Martino Romas. in 28 days they are 8 inches tall and the healthiest, best performers so far. If these are heavy fruit producers, this will be my go-to Roma type. So far, so good.

Here I am on the official end of week four of our 2017 Spring Garden. Precisely 28 days ago, seeds were sown, here’s where are today.

There is a pretty nasty weather system heading our way that will possibly be a real thrasher. We’re used to thunderstorms here, but this is supposed to be a real doozy, possibly lots of hail and long-track tornadoes (as opposed to the little pipsqueaks we usually get). So that puts a damper on my planting plans. At least some of my tomatoes are ready to be in their permanent home. But I will not plant only to have my whole garden pelted by hail or busted up by heavy rain. I’ll give them another week in the cups. A few of the varieties would benefit from delayed planting anyway. Here’s where they stand, and these serve also as my gardening notebook for future reference. ‘They’ always say, “take notes on your varieties so you know what grows best for you.” My notes follow:

My Martino Romas are doing the best. These are vigorous plants, the healthiest looking, though a few are showing yellow on their lower-most true leaves (not the cotyledons, those first two leaves that appear after germination). I suspect they are just getting a bit too big for the cups they are in. Promising, looks strong. Nice to see the vigorous growth.

My standard Romas are doing well also. They are almost as vivacious as the Martinos. Romas have done well in our climate here in Zone 9a.

The problem plants are the Rosso Sicilianos. They are finicky, the leaves are curled up on themselves, but otherwise the plants are green and firm. I can’t figure them out. I really hope they perform well because I was looking forward to this ribbed heirloom for sauce-making.

Standard Roma – it is healthy and thriving. Almost ready for the ground. Look at that plump trunk and new leaf growth!

My True Black Brandywines are off to a slow but healthy start. They need some more time in pots. These are potato-leafed tomatoes, and seem like they are having some trouble. They may just be slow.

The Royal Hillbilly tomatoes, large beefsteaks that I really hope perform well, are doing pretty well too, considering that they did the leaf curl thing for a while too. Yet now they seem pretty healthy. I’m very excited about these tomatoes.

Costoluto Florentino is also struggling a bit. It should do fine in the soil, but in the cups, it has balked, curled leaves, had some yellowing and so on. This variety has promise, if it can finally become strong. Overall, this should be a good year.

Rosso Siciliano, which means Red Sicilian. The bratty plant. Look at those curled leaves. But hey, the overall health of the plant seems strong, maybe they will just have to be pouty plants.

Around my yard I have been puttering about here and there, cleaning out the weeds from the final remaining raised bed. Its filled with fire ants and is covered with carpet padding mat. The idea was to keep the weeds from growing. Pictures show the truth, weeds just grew through the padding. Don’t do this. Its hard work getting the pad up with the weeds, all the while standing in fire ants. I did not sleep well last night due to fire ant stings in combination with my poison ivy rash from a recent outing with my son. Yeah, got to love nature when it has venom and poison.

The beds being made ready, that last one is a tough one. Filled with ants. I have only a few more feet of clearing and weeding, then we amend with compost and plant our corn. The beds look weary and war-torn after a bout of weeds, and the ground has settled a bit leaving the cinder blocks uneven. I don’t mind a bit.

I planted some buckets with radishes. I needed to enjoy some gardening while we await tomatoes and long-term projects to come to fruition. They sprouted like clockwork, despite having been disturbed by critters, possible one particular Pembroke Welsh Corgi I know of. We’ll have radishes in a month.

Radishes, planted just a few days ago, reaching for the sun. These delicate sprouts are now hiding under a folding table anticipating serious storms tomorrow. They will come back into full sun Monday, Lord willing.

I will plant my peppers and some tomatoes in five gallon buckets this year. The pepers are doing well, growing slowly as peppers do. I’m not real sure how container-grown peppers will do, we shall see. My Jalapeños from 2014 soldiered on through the seasons until this past winter of 2016/17. It produced a handful of peppers and almost always had one or two blossoms. Poor thing was left untended, rarely watered, on my patio in a Home Depot bucket. Yet it persevered. It looked pretty sad, like Charlie Brown’s pathetic Christmas tree. But it impressed me. If you are interested, the variety is TAM Jalapeño, developed at Texas A&M if you care about that stuff, and its a milder variety. I am impressed. I only hope my bell peppers will do as well if I can stay on top of keeping the soil fertile with compost.

Basil looking good. These plants have been overnighting on my front porch until the bugs started robbing me of my pesto main ingredient.

I have also made another decision for our humble backyard garden plot. I will be planting a micro vineyard. I’ve ordered three varieties of Muscadine Grape from Baker Creek. This is the same live plant vendor from whom I purchased my fig trees as tiny bare-root saplings. If the varieties I receive are not the best combo for propagating these wonderful native grapes, I’ll add some self-fertile varieties or whatever combination of vines that will produce. I plan to run a curtain trellis along the two back sides of my garden, rather than training the vines to the fence itself, which many people do. My fences are in various stages of life – one side is original, 24 years old, and has been knocked down, propped up and hurricane-beaten. Its going to come down with the next potent Gulf storm. I don’t want my vines to come down with it. I’ll have separate posts about the Alysheba Muscadines as they process of propagating unfolds. I am aiming for the first substantial harvest in 2020. Got to start somewhere, with little cuttings arriving in a priority mail box this month or next. I have their little pots waiting.

That’s all for now, if you enjoy following our garden (and I can’t imagine many do), I thank you. Go plant some seeds, see what happens, live and learn, and enjoy!

Work area with a compost cage already nearly full. That 55 gallon trash can is the compost bin for our kitchen compost and anything particularly smelly. I got a good 45 gallons of good compost from this bin over the last two years. Thats a lot of compost!