Issue 23 • Seasonal tips and featured varieties coming to a retailer near you • April 30, 2009
Happy May Day! Tomorrow, the first day of May marks the mid-point between the vernal equinox and summer solstice. Halfway through spring and on our way to summer, the days are rapidly getting longer and warmer, which means it’s time to get your warm season veggie starts ready and keep an eye on the forecast. Depending on the local climate, you can start setting out tomatoes and summer squash as soon as you see an upcoming week of 60-70 degree days and nights in the high 40s to low 50s (this should get soil temperatures into the 60s).
Before you know it, the weather and soil will have warmed a few more degrees, allowing you to transplant out the really warm season vegetables like peppers, eggplants, winter squash, melons, and pumpkins. It’s good to have the soil prepared, tools ready, organic fertilizer on hand, and vegetable starts standing by (keep them in a greenhouse, cold-frame, or sunny window), so as soon as that warm-weather window arrives, they can go into the soil and have a mild period to adjust to their new home.
With a greenhouse, cloches, or some other kind of protection, you can start transplanting even earlier. Whether you’re setting veggie starts out without protection or under cover, just make sure soil temperatures are warm enough and be prepared to cover unprotected plants if a late frost threatens.
Some of our favorite new warm weather veggies this year include:
‘Hansel’ & ‘Gretel’ Mini Eggplants (AAS)
Although eggplant was cultivated in China over 2000 years ago, it took a while to catch on in the West. In Europe, eggplant was grown as a decorative plant for several hundred years before the fruits overcame their reputation for bitterness. Almost too cute to eat, these AAS winners still double as edibles and ornamentals, making quite a pair in the garden or kitchen! ‘Hansel’ produces dark purple fruits that can be picked at 2-3 inches for baby eggplant, or at 9-10 inches for tender, bitter-free full-size fruits. ‘Gretel’ is the earliest white eggplant, with tender, bitter-free, teardrop-shaped fruits that are best harvested when 3-4 inches long, but retain their flavor and tenderness even when larger. Plan to space eggplants 12-18 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart in a warm sunny bed or container. 55-70 days from transplant. (F1)
Melon ‘Lambkin’ (AAS)
Another AAS winner, ‘Lambkin’ is a Christmas melon that produces mottled yellow and green 2-4 pound fruits whose sweet, juicy, pale green flesh makes a delicious breakfast or dessert! Productive vines each yield 4 or 5 succulent fruits which mature much earlier than other melons of this type. Christmas melons are so named because of their excellent storage ability; kept in a cool place, they might even provide a tasty, unexpected holiday side dish. Melons need heat and well-drained soil: plant on raised beds or hills 3 to 5 feet apart in full sun. 65-75 days from transplant.
Super Freak Pumpkins ‘Knucklehead’ and ‘Goosebumps’
Plant a Super Freak now and you’ll be a hit this October! ‘Knucklehead’ produces tall, bright orange 12 by 10 inch pumpkins, ‘Goosebumps’ yields red-orange, rounded 8 inch pumpkins, and both varieties are crawling with big lumpy warts. These hobgoblins of the garden will make the spookiest, scariest jack-o-lanterns for Halloween displays – maybe even scare away the deer! Plants should be spaced 4-5 feet apart in rows 8-10 feet apart in full sun. Harvest in early fall when rind has hardened. 95-105 days from transplant.
More vegetable descriptions and photos are available on our website at:
Resources for vegetable gardeners:
- Growing Your Own Vegetables – A practical guide to vegetable gardening in Oregon, from the OSU Extension Service
- Regional tips– Gardening tips for the Oregon Coast, Rogue Valley, Central/Eastern Oregon and the Columbia River Valley, from the OSU Extension Service
- Home Gardens – A 28-page booklet on home vegetable gardening in Washington, published by the WSU Extension Service
- Vegetable Gardening in Western Washington– A library of vegetable growing resources provided by the WSU master gardeners
- Container gardens – How to raise vegetables in containers for small space gardens, from the OSU Extension Service
- Short-Season Vegetable Gardening – General tips about growing veggies in the Pacific Northwest, from the PNW Extension Service
- Vegetable Families – Learn about vegetable families to better understand their climate and cultural preferences, prepared by Patricia Patterson for the Lane County Extension Service
- Saving Heirlooms – Learn about heirloom plants & Seed Savers Exchange
- Freeze/Frost Data – NOAA climate charts for checking frost dates
- USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning – Detailed information about canning tomatoes, vegetables, pickles, and more (with recipes)
- Freezing Fruits and Vegetables – OSU Extension publication
- Drying Fruits and Vegetables – UGA Extension publication
You can read previous issues of Garden News in the Log House Library.