripening process from heirloom tomatoes. This added process is what allows them to achieve that pretty overall red color. Additionally, I surmised the strength of an indeterminate tomato plant goes into the incredible height that is acquired in a single growing season, despite the tag reading 68-day turnaround for fruit.
My library also contains a book that covers year-round gardening in the snow. The book inspired plans for building cold frames. Unfortunately, I drew the plans instead of first planting seeds to germinate. Poor planning on my part cost weeks of potential growth and found me purchasing vegetable starts in an effort to make up for lost time.
A call from my son living in Bend, Oregon—a mere four-hour drive away—alerted me that the temperatures dropped into the 20s at his home one night last week. Again, this information found me running out to the garden. With pipe cutters, PVC pipe, pipe fittings and clear plastic in hand, Jack and I went to work providing a mini hothouse for the six-foot tomato plants.
It has been a year of lessons in the garden world for me. It has been a humbling experience to say the least! I have learned that the vast knowledge acquired over the years in Marin is not completely applicable to other regions. I know now that it is imperative to do more research before jumping to conclusions about plant selections.
And speaking of plant selections, this Saturday, October 13, is the Marin Chapter California Native Plant Society’s fall plant sale. For best results, do some research before going to this event, and talk to the experts who will be on-hand at the sale. Make wise choices. You have time before winter storms compromise your plans!
Wanted: Marin-Friendly Gardens
MMWD is looking for a crop of gardens to feature on the Marin-Friendly Garden Tour on Saturday, May 18, 2013. The purpose of the tour is to inspire and educate the public about environmentally friendly gardening practices, particularly those that protect and conserve our precious water resources.
We are now accepting applications for host gardens, both homegrown and professionally designed and maintained. If you are interested in sharing your Marin-Friendly garden with the public, please visit our website for more information and an application.