You can grow good tomatoes

By GEORGE ING

For the Hood River News

May 11

You can grow good tomatoes but don’t plant them too soon!

Until I moved to Hood River, I had lived in cooler areas where it was difficult to grow tomatoes. Years ago, garden tomatoes were grown from seed. There have been dramatic changes, so much so that we do not really grow the plant; much of that is taken care of before we get it. We nurture it and harvest its production.

Nowadays almost all tomatoes are purchased by home gardeners as plants. Some may be large with either blooms or even small tomatoes attached. That means that if you purchase such a plant, you will be able to mature fruit even in a cooler area.

Secondly, the world of variety development has given us early season, quick-maturing tomatoes. We can thank the Oregon State University breeders for varieties such as Santiam, Siletz and Legend. All are dark green in color with thick foliage and are relatively small plants when mature thus can fit in a small place. Fruits are medium to large, are often russeted or scarred and may even have some cracks. But, boy are they good to eat! Sometimes the first ones ripen by July 1. As small bushes they do not have numerous fruits but the fruits ripen well into the summer.

For later varieties, it seems those with “Better, Beef or Boy” in their names do well. Plants grow large, demand support and can produce many fruits. Fruits mature and taste better if they have only minimum irrigation. While elongated or pear-shaped red or yellow varieties are interesting, I do not find their flavor to be as good.

When fall comes and green tomatoes remain, they can be harvested, vines and all, hung in a cool place and will usually ripen. I am thus able to eat tomatoes for lunch most years past mid-October.

An interesting aspect of gardening is that there is a “time.” Thus, peas do best if planted in late February. Conversely I plant corn about May 10 because earlier the soil is not warm enough and seeds may not emerge. Tomatoes are a warm weather crop and should not be planted, in my opinion, before May 1. And you should be ready to cover tomatoes at night until May 15. We keep a batch of old 4-gallon buckets handy for such.

Let the garden suppliers keep tomato plants until things are right. You are ensured good growth and delicious tomatoes.

*****

Orchardist and general green thumb George Ing takes time from his growing interests to write “Side Roads” for the Hood River News once each month.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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