Unlike last year, spring is paying us an early visit, and that makes Mark Littlejohn, owner and operator of Littlejohn’s Produce, very happy.
“It’s just a wonderful year so far, we couldn’t be any happier,” he said. “This year is starting out really, really good. Everything looks perfect - and I don’t ever say the word perfect, but everything right now looks perfect. If we can slip around and not get a freeze in the next week or two - which this week’s clear. Usually when you get into April if the seven-day forecast is not in the 30s, usually we’re done. I’m not promising, but it just really looks good.”
With temperatures in the 70s and lows in the 40s at night, spring really did start two weeks early. Littlejohn said it seems like the season is making up for last year’s bad hailstorms in April and the 23 days of rain in May that “pretty well ruined everybody’s garden, mine included,” he said.
“That’s what the whole thing looks like to me - is we’re two weeks ahead. Everything is early, the temperature is different, it’s warmer and the ground is warmer,” Littlejohn said. “Usually about the first week in April is when I like to plant my tomatoes and squash and everything - though you still might have a frost or two. But I planted tomatoes two weeks ago. I planted 400 tomatoes and 200 squash two weeks ago. We’ve had some little light frost but it didn’t hurt anything.”
Littlejohn loves his tomatoes, and he found a new type he really likes and thinks is superior to the past “breeds” he grows.
“I’ve got some [tomatoes], they’re called Tycoon. I’ve had them for a couple years, nobody knew anything about them and I never did plant them, but I planted some last year in our spot that we grow for the store here. They’re like a celebrity except they’re more disease resistant to two or three things. The bush is a little tighter and shorter, and they’ll make a little bit longer in the summer and the heat. I call them a souped-up celebrity and that’s all I’m going to plant this year is Tycoon besides a few early girls because they come off two weeks early. The Tycoons made last year through all those storms, rain and weather. I’ve got them here and I think that’s the best one that you can plant now that I know of,” he said excitedly.
But not just tomatoes and squash are ready to be planted this time of year. Though he said it’s not the exact time to plant okra, he was to plant some on Thursday to take advantage of the early season.
Another benefit of the early season is that gardeners are able to plant seeds a little earlier. Littlejohn said it’s best to wait until the ground temperature is around 60 degrees fahrenheit. This makes sure the seeds “wake up” and begin to sprout. Some plants, like corn and carrots, can be planted in a little cooler soil though, while okra and similar plants will just sit and rot.