Am I getting ready for Halloween? People ask me this since my “ghostly” garden is the first thing you see when you drive up to my house. It sure looks that way. Last week, the weather changed in New Jersey from an Indian summer to a “cold windy I wish I did not live here” day. I am just not ready to throw in the towel or should I say trowel yet on my garden especially since my tomato plants have just started turning red. I wish the weather would just make up her mind. Colder summers, warmer winters, snow in spring?
As the wind was howling, my tomato cages crashed to the ground. I felt like Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind, trying to save Tara (in my case, my tomato plants), and my Rhett Butler ( my husband) was called to help me out. He could not say to me, “Frankly Scarlett I don’t give a d-mn” because he saw the panic in my eyes. I just was not ready to see my tomato plants die when they still had so much life left in them. (I know. I can be a garden drama queen at times.) So, did Rhett save the tomato plants? Read on…
No matter what we did, the cages would not straighten up. The wind just kept knocking them over. Luckily last year, I had bought earth staples from Gardener’s Supply Company to keep the garden fabric that I had bought from floating away. I remembered that these earth staples could also be used to anchor my tomato cages. This day, they were my saving grace. My husband anchored the cages with the earth staples, and the cages stood up like proud peacocks as the wind whipped around them.
We then anchored all the zinnias and dahlias with wooden spikes that I had used to mark my garden fence. I never disposed of them because I thought one day I would have a use for them. (Another reuse story!) They are strong and not as flimsy as the metal ones you see in some garden catalogs.
Then, on went those white ghost sheets that you see on my cages to protect the plants from the chilly weather. What are they? They are garden fabric from Gardener’s Supply. The fabric is made out of white, point-bonded polypropylene, allows light transmission of 85 percent, and protects the plants from frost damage down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. I bought the fabric last year when I was desperate because I planted my tomatoes too late. By October the tomatoes just started to get big. Unfortunately, last year I had a lot of large green tomatoes with only a few that ripened. However, the fabric made it possible for the plants to stay alive until the middle of November.
Gardener’s Supply offers four different garden fabric: summer weight, shade netting, all purpose (which is mine) and garden quilt. The garden quilt provides frost protection down to 24 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a good product to extend your season both early spring and late fall as well as over wintering salad greens, strawberries and perennials. It allows sixty percent transmission of light. The Company provides an excellent article on how to extend your gardening season.
I was wondering if my tomatoes did not ripen last year because I kept the sheets on during the day as well as the night thinking the tomatoes loved the heat. Maybe I was doing my tomatoes a disservice by keeping them covered. Perhaps they needed more light?
Since I bought the garden fabric from Gardener’s Supply, I thought they would know if I was using their products incorrectly. One of the reasons I buy products from this Company is their customer service. They are all experienced gardeners and if they don’t know an answer to a question, they ask someone who is seated near them. So, I called them and asked them should I have taken the covers off. The customer service representative that I spoke to advised me that I should take them off until it dips down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside during the day; otherwise, the plants could wilt from the heat under the covers.
After my phone call with her, I went to the garden to check on the plants. It was about 70ish outside and she was right. They looked a little wilted as if they were wearing a jacket when it was really hot out. Some of the tomatoes had ripened to my delight. The wind only seemed to injure them a little. Tomorrow is another gardening day and one less day that I have to go to the grocery store for fresh vegetables thanks to my garden fabric and Rhett, of course…