15 October 2006

Tomato Transplant

Perfect weather today for transplanting: Light drizzly rain.  Not enough to make the soil wet and sticky, not too cold to make outside work unpleasant.

The first Tomato seedlings - Tigerella, Ida Gold, Black Krim and a few Cherokee Purple - are ready to go into the ground.  I'm dubious about the timing of the Cherokee Purple, though.  CP is a medium-large heirloom variety, with a beautiful, purply-browny-red colour, shading to green shoulders, with a wonderful, rich flavour.  Last year was my first trial with them, and they suffered badly from sun-scald.  Later in the season, when the sun was less fierce, they faired much better, so I decided to use them as a late-season harvest, but a few volunteers popped up early this Spring, and I didn't have the heart to weed them out.  Now I have these few very-early plants, and it looks like the coming summer may bring particularly harsh sun.  Not good news for Cherokee Purples.

I have planted another batch for late-season harvest, but I doubt we'll see much fruit off the earlies.

We will have to deal with much more of this sort of uncertainty as the globe warms.  Species that have traditionally been well-adapted to an area may find themselves unsuited to their homes as climate change progresses.  Our only defence is diversity - lots of species, lots of different varieties from different parts of the world.  Especially since we can't predict the direction and severity of change.

I know this goes against the grain for many conservationists.  I grew up in the Cape Floral Kingdom, the geographically smallest, but most diverse per unit area of the world's six floral kingdoms.  Large areas of the Western Cape's indigenous vegetation, and unknown numbers of species, have been lost to alien plants, so we are deeply wary of intriducing strangers into the area.  But, where food plants are concerned, I can see no reason to introduce new varieties of species that have been imported a long time ago.  Then, too, our cultivated food plants tend to be so much less vigorous than wild plants that they stand little hope in competition with endemic species.  Not universally true: Cosmos, Canna, and St Johns Wort have become invasive alien nuisances - but a reasonable generalisation for vegetable species.

Still, with the uncertainties of climate change, variety is our best strategy for coping.   Variety, and accepting that we are likely to suffer some weather-induced losses each year.

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