Garden Notes: Buyer beware, and other random thoughts from the garden

Shopping the Salvation Army store, I find I can control my urge to shop. Occasionally, I find a terra cotta pot or a watering can. Once, I found a bulb vase.

This past spring, I’d been using a wood skewer when transplant­ing seedlings into small pots. I’d stab the skewer down into the soil; I’d wiggled it around a little and drop the seedling in beside it. If I held the seedling in place with two fingers, I could pull the skewer out, and anchor the seedling in the soil.

When, at the Salvation Army, I came across an opened, unlabeled package of skewers, my shopping fix was in for the month.

Who thinks to smell something like skewers?

The first time I needed one; I pulled it out of the package and almost choked on the stink. I’d bought, for 79 cents, a package of incense sticks.

The next time you go to the Salvation Army store, I’ll be the old lady you see sniffing the merchandise.

There’s a sucker optimized every minute

On March 17, 2015, Virginia Heffernan’s article titled “There’s a Sucker Optimized Every Minute” was published in The New York Times.

Ms. Hefferman made the point that there is data available today that enables us to maximize our every waking moment. We no longer have to depend on our gut, our heart and our morals. There are programs to analyze the facts of every situation and make a decision for us.

Except when it comes to tomatoes. When it comes to tomatoes, you’re in charge of the suckers.

If you plant determinate or “bush” tomatoes like Rutgers, Roma or Big Boy you want to optimize the plant, not the sucker. Bush tomatoes are varieties that grow to about 4 feet, set buds, ripen all the tomatoes within a two-week period and are done. With bush tomatoes, you optimize your yield by doing nothing.  Suckering bush tomatoes will severely reduce your crop.

Indeterminate varieties or “vining” tomatoes are a different story. Varieties like Better Boy and Big Girl, Delicious, Supersteak and Beefmaster will grow and produce fruit until a killing frost. They grow about 6 feet tall, set new fruit and ripen all summer long. If you don’t remove the suckers, you’ll have a gigantic plant producing hundreds of tomatoes well into the fall.

How dead can it be?

I have a hard time passing the plants on the “Reduced” racks at the big box stores. But in my hands, they have a so-so survival rate.

Recently, I found some tips for reviving seemingly dead plants. A couple of  them were memorable.

Take the plant out of the soil to inspect the roots? Don’t do that. Clerks apparently disapprove of customers who go to that extreme.

When you soak dried beans, save the water for the new struggling plants. I’ve yet to try that one, but it could be one of the New Year’s resolutions I end up keeping.

Contact Teresa Futrick at esroyllek@hotmail.com