Question: My girlfriend Maureen grows tomatoes on the west side of her house in
Shoreline, and she is highly successful.I tried to grow tomatoes on the south side of my house in the Haller Lake area of North Seattle, and I failed.
When I asked Maureen what she did to get so many tomatoes, she said she fertilizes with Miracle Gro. I am anti-chemicals and haven't used Miracle Gro, mostly because I resented them claiming years ago that the use of Miracle Gro was the reason the cabbages, etc., grown in Alaska's Matanuska Valley were so huge! I grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and I know the reason for the huge produce is the 24-hour sunlight!
Anyway, I can't help thinking that we are eating chemicals when eating those tomatoes that have been heavily fertilized by Miracle Gro. What do you think/know about this?
Answer: Wally Prestbo ( a.k.a. Mr. Tomato), the guy who grows all the tomatoes for the Master Gardener Plant sale, uses a balanced organic fertilizer and two doses of Miracle Gro or another liquid feed during the season. He digs in 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 at planting time, then uses the liquid fertilizer on the first of June and the first of July.
I have a dear gardening friend who always preaches against turning your plants into chemical junkies....and I guess it sunk in with me. I don't use Miracle Gro on edibles or permanent plantings, only on greedy annuals in containers. I always use organic fertilizers on plants in the ground, in part because they contain trace elements that help build the health of the soil. I'm not an expert tomato grower (Wally, and it sounds like your friend Maureen, certainly are) but I can't believe that with good soil, a warm, sunny location, and regular watering, we can't grow fine tomatoes with organic fertilizer (if the weather cooperates). Let's put this theory to the test this summer...if readers have a different opinion/experiences please comment below...
Question: I found your article about hebes in the Seattle Times on line while researching a replacement for hebes that were killed in December 2008 snowfall in Seattle. My daughter lives in Seattle and lost all her hebes. Do you have any information about what they might have done to save them? They were out of town the entire time the snow stayed on the ground for 5-6 days and could not cover them. Are there hebe varieties that might be more resistant to snow?
Thank you for your help,
Answer: Everyone I know, including me, lost hebes last winter because of the severe cold. It seems like all the purple leafed hebes like the popular 'Amy' are goners. The way to grow hebes successfully is to plant them in free-draining soil in a sunny, sheltered spot - but I don't think even the perfect location could have saved the purple-leafed hebes in temperatures like we had last winter.
Most green leafed hebes seemed to have survived the deep freeze just fine. For a list of the hebes best suited for Seattle growing conditions, check out the web page for Great Plant Picks. You'll find climate zone information, descriptions and color photos for hebes that have been vetted for our climate, like the blue-green, fine-foliaged Hebe topiaria (left).