Siting the tomatoes with an eye to coming drought

tomato and lettuce seedlings getting first true leaves

The tomato seedling is getting it's first true leaves.

In my garden I am trying a lot of things differently this year.  It’s not quite time to set out the tomatoes, but that doesn’t stop me from looking around and picturing them in various garden beds.  What’s going through my mind is the farmers’ adage “summer follows winter”.

This past winter we had snow in November and February, but December and January were stone dry.  If this summer looks anything like that winter then we’ll see no rain, possibly from June till September.

Now I know as well as any gardener out there that tomatoes love the sun, but tomatoes are kind of hooked on water, too.  This means I’m looking around my garden site for the places that will get morning sun but shade for the afternoon.  The ideal spot would get sun again in the evening.

Is that possible?  It is if there is a large shade tree southwest of the garden bed.  Do I have that scenario available?  No.

The closest I’ve got is a south facing bed that will receive shade by about three or four in the afternoon.  The catch is that that bed is backed by a red brick wall.  That wall gets so hot that there is literally a shallow arc of dead in front of it before the weeds begin.

Either I need the downstairs neighbor to fasten a white sheet to her balcony railing, or I need to plant something that will grow tall and fairly quickly so that the wall in shaded before the deep summer heat really hits.

perennial sunflower jerusalem artichoke sunchokes

Jerusalem artichoke is a perennial cousin of sunflowers with tasty tuber roots.

I’m going for that second option and am debating between a 2 foot buffer (75 cm) of sunflowers or popcorn.  I’m leaning toward the sunflowers for two reasons: first, if I choose tall varieties that neighbor will have a little more privacy from the street and I think she’ll like that, and second, corn is wind pollinated, so a more exposed site should get me nice fat ears with every kernel evenly plump.

I have found a variety of fairly tall okra that I think I’ll mix in along the front row of sunflowers, then tomatoes, ground cherries, black eyed susans, peppers, and nasturtium.  There are already a few iris and a very respectable hardy geranium in the garden bed proper, and two peonies flanking either side.

Although technically our last frost date isn’t for another three weeks or so, between the wacky weather and the brick wall I think I am safe to direct sow sunflower seeds in the next few days.  I’ll keep you posted.

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6 responses to “Siting the tomatoes with an eye to coming drought

  1. What kind of okra? Hill country red has reached 7′ or so for me in the past…

    • Hill Country Red has a great reputation AND does get nicely tall. I haven’t tried that one personally yet, but it’s on the to-chew list. I’ve done Star of David, and found them lovely both to eat and to view. The leaves get reddish in the sun, which in a field can be a nice bit of color to see.

      I’m dodging that red this year. Where I live, the building is dark brick, very dark red, iron-y. I didn’t want them to get lost (despite planting them in amongst the sunflowers), so I’m going with the Silver Queen from Seed Saver’s.

      Send in pix when yours gets going, eh?

  2. Glad to know I’m not the only one who starts planning innovative tomato locations in the middle of winter. I don’t spend nearly that much energy thinking about where anyone else goes!

    • Isn’t that funny how tomatoes focus the mind? I put a little effort into corn, but that’s generally because I’m trying to make that height useful somehow while planting a sufficient stand to be self fertile.

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