Houston, we may have a problem…

A tomato miscalculation?

I thought I was being clever by pushing ahead my greenhouse planting schedule. After all, temperatures soared to May levels by mid-March. Native flowers were blooming three weeks ahead of schedule. Soil temperatures were above 60 degrees. Yes, average last freeze for my area isn’t until April 15, and frosts can occur a couple of weeks after that. But surely not this year, right?

Um, well, maybe not. The weather forecasters just came out with the temperature forecast through mid-April. My region is now forecasted to have a better than 50% chance of below-normal temperatures. This after the warmest March on record, of course.

On the one hand, this is great news. Maybe my spring vegetable garden will be one of my most productive ones ever. Of course, the Sugar Sprint Snap Peas still haven’t produced one flower bud. But maybe it’s been too hot for them, even though they have been climbing their trellis. Maybe now they’ll be happy and make peas for me.

On the other hand, the tomatoes in my greenhouse are already so large that I’m having trouble moving in there without snagging one and nearly pulling it down on top of me. And it’s only April 4.

For comparison, I went back and looked at my records for last year. According to this post, my tomatoes were about the same size as they are now on May 17. No, that’s not a typo. We’re talking five weeks later. Time for Plan B — or is it Plan C. This has been the most improvisational gardening season I’ve experienced in, well, forever. I can’t remember ever being faced with such problems.

Meanwhile, the natives and ornamentals are still hurtling through the season as if midnight is approaching and their coaches are becoming pumpkins. Case in point: I found this on the ground today when I was walking around:

Tulip Poplar flower

Last year, I took a photo like that on April 24 as you can see here.

And my beautiful deciduous azaleas? They are blooming so early and fast that one finished before I could even document it here. Right now, the Alabama azalea is at its peak. Here’s the whole shrub:

Alabama Azalea in full bloom

That’s the Ashe Magnolia in the back left corner. It’s just beginning to open its buds. Here’s a close-up of the Alabama Azalea flowers so you can appreciate their beauty:

Last year, I documented peak bloom of this specimen on April 22, as you can see here.

One more example and I’ll stop for today. I documented the gorgeous blooms of Rhododendron ‘Pastel #20’ last year on April 14. It’s at maximum bloom this year today, as you can see here:

Rhododendron ‘Pastel #20″

And here’s a close-up:

It smells wonderful too.

All the oak trees except the big Black Oak have finished blooming. The Northern Red Oak that towers over my house is raining fat caterpillars. I always wonder if they leap off the tree to avoid birds. Why else would they abandon their food source before they’re ready to metamorphose?

Most of the oak leaves — and the leaves of other native trees too — are rapidly achieving near-summer size. I’m hoping — praying, actually —  this means that they’ll have time to toughen up enough to avoid being killed by a late freeze.

The good news? The same long-range forecast for my region has my area right on the line between above-average and normal precipitation. Maybe if it stays cloudy — and ideally rainy — the cold temperatures won’t drop low enough to kill my precocious plants. Of course, below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation could also mean snow. It has happened here in April — not lately — but it has happened. A light snow probably wouldn’t kill spring growth. But it doesn’t solve my biggest problem.

What I am going to do with the gigantic tomato plants in my greenhouse?


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  1. #1 by Karen on April 6, 2012 - 6:40 am

    Good luck with your growing season…it has been a strange spring in New Hampshire as well.

    • #2 by piedmontgardener on April 6, 2012 - 6:46 am

      Thanks, Karen. And good luck to you and your garden too.

      On the up side — I think — the National Hurricane Center is predicting a below-normal number of hurricanes this season. Here’s hoping those weather disasters, at least, bypass the US this year!

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