floating row coversMost gardeners, if they think about it, consider every garden they put in to be a “demonstration garden,” one where they try different things to see how they do.  Gardeners are an optimistic lot, always sure that this year will be better, and some new technique they hear of will make all the difference.

Growing tomatoes in the winter can be a challenge, to say the least. A greenhouse, or hydroponic setup, or a very protected southern exposure offer some alternatives.  Anyone driving by my house in the past few months would notice my vegetable garden in full exposure to the winds and the cold.  But there’s a strange white tent over one area. 

That tent is made of spun row cover, and it has enabled me to have tomatoes since Thanksgiving.  Granted, they aren’t large, and they take a while to ripen, but they sure are good, and braggin’ rights for Christmas tomatoes is nothing to sneer at. There are 4 varieties (for a total of 4 plants) that I’m trying in this winter crop.  Two are bearing prolifically.  Another, an heirloom, looks sturdy and tidy, but isn’t cooperating in this project as far as flowering.  The fourth little guy seems to have hunkered down till his toes get warmer. 

Gardening-Under-Cover-fitting-pvc-hoop-over-raised-bed_width579But the spun row cover has definitely helped.  A few degrees of temperature can make a major difference when you talk about plant death.  And Texas weather, with its ups and downs, provides you with a perfect laboratory to see if those few degrees will keep the plant alive.  So during these really cold days, the tomatoes are covered, but if we get three or four days above 50 degrees, off goes the blanket, allowing the pollinators to see the flowers.  By the way, every time I rearrange the spun row cover (and with these winds this year, it’s often) I stir up a number of lady beetles, always a good sign in a garden.

As for the rest of the garden, well, the green beans had a nice crop till Thanksgiving, and they froze up.  The broccoli plants are heading nicely, and the multiplying onions, beets, salad greens, and carrots all seem quite happy. It’s awfully dry out there, though, and seeds I planted recently, but not watered daily, are taking their own sweet time to wait for soaking rain.  The strawberries, asparagus, and blueberry bushes (the little ones) are all under several inches of leaf mulch, but the wind blew off the cover on one strawberry, and it looks very healthy.  The citrus trees got a major dormant oil spraying before Christmas, and I’m hoping to do that spray thing on a better schedule next year.  I let it slide, and the aphids and whiteflies, with the sooty mold that followed, sure made my trees look bad for a while. 

Garden resolutions for the New Year: spray on the recommended schedule; mow early and often to keep the cool-weather weeds from seeding in the lawn; prune wisely at the time of year that suits the plant, not the pruner.  Try a few new things, whether it be a new bulb, a pot plant, a bush, or a pretty annual. Keep the compost pile working.  And take time to smell the roses!

– Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.