March 6th: From seed bench to soil

I’ve gardened for many years and this obvious point escaped me: many garden plants are perennials in warmer, non-frost zones. Indeterminate tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and okra are some of the varieties that will continue to grow if not killed back by frost.

The apiary greenhouse.

I got a link to a story about overwintering veggies and found a good amount of information (too much, maybe) on the subject. Some people overwintered their plants in a basement or a garage. I have a small greenhouse so I decided to test the theory. I selected a few of the best-performing peppers and favorite tomatoes and trimmed them back to a few branches. I did this late in the year last fall before a frost hit. They looked dead, like skeletons of their summer selves, but I put them in one-gallon planters and moved them to a cool spot in the seed starting room.

This is how the peppers looked all winter.
An overwintered pepper flowers the first day in the garden.

The idea is for them to go into a semi-dormant state until you put them out in the spring. At first, everyone looked great. Growth did slow but did not stop. One tomato even produced fruit, a lovely cherry tomato that stubbornly clung to the vine for months, refusing to ripen. The three days of sub-freezing weather around the holidays was too much for most tomatoes. I had set them too close to a door with a draft and all but two eventually withered. The peppers, though, all made it through the freeze and when the days started to get longer they began to flower.

The Natural world is in a life-or-death race to produce the next generation. There is no procrastination in nature, just a frenzied seizing of every opportunity to grow and reproduce. The gardener must try to keep pace. And try I did. This week I and the peppers, the tomatoes, several flats of cruciferous starts, and a litany of flower bulbs and seeds joined the mad rush. And thanks to the perennial spirit in the pepper shrub I have plants already trying to set fruit. Not bad for the first week of March, but I am still behind in the race.

And the tomato? The day the vine got set out the fruit proceeded to ripen–the first tomato of the season.

The first tomatoes, a purple-shouldered cherry variety that packs a punch of flavor.

Published by c ben-iesau

From L.A. to LA... I'm a New Orleans based artist and writer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: