Garden Update: Greens, Tomatoes, and Lots of Rain

In the last post, we wrote about how certain veggies can be planted before the frost and are less sensitive (such as greens or onions). However, some plants are incredibly sensitive to the frost and temperature changes, so you need to start them indoors before planting them in your garden. Our previous post discussed these sensitive plants (such as tomatoes and zucchini) and how we started our seed-starting process indoors.

For us, the last frost date was around April 29th. Here is a useful link to figure out your frost date by zip code, city, or state. Therefore, we made sure we waited to plant our sensitive plants after this date so they would not die due to frost. However, the weather was so weird this year. We literally had rain for 3 weeks straight, and it was cold all the way through the middle of May.

Sadly, because of this we lost our zucchini and tomato seed-starters (everyone was joking that this was similar to what you would expect in Seattle, not Maryland). They were extremely sensitive to these alterations in the weather and were not ready for planting. Gardening takes patience (as we are learning from the start) and trial and error just like science experiments!

Because the weather was so weird this year, we decided to wait to plant in our garden for a few more weeks until the rain and cold died off and the warmer climate actually arrived, which turned out to be Memorial Day weekend. Our weather literally went from rainy, gloomy Seattle-style, to sunny, humid, and hot Florida in literally 3 days. After chatting with a lot of people about gardening, this year was definitely unusual weather wise, and a lot of people lost their seed-starters like we did.

Therefore, we decided to purchase organic, non-GMO tomato and zucchini plants at our local food market. You can do this at any local organic co-op or at Whole Foods. If you are going completely organic (which I strongly encourage for both health and environmental reasons!) make sure you check the plants to ensure they are in fact organically grown from seed. Many, gardening centers, Home Depot, Lowes, and even Whole Foods sell plants that are not organic. My father also bought pepper plants for canning and preserving (a long family tradition).

The tomato plants that we planted were about 2 feet tall and were pretty hardy to start. When we planted them, we also bought tomato cages to protect them and also to keep them from falling down when the actual tomatoes start appearing. You can buy these at Home Depot (like we did) or at Lowes, etc. We also put a 4 feet stake with each tomato plant to keep them up while they are growing.

Our zucchini plants were very small to start with, but they will soon become enormous and take over! We gave them a lot of space away from the other plants in the garden so that they had enough room to grow and expand. When we planted them, we made a low hill of dirt and then placed the plant at the top because zucchini plants are water sensitive. Each zucchini plant needs ample room, so we planted them about 4 feet away from each other. Zucchini plants also like direct sunlight, so we planted them in the part our garden that has the best sunlight. Here are more zucchini planting tips that we found useful. We also planted our pepper plants, about a foot away from each other in full sunlight with soil that drains well like zucchini plants. Pepper plants are sensitive to frost as well and like the hot weather, so they should be fine in the hot climate over the summer.

We finished off our planting, sowing the remaining seeds that we had into the garden. We planted purple and orange carrots, beets, broccoli, red cabbage, Brussels, and more greens.

An interesting concept that I learned during researching gardening is companion planting. Companion planting is when plants are planted together for several beneficial reasons such as warding off pests or by plants feeding other crops they are planted next to, improving their growth and flavor. As I read from this awesome blog post: companion planting was huge in Native American history where they would plant beans and corn together to help both crops grow synergistically. To incorporate companion planting into our garden, we planted the herb parsley with the tomatoes. Parsley helps tomatoes grow because it repels harmful insects and attracts beneficial ones, as parsley attracts wasps that kill the tomato hornworm.

From our previous planting in the garden, our greens grew! We harvested spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, and lettuce to eat for the week and to incorporate into our recipes! We were incredibly excited to be making progress with our garden. Everyone keeps asking me how we prepare Swiss chard. In an upcoming post, I will discuss this, so you have ideas! Stay tuned!

We hope you are enjoying our garden updates! Please let us know if you have any comments, tips, or suggestions, we would love to hear them!

About the Author

Sarah Ferrante, Ph.D.