March came snarling in like a lion with high winds and snow but if recent weather is any indication, it could be going out like a lamb.
March weather is typically unpredictable. Thankfully, the gentle forces of spring are destined to prevail. This month, the stoic bulbs and emerging perennials seem to know that their time of flowering and robust growth is just ahead. Spring will soon be here and the garden planning that we do now will ensure we are ready for the growing season to come.
This year, many gardeners are trying to include more produce-bearing plants in their growing plans. One of the easier-to-grow, adaptable, productive and delicious edibles is the tomato, and most everyone has room to grow one or a few.
An elderly relative of mine who lives in a retirement apartment grows several tiny but very productive cherry tomato plants called “Micro Tom Hybrids” in a window box outside her kitchen window. Another friend grows a variety of tomato plants in a small bed beside her garage where she also grows annuals and perennials. Growing the tomatoes with her flowers enables her to save time and steps while growing decorative and edible plants in a small, convenient area.
Both of these gardeners grow cherry tomato varieties because they are such easy care, super productive, delicious, and multi-use tomato types. There are a number of cherry tomato varieties that come in a wonderful range of sizes, shapes, colors, and fantastically sweet, mouth-watering tastes. There are extra-sweet types that are sometimes referred to as “candy tomatoes.” They combine a rich, mellow, tomato taste with the extra sweetness that makes them perfect for eating right off the vine, in salads, stuffed as canapés, in cooking, etc.
Extra sweets are very easy to grow, very hardy, and produce large crops of fruit. Some varieties that can be grown in our area are:
• Sweet Baby Girl, a red, round cherry tomato with a very sweet flavor.
• Sun Sugar, a super sweet, orange tomato that is delicious eaten right off the vine.
• Yellow Plum, 1-1/2-inch plum-shaped tomatoes of a rich golden, yellow color. They are very sweet and mild.
• Tomatoberry Garden Hybrid, strawberry-shaped, deep red, tomatoes. They are very juicy with sweet thick flesh.
• Sweet Treats Hybrid, a pink, cherry tomato with a sweet, rich tomato taste. They are delicious in salads, fresh, or used in cooking.
• Sweet ‘n’ Neat Scarlet Improved, a very compact, dwarf variety that can be grown in containers, hanging baskets, window boxes, etc. It is a heavy producer of delicious, sweet, one-inch round fruits.
• Sugary Hybrid, a super-sweet, juicy, oval-shaped tomato with a rose-red skin. It is a very vigorous producer.
• Green Grape, a very juicy, sweet green type about once inch in size. Green Grape is excellent eaten fresh, in salads, in soups and sauces.
• Jelly Bead Red or Yellow. This type has grape-like fruits with intense sweet flavor. The red variety is round while the yellow is oval-shaped.
• Isis Candy, sugary-sweet and fruity with a marbled red and golden color.
• Chocolate Cherry, a round, chocolate-red tomato with fruits about one inch around. They have a rich, mellow-sweet taste.
• Brown Berry, a beautiful, rich brown, cherry-shaped tomato. They are very sweet and juicy and are excellent fresh or in cooked dishes.
• Orange Sunshine, a bright orange tomato with firm sweet flesh. It produces a heavy yield and is delicious in salads, on pizza, in sauces, and in cooked dishes.
• Lemon drop, a sunny yellow, three-quarter inch round tomato with a pure, sweet-tart taste.
• Micro Tom Hybrid, a very compact grower with round, red fruit. It is a heavy producer and the tomatoes are sweet and delectable.
The varieties mentioned above can be grown in small or medium-sized garden areas and the following are excellent types to grow in pots, flower boxes, and hanging baskets on decks, patios, or windowsills: Red Robin, Micro Tom Hybrid, Zebra Cherry Hybrid, Tumbler Hybrid, Tiny Tom, Lizzano, and Sweet ‘n’ Neat Series.
March garden tip: This is a perfect time to begin cleaning dead foliage, leaves, dead branches, etc. out of your gardens and beds but try to avoid walking on the bare, wet soil, as this will compact the dirt. Prune off any dead or damaged branches on trees or shrubs now before new growth begins in the spring.