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Seed sharing and rotten tomatoes

Yes fellow gardeners, it’s time to start sharing seeds again. By the time you read this, I will have the Little Free Seed Library up and running again outside my house. So as you collect seeds from your gardens this fall, if you find you have extras to share, bring ‘em on over to the library. I’ve written about the seed library in past columns (www.everdaygardener.com/sharing-seeds), but just in case you missed that, we’ve designated the top of our Little Free Library, which is normally used for books, for seeds in the spring and fall.

You’ll find our library outside our house on the boulevard on the corner of 45th Street and Washburn Avenue in Linden Hills. Please bring your seeds in envelopes labeled with the name of the plant — one type of seed per envelope, please. If you’re taking seeds, I’ve got small envelopes inside the box, along with pencils, so you can easily pack up and label everything you’d like. So far, I’ve gathered these seeds from my gardens to share in the library: hyacinth bean, purple cleome, gray-headed coneflower, red swamp milkweed, Queen Anne’s lace, ‘Painted Lady’ sweet pea, anise hyssop and ‘Lauren’s Grape’ poppies. And there will be more to come!

Rotten tomatoes 

One of the volunteer activities I enjoy most as a master gardener is working at the Ask A Master Gardener booth at the State Fair. No matter how hot and humid it is, people line up to ask questions and everyone is always so happy, the way people are at the fair. While I’m supposed to be the one answering questions, I always learn a lot too, as I look stuff up and talk over problems with everyone. One thing people ask about all the time is how to water tomatoes. They’re particularly concerned about overwatering, and they should be. If you overwater, at the very least, your tomato plants will produce watery, tasteless fruit that you’ll wish you had never put in your mouth.

If you really, really overwater, as I did this summer, you get watery, tasteless, cracked tomatoes that rot on the vine, oozing out all sorts of super disgusting white goo while turning black. It was a horror show for sure, and one that I could have avoided had I paid closer attention when watering, as I usually do, but just didn’t this year for one reason or another. If you’ve had this problem, or would like to never, ever have it in the future, take care to provide tomatoes with consistent water so they don’t wilt, but not so much that the soil gets soggy. What in the heck does that mean?

It’s always said that tomatoes need about 1 to 1 ½ inches of water, including rain, each week. But that amount will vary depending on whether your tomatoes are growing in containers or in the ground as pots dry out much more quickly than garden beds do. If possible, avoid overhead watering and use a regular hose or soaker hose because wet leaves encourage diseases. Of course the rub with that type of watering is that you can’t easily figure out how many inches of water you’re providing.

So do your best to pay attention to soil moisture and water regularly without overdoing it. When you do water, take the time to water deeply so you’re not just wetting the top couple of inches of soil. Just spritzing your plants with the hose after work may be relaxing, but it doesn’t provide the amount of water plants need to establish strong root systems. This applies to turf grass too.

Check out Meleah’s blog: www.everydaygardener.com for more gardening tips or to email her a question or comment.