Tempted by the Fruit of Another...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tomato Starter Plants-Home Depot North Natomas
What's this? Blogging on the home computer instead of driving up to Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in wonderful Nevada City?

Umm yeah. The wonderful wife that is Venus was making merry last night in a chair dedicated to her father's name, in the Royal Palm Clubhouse Bar at Heritage Park. I can't blame the lady. She has already set sail on a common trip that we all must take following the death of a parent. And although we all take this trip at one point or another in our lives -- we do so very much alone.

So what does Bill Bird do while the wife rests? He blogs of course! There are important gardening matters to bring to your attention. There are prats! There are pitfalls (especially if you follow my advice)! One such pitfall is in that rather tempting photo to the upper right.

Looks nice eh? Tomato starter plants by the dozen! All just begging for you to buy them -- take them home and plant! Those green leaves hold a promise of a luscious fresh tomato harvest later in the year. Wink, wink! Nod, nod! Buy me!

Are you tempted yet? Good! Because that's just the kind of reaction that the Big Box stores were hoping to impale you with. You cannot resist the siren song of home-grown tomatoes. So, buy, buy, buy!!!

Listen to Nancy!
Yet -- I'm here to tell you something else: DON'T. As former First Lady Nancy Reagan once opined: "Just Say No!" Do you remember those words of advice? I certainly do! Did I follow them? HECK NO!

But I do remember them. It's good to know that I didn't completely ravage every last brain cell during the "lost years."

You will discover row after delicious row of tomato starter plants just like this one at my North Natomas Home Depot this weekend. You'll find them at every Home Depot in Northern California -- just about every big box store has them now.

And it's not just tomatoes! Oh heck no! You want pepper plants? They got them! Strawberry starters? Check! Got a hankering to grow asparagas or perhaps artichokes in the backyard? Say Hey! They've got those too!

Celebrity Tomato: A Bill Bird Favorite!
I know how you feel. It's hard to say no. But you're doing yourself a favor if you do nothing more than look and smile at things yet to come in the 2011 gardening season. Just because starter plants are available now, doesn't mean it's time to plant them.

It's too cold outside children. Yes, I know the fruit trees are flowering. I know the nights aren't quite as chilly as they once were. The sunshine we've all felt on our arms and legs the past week feels pretty good, doesn't it? The weather is changing. The long, dreary winter is nearly over. Spring is just around the corner.

But it's not here yet. Keep that in mind as you walk down gorgeous row after gorgeous row of tomato plant starters. Also keep in mind that planting tomatoes is a little like shooting dice at a craps table. Sometimes you get the big payoff. And sometimes you lose the entire bundle.

Tempting, yes?
Setting plants into the ground now could result into a healthy payoff later this spring with fresh-from-the garden tomatoes in May! I know because I've done it. I've been there. I gambled -- and I won. The weather cooperated that year. It warmed up in late March and stayed warm through April and May. Venus and I harvested a boatload that year.

But that was "that year." They're not always like that. In fact, when we gambled again the next year with planting starter plants in early April -- the weather didn't cooperate. It got cold. It rained. Disease took its toll that year -- which will forever be known in the Bird Household as the "Year Without Tomatoes." That's like the "Year Without a Santa Claus," only worse. Santa does eventually make a comeback.

Early Planting Sometimes Results in This!
Our tomato plants didn't. I'll never forget the disease that ravaged the garden that year. The leaves of our plantings turned a leathery shade of copper. Pulling them out and replacing them with new plants made no difference whatsoever. We may have removed the infected plants, but the disease that struck that year remaind behind, and proceeded to strike and infect the new plants that we set out in June.

Venus and I learned a tough lesson that year. We had to beg on streetcorners for our fresh tomato fix. We had rolled the dice and it came up snake eyes. It would be the last time that we would roll that dice or spin that bottle.

So my friends -- I offer this advice: look but don't touch. Dream -- but don't plant. Don't just listen to Nancy, follow her good words of advice. The 2011 gardening season is just around the corner. Don't rush a good thing. It will be here soon enough.


Don Shor said...

Hi Bill,
These signs are posted in various locations around our nursery: http://redwoodbarn.com/Itstooearlytomatoes.htm

I think it is unethical to sell summer vegetables before it is outdoor-planting time, unless you inform the customer. At some point we just stop arguing with people (some people think they know better than we do). But the sign is there.
Always good to see blogs like yours getting the word out. Farmer Fred does his best as well.

Bruce Ross said...

You ever figure out what struck them?

I've planted early --- not March early, but April early -- but mostly they just sat there and sulked until the weather turned warm in May. Never seen anything like that kind of disaster.

Rebecca Wood said...

Thank you Bill. I have been chanting to my self all morning, it is too early to plant, I know better!

Bill Bird said...


Keep beating that drum. You can have all the Walls O' Water that you want -- it won't stop disease from striking. And once disease hits, especially if you subscribe to organic practices (I don't), you're sunk.

Bruce, never did find out what that was. I have since learned how to keep it at bay (spraying at plantout helps a great deal), but you never do completely get rid of it. But if you take steps to stop it before it can show up, you can keep it from taking over the garden.

SouthCoast Guy said...

Hi Bill,
I have an apple tree question for you….I want to get my pathetic fruitless tree off to a good start this year so I did some reading and it sounds like lime sulfur dormant oil is a good option to spray the tree before buds break. Problem is I have been checking the web and can’t find it anywhere. I was at the local home depot today and spotted something called Organocide, it is an organic insecticide/fungicide spray, do you know anything about it?

Brown Thumb Mama said...

Your Jedi mind powers are strong! I was going to use ol' Nancy in "Just Say No to Higher Grocery Prices" last week but went with the piggy bank in the grocery cart instead.

I agree, keep babying those tomatoes inside. They'd freeze their little you-know-what's off in the yard!

sacramento pipe clean out said...

There are seasons for everything. Lets just follow them folks!

Christine said...


In the above link it states that this nearby farm sets out its first tomato starts annually on March 15.

While I agree it wouldn't be prudent to go whole hog, a few early transplants are worth the risk, aren't they?

Fess up, Bill. In some small corner of the Bird Back Forty you've set out one or two transplants based on the gamble that this might be another one of "those" years, am I right?

Christine said...

And I would be remiss not include my condolences. I am sorry to hear about your family's loss.

Bill Bird said...

Don't do it Christine! Ignore that urge naughty girl!

Thank you for your thoughts.