Lett's Set A Spell

May. 25, 2014 @ 05:00 PM

An old man lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament: 

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

Love, Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son. 

Dear Papa,

Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.

Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. 

That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love you,

Vinnie

THERE IS STILL TIME to dig up some soil and place plants in the earth to grow tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables for harvest later this year. Tomatoes may be America’s favorite garden vegetable or is it a fruit? While technically we eat the fruit of the tomato plant, it is used as a vegetable in eating and cooking and therefore usually categorized as a vegetable. 

According to the N.C. Extension Service, the best time for planting tomatoes ranges from April 20 to July 15 in our area. Larger tomatoes prefer nighttime temperatures between 55° and 65° for the fruit to set. Grape and cherry tomatoes are more heat tolerant and stand up to the humidity of the Triangle area so they can be planted later.

An article from the Extension Service stated: “The key to a bountiful tomato harvest in Triangle gardens is to choose varieties that are proven producers for our climate. Time tested ones like Whopper, Better Boy, Celebrity and Mountain Pride are some of the best selections that stand up to the heat and humidity of our area. But don’t be afraid to experiment with some of the new varieties ... like Marmara with its intense red color and sweet flavor. It’s especially pretty when sliced. Or try the Floralina hybrid developed through a cooperative breeding program with N.C. State and the University of Florida.” 

For detailed planting, growing, harvesting and canning information, contact the local extension office. Susan Condlin, county extension director, can be reached at (919) 775-5624 or susan_condlin@ncsu.edu. The web address is: www.lee.ces.ncsu.edu.  

MANY YEARS AGO I decided it was easier for me to cultivate friends than grow my own vegetables and fruits, so I collect these fresh treats from neighbors and friends and also buy them at farmers markets.

I often read the “Triangle Gardener,” which is a local guide to enjoyable gardening in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill areas and surrounding communities. Each bi-monthly issue includes stories on plants, garden design, pests, garden books, garden travel, events and tours, industry pros, and much more. 

I share these helpful tips about fruits and vegetables from a recent issue of the magazine:

• Check your vegetable garden daily for water needs. Fertilize weekly, as these plants are heavy feeders. Keep watch for disease and insect infestations.

• Plant warm season crops in May — eggplant, peppers, squash, cucumbers, snap beans, peppers, okra and watermelons.

• Stake or cage tomatoes and train green beans and cucumbers up trellises or supports.

• Control blossom end rot on tomatoes with good watering practices; add lime to reduce the problem.

• Harvest vegetables and fruits in the morning and not during the heat of the day. Place them in a cool place to prevention deterioration of taste and quality.

In summation, with wit and wisdom, I am encouraging readers to plant more fruit and vegetables and eat them fresh for better health.  

AlexSandra Lett is a professional speaker and the author of “Natural Living, From Stress to Rest;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at (919) 258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.