Beautiful gardens by William Johnson
IT’S THE middle of February and the master gardeners’ annual spring plant seminar and sale is just three days away. It takes place on Saturday in the rodeo arena at the county fairgrounds alongside SH-6 in Hitchcock.
A pre-sale seminar will begin at 8:00am to discuss the plants that will be offered in the sale yard, which will be open from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
There will be an impressive range of vegetable transplants for the spring garden, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, lettuce, squash, zucchini and more. Several types of herbs will also be available at the sale. The county’s master gardeners have been growing many of the herbs and tomatoes in their greenhouse at their demonstration garden in Carbide Park.
Now is the time to make preparations for a successful home vegetable season. Experienced gardeners try to put plants in the ground as quickly as possible after the last expected frost. They also know that, as summer approaches, some heat-sensitive plants such as tomatoes will stop blooming or setting blossoms at temperatures above 90°F.
An important key to successful spring gardening is obtaining maximum production before the summer heat sets in.
“When should I start my spring garden?” “Which varieties of vegetables should I plant?” These are two of the questions most commonly asked by home vegetable gardeners as the spring gardening season nears.
The answer to the first question is fairly straightforward – it depends primarily on the specific vegetable in question and the area of the county in which you garden. I posed the question to master gardener Ira Gervais who recently presented a seminar titled Growing Great Tomatoes. His answer was: “I’ll be planting tomatoes in my home garden the week after the plant sale”.
Ira, who lives in northwest Friendswood, noted that gardeners on Galveston Island can get an earlier start with tomatoes.
The answer to the second question is not as simple – it depends on several factors.
Variety selection sometimes depends upon the intended use of the crop. For example, some of the newly released tomato varieties that produce a crop within a relatively short time are ideal for canning. Varieties of tomatoes that mature over an extended period are better suited for the dinner table. Small-fruited tomatoes are best used in salads, while the larger ones are better for slicing.
Numerous new vegetable varieties are released every year and many offer improvements such as increased yields, disease resistance and uniformity. Seed catalogs offer hundreds of selections, each with an appealing description and attractive photograph to make decisions even more difficult.
Quite often, the new varieties are highly desirable, but sometimes the old standards prove to be more reliable – and even better – in their performance over many growing seasons.
The home gardener can best answer the question of which vegetable varieties to plant. The best approach is to start with varieties that are recommended for the county based on several years of proven performance here. However, no single variety, new or old, will be totally suitable for every home garden, given different growing conditions and gardeners’ personal preferences.
Both old and new varieties should be tried and compared for yield and performance. Give new, unproven varieties a chance if space is not limiting but remember that they might perform well in one year but be quite disappointing in others.
That’s why you should plant most of your garden with tried and recommended varieties that have proven to be reliable over several years under different growing conditions. A total of 35 varieties of tomato transplant will be offered at the plant sale.
A diverse selection of other plants will also be offered, including 30 varieties of pepper ranging from sweet bell peppers such as California Wonder to peppers on the hottest end of the heat scale, including Trinidad Scorpion.
The master gardeners have also grown several types of herb for the sale, ranging from basil, cilantro and dill to marjoram, oregano and rosemary and more.
Ten-inch hanging baskets of bougainvillea will be available, with each basket containing three plants and each plant producing a different color. Hanging baskets of begonias such as Miss Mummy, Frosty and Sophia will be available in rather unusual colors. Geraniums in an array of flower colors and even an unusual plant known as the toothache plant – acmella oleracea – will also be available.
An army of master-gardener volunteers in red vests and aprons will be on hand to answer questions and assist customers during the sale, the proceeds of which will support operation of the demonstration garden and help sponsor educational programs for home gardeners.
Visit our website, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/Galveston, for more information on the types and variety of vegetables, herbs and other plants that will be offered at the sale and for directions to the county fairgrounds.
William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.
For several weeks, the county’s master gardeners have grown several types of herbs and vegetable transplants for sale at their annual spring plant sale on Saturday. – William Johnson