Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 7: Garden Day (Part The First)

As most vegetable gardeners in Austin are aware of, the first weekend in March is THE weekend to get your vegetable plants. This is the weekend to get them because the first Saturday in March is the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale. They have something like 150 varieties of tomatoes; if you can't find a tomato you want to try when you go to the sale then you just aren't a gardener.

Roberta's plants.  She got 40 tomato plants.  She only has space for 3.  To be fair, half were for her neighbor, Ana.

Tradition dictates that I get to spend the day with my friend, Roberta.  It usually starts out at about 9 in the morning when I pick her up at her house.  We take our time getting to the Sunshine Community Garden sale to avoid the massive, "outta my way, sheeple!  I need that Purple Cherokee!" crowd where we pick up more tomatoes than we ever need, and a few peppers and eggplants.

As Roberta has already mentioned on her blog, I lost her at the plant sale.  Who am I kidding - I lost her before the plant sale.  She was going to do what I do every year - just go and select some plants that look good, but at the last minute she had looked at the plant list and made her own list of plants she wanted.  The best part was when I was walking around in the Tomato Tent with 3 of my tomatoes, and I turn around, and there's Roberta with a flat of tomatoes.  You can read Roberta's take on the sale here and here.

The biggest issue this year was that we had nasty weather leading up to the sale (not uncommon - I've gone to the sale in cold, windy weather more frequently than not).  This cold, windy weather consisted of a late season dip into the mid 20's on the Wednesday before the sale, accompanied by strong winds.  Apparently the tomato tent was moved 4' by the wind that night and some of the tomato plants got some wind/cold damage.  The part I found interesting was how it looked like an entire type of tomato was hit, but the other variety across the table from it (both varieties next to the tent flap) was perfectly fine - all the container tomatoes looked great, but the Cherokee Purples looked really sad - does this mean that the container tomatoes are slightly more hardy than the heirlooms? Very likely.  I should have paid more attention to the tomatoes that are from around the world - do the Crimean tomatoes fair better than the southern US tomato varieties in the cold?  Does Brandywine (which is from Pennsylvania and doesn't like our heat) or Super Sioux (from Nebraska) do better in the cold than Arkansas Traveler?  If only I could control the weather and actually test this theory...or had a really big refrigerator I wasn't using for anything.
Naturally, the nasty weather means that of all the years to have a list, this was not that year.  I NEVER make a list for the Sunshine Sale because I was always afraid in the past that they'd run out of the varieties I wanted (the first two years I went to the sale, they would routinely sell out of many varieties very early in the day, now they purchase a lot more plants, and while they do sell out of some of them, there's still a big enough selection that it wouldn't be the end of the world). Some of the plants I got - like Vorlon - were a spur of the moment choice because the San Marzanos looked like crap (even though the Vorlons were closer to the tent flap).  My list consisted of 10 plants, and I really only have space for about 6, so it wasn't THAT big of a deal.  Even though I say some of the plants looked really sad (and they did), I still ended up getting 7 tomatoes - 6 of them on my list; and there were plenty that looked awesome, but I was being good and NOT buying 40 different types...though I did take a photo of all of Roberta's and my plants and sent it to my husband telling him to start working on another garden bed.  He was not amused.

To be continued...

You can read about previous Sunshine Sales here:


Rock rose said...

The buying is always the easy bit. The planting the hardest. My tomatoes sat around for over a week before I finally got them in yesterday. I heard that home started tomatoes weren't up to their best this year. It's been a strange spring. I don't buy many heirlooms. I don't find them quite so productive for the space they take. I stick to Celebrity.

Dani said...

Love the picture. And got a kick out of Shawn's reaction