Tomato Patch: Getting ready for Hurricane Irene

Ready for Irene

Just how much trauma can the Tomato Patch take in one week—a 5.9 earthquake on Tuesday and a brush with Hurricane Irene on Friday or Saturday?

The earthquake had no visible effect on the Patch. I haven’t found one tomato that I think the quake shook from a vine. But I am concerned about the effect the passing hurricane may have this weekend.

In recent years, August has been a relatively dry month with our lawn of crabgrass reduced to stubble and me dreaming of late-afternoon showers of relief for our gardens. But this August is different. Our lawn is bright green, and the official weather data reported in the Washington Post indicates that BWI, our nearest airport, has recorded 5.30” of rain so far this month, compared to the normal 2.49”.

Now the weather news is about Hurricane Irene and what her effect may be on the mid-Atlantic states. The latest computer models indicate Irene most likely will parallel the coast as it moves north and possibly give eastern portions of our area “damaging winds” and “flooding rain.”

The Tomato Patch already has good moisture from recent summer downpours. Several more inches of “flooding rain” combined with “damaging winds” could topple some of my less-protected tomato cages, especially those with tall, indeterminate vines now top-heavy with late-season fruit. Softened soil plus top-heavy tomato plants plus wind gusts easily can topple tomato cages.

Wednesday morning I picked two buckets of break-stage tomatoes—Brandwine, Virginia Sweets, Super Marzano, and Big Mama. Moving their weight from the top of their vines to a counter in our garage should help keep my tomato cages upright if Irene’s rains and winds come our way.

And today I plan to reinforce three cages that recent summer storms have tilted a bit and, if the soil is dry enough, I’ll do a little extra hilling around my young fall vegetables—rutabagas, turnips, beets, and lettuce—to help them resist the downpours that probably will come this weekend.

4 Comments on “Tomato Patch: Getting ready for Hurricane Irene

  1. Great advice, Bob! Thanks for the reminder. And I note our GIEI Facebook pixies are reminding us that while seeds for some fall crops can still go in, we might want to wait until after this weekend so they don't all get washed away (as per your previous advice).

  2. Don't forget to empty your rain barrels. I also made sure that water from my downspouts is directed good distances from my house. There is more info on the Baltimore Gas and Electric website about how to prepare your household for Irene.

  3. Bof, it's not more different than a summer afternoon cell storm; just brace for yourself, expect the worst and hope for the best.

  4. Unfortunately, Anonymous, earlier downpours and wind gusts have softened the soil and loosened the iron stakes that support my tomato cages, so now I fear the passing Irene will have just a bit more force and tilt or topple some of them. But I reinforced several of them today, and here's hoping your suggestion comes to pass and Irene's gifts won't be any worse than a regular summer storm passing through.

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