Pat Dockins

Master Gardener

I’M DREAMING OF … No, not of a white Christmas but of gardens filled with tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans — of beautiful flower gardens with butterflies flittering about and bees a buzzing.

If you’re a gardener like my husband Jim and I, on these cold dreary days we start dreaming of planting our own garden and also plants for sale at the Lawn & Garden Expo.

As we ponder over seed catalogs, questions arise like, “Should we try this variety?”  Or, “How about this variety, it worked well last year.” “Look at this one, let’s give it a try.”

The 2010 Lawn & Garden Expo sponsored by the Ellis County Master Gardeners will be held on March 27. In the plant sales area we will have a nice variety of tomato and pepper plants along with the perennials that we sell.

This year the variety of tomatoes we will be offering are Better Boy, BHN 444, Celebrity, Champion II, Early Girl, Homesweet, Juliet, Porter, Sungold, and Sweet Million.

Better Boy has large crops of bright red 12 to 16 ounce fruit that is smooth and flavorful. It is one of the best tasting tomatoes available.

Celebrity is a 1984 All America Selections Winner. This plant produces exceptionally flavorful fruit 8 to 12 ounces and is outstandingly disease resistant. It produces large clusters of consistently large, beautiful tomatoes.

Early Girl is our favorite. It produces heavy yields of meaty, red fruits, 4 to 6 ounces. It’s the first of the season to produce and last year was still producing at the time of frost.

 In fact, we pulled all the green tomatoes and are still enjoying them as they ripen.

Among the cherry varieties we have: Juliet that is a favorite of many, Sungold, a very early and heavy cropper, and Sweet Million, a super-sweet cherry variety that is disease resistant.

Now to go along with those tomatoes every gardener should have some peppers.

Among the peppers we’ve selected this year in the sweet-bell category are old favorites, Big Bertha and California Wonder. We’ve also ordered seed for yellow and orange peppers that we hope to have ready in time to sell.  In the non-bell category we offer Sweet Banana and Pimento.  If you want hot we’ll have Jalapa, a variety of jalapeno.

The bells, Big Bertha and California Wonder, start out in a deep green and turn to red as the fruit matures. California Wonder has a blocky shape that makes it a nice stuffer.

Sweet Banana is a very popular pepper excellent fresh or cooked.  Pimiento is heart shaped, mild and as the fruit matures turns from dark green to deep red making it ideal for salads, garnishes and canning.

Jalapa, named for the Mexican town where jalapeno peppers originated, is our offering for hot peppers. It has compact plants with high yields.

So, come on down to the Expo March 27 we will have lots to entice you. If our tomatoes and peppers don’t we’re hoping our beautiful perennials will.

For further information about the lawn and garden exposition, contact the Ellis County Master Gardeners at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, 701 South Interstate 35E, Suite 3, Waxahachie, or call 972-825-5175 or e-mail: ellis-tx@tamu.edu.