Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs JANUARY 2003
Tomatoes, Pelargoniums & Aloe dichotoma

JANUARY

Since January is generally the coldest month of the year there’s not much to do outside unless you have roses or deciduous fruit trees to prune.  But at least you have a good excuse for staying inside and fantasizing with gardening catalogs!  And if you’re a real gardener you’ll want to start some Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant or even Tomatillo seeds indoors.  When choosing varieties of any of these be aware, however, that it’s not the same here as back home.

Varieties with the huge, luscious fruits we salivated for in the east and mid west may not attain the same quality before the heat of summer stresses them out.  With Tomatoes, stick with the small cherry or pear types such as Sweet 100 or Yellow PearSweet Chelsea does great here.  Other successful larger fruited varieties include Early Girl (the most popular), Celebrity, Better Boy, Champion, Roma, FlorAmerica, Heartland and Lemon Boy to name a few.  Of course there are oodles of Tomato varieties just begging to be tried here so use your imagination.  Shoot for ones that have been developed for the more northern climates or that have maturity dates of less than 75 days or so.  Determinate varieties, good for containers, tend to be compact and bushy with most fruits ripening around the same time, while indeterminate ones just keep on a-growing’ and a-sprawlin’ with fruits that ripen over a longer period of time.  Just about any type of Pepper, especially the hot ones, will do okay here if they get protection from full summer sun.  To start seeds indoors you must have lots of sunlight & warmth.  Follow directions in catalogs or on seed packets.  To jump start your imagination, here’s a couple of catalogs to get: TOTALLY TOMATOES, Dept TT, P.O. Box 1626, Augusta, Georgia, 30903.  JOHNNY’S, Foss Hill Rd., RR1 Box 2580, Albion, Maine, 04910-9731.  Have fun!

PELARGONIUMS

Pelargoniums, sometimes referred to as succulent Geraniums, have just got to be one of the coolest things to the eye of the succulentophile (you know, one of those nuts that goes ape over fat, squirrelly looking plants!).  There are over 200 species of these plants in South Africa.  Some have thick, water storing stems, while others, called geophytes, withdraw into the ground when the going gets tough.  Unlike Geranium flowers, Perargonium flowers are not real showy.  They do their growing during our cool winter months, then as summer approaches lose their leaves and become dormant.  Overwatering during this time often leads to rot.  They should be protected from frost and given some shade through the summer.  We have a handful available at Shady Way.

ALOES

While Pelargoniums are for the collector of smaller succulents, Aloes (members of the Lily family), which range in size from a few inches to 30 ft tall, can be used as striking landscape specimens.  One of particular interest to the lover of the large and bizarre is Aloe dichotoma.  This plant is in the Tree Aloe group as it forms a large trunk topped by a head of short, thick branches.  It is quite the sight in its native South Africa where its thick branches were once used by indigenous peoples to make arrow quivers.  Possibly not for the feint of heart, this plant requires perfect drainage and minimal summer watering as it is very prone to rot.  There is a truly awesome plant at Arizona Cactus Sales in Chandler, but sadly some of it rotted away last summer and its ultimate fate is unknown.  We have some available if you’re up to the challenge and want a plant that truly appreciates neglect.

A PLANTING UPDATE

The latest thoughts on planting holes from those in the know (University people etc.) are that they should be dug no deeper than the rootball of the plant but 3 or 5 times wider, since new root growth tends to grow laterally and not down.

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Web Comments george@mswn.com September 13, 2004 © Shady Way Nursery 2004