Home & Garden

Garden checklist: Test soil for warmth, then get to work

As April warms, gardening chores beckon. We’re now in transition from spring to summer vegetables – although some recent days felt like they were well into June.

But how warm is the soil? That’s what really decides when to plant summer vegetables and flowers. Try the old “sit” test. If you can sit five minutes in shorts on bare ground, the soil is warm enough to start planting for summer.

• Some vegetables (and particular varieties) do a lot better during drought conditions than others. Beans – especially varieties such as Tepary, native to the Southwest or other desert areas – tend to do well with limited water. Also recommended are black-eyed peas, snap beans, pole beans and lima beans.

With deep roots that seek out water, tomatoes, melons and squash can adapt with weekly deep irrigation. Dark Star, a variety of zucchini, is especially adept at producing a large crop with limited water.

Among the tomatoes, the varieties that tend to be drought stars include: Cherokee Purple; Mortgage Lifter; Legend; San Marzano; Arkansas Traveler; Red Star; Tropic; Ozark Pink; Valencia; and Neptune. Most cherry tomatoes also do well with limited water.

Several melon varieties are recommended for hot, dry summers: Missouri Gold; Top Mark; Sweet Passion; Kansas; Edisto 47; Crimson Sweet watermelon; and Strawberry watermelon.

Sacramento radio host “Farmer” Fred Hoffman recently compiled a list of drought-tolerant crops for Sacramento home gardeners. Besides all those melons and beans, he included okra (Gold Coast, Stewart Zeebest, Beck’s Big Buck); eggplant (Listada de Gandia, Black Beauty, Ping Tung Long); peppers (Carolina Wonder, Charleston Belle, Aji Dulce); cucumbers (Little Leaf H-19, Ashley, Suyo Long); squash (Moschata, Tromboncino, Waltham Butternut); and pumpkin (Seminole).

– Debbie Arrington