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Tomatos and cold weather

Upward bound tomato

My tomatoes and I were relieved when the cold wave passed and our low only dropped to 37 degrees.  No frost!

Buckets in the garden

Gardening in chinampasFiguring it was better to be safe than sorry, I covered each tomato plant with a five-gallon bucket on Friday night, then removed each bucket first thing Saturday morning so the plants wouldn't cook or dwindle from lack of light.  Most of the plants fit into their buckets well, but the large plant from Daddy (first photo in this post) had to be carefully constrained before I could cram it into a bucket, and my Stupice (our earliest producer most years, photo below) also had to have the top bent down a bit.  Hopefully both plants will bounce right back.

Baby tomato

On a related note, my father was surprised that the plants he'd set outside a couple of months ago didn't make early fruits even though they were large and in a sheltered location where it wouldn't frost.  I explained that tomatoes tend to drop most or all of their flowers when nights dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  This isn't quite the same as a critical temperature, because one chilly night won't generally make a tomato drop fruits.  Instead, a string of cold weather slows the pollen so much that it doesn't travel up the style fast enough to fertilize the ovary within the requisite fifty hours, at which point the plant drops the flower as a loss.

Despite the current cool-down, at least one of my tomatoes managed to set a few fruits, as you can see in the photo above.  I'm curious about whether my Stupice (an early ripener) started inside on February 26 can beat Daddy's tomato (started inside in January, I think).  And will either plant's head start really make them beat my usual first-tomato date of early to mid July?

Want to grow the earliest tomato?  Check out this guest post from one of our readers for expert advice.



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Hi Anna, I have a question that does not relate per se to this post, but you have been so generous with your knowledge in answering my questions in the past I thought I would give it a shot. I live in lower Michigan. My husband just finished building a large trellis. I am going to try hardy kiwi growing up the trellis, but recently I have realized some hanging pots would work well there too. Do you have any recommendations for perennial edibles that would grow well in pots and are not hardy to Michigan? I would like to expand the variety of garden plants in order to make it a worthwhile experiment. I would appreciate it if you know of any plants that are on your radar and would fit the bill. Thanks for your help.

Comment by Maggie Mon May 19 12:14:54 2014
Maggie --- I haven't actually had much first-hand experience with hanging plants, so take what I say with a grain of salt. However, I'd guess it's a lot like growing in a container, but with conditions in the pot being even more likely to be hotter and drier than the surrounding ground. Rosemary would be good in those conditions (especially since it needs to be taken inside for the winter in your and my region anyway). Most fruiting perennials are going to need a pot too large to easily hang (or, like strawberries, will pout if they dry out), so I'd definitely focus on herbs.
Comment by anna Mon May 19 16:30:13 2014

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