|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.