, Salem, MA


February 14, 2014

North Shore Gardener: Roses are red, tomatoes will soon be, too


Is it Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Week? Florists and growers have been trying for years to expand this day, but it just won’t fly — Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, and everyone wants flowers on that day. No wonder it’s a florist’s nightmare — and the florist’s busiest day of the year.

This certainly won’t come as a surprise: 80 percent of the 80 million roses sold on Valentine’s Day will be red. During this cold month, we will purchase more than 3.1 million roses. By contrast, it takes about 15 million roses to make 60 floats for the Rose Bowl Parade. Remember: Flowers are better than chocolates — no calories!

Q: All my friends talk about growing tomatoes and brag about it almost as if it were some great secret. So, what’s the big secret?

A: Now, down to the business of planting prize-winning tomatoes — it’s no secret. Tomatoes are a warm-loving, sun-loving crop — keep that in mind as you plant indoors and choose the space for your garden. Tomato growing has become a neighborhood contest. The person at the next desk at the office and the mom in the carpool will all be bragging about having picked their first homegrown tomato. Do you want to be first gardener with a homegrown tomato this year? Here’s how to grow your plants so that you can have the first tomato in the neighborhood — and all the bragging rights that go with it.

Meanwhile, there is some work to be done outside. Prepare your permanent tomato garden as soon as possible and let it settle. Choose the sunniest spot you can find and dig the plot well, mixing in a generous amount of compost, well-rotted manure, and a 5-10-10 fertilizer. Next month; in late May, harden off plants well before planting outdoors. This will mean seemingly endless trips to carry the small plant out into morning sun and back into the house each afternoon as it cools — necessary to adjust the plant to life in the great outdoors. Well hardened-off plants won’t suffer a setback when they finally get transplanted in late May.

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