My kids got the first two ripe tomatoes out of my miniature organic garden this year. A bird got number three. Maybe if my scarecrow had: "Birds: They're What's for Dinner" on his cap instead of the Beef slogan, the sparrows, mockingbirds and jays would think twice before pecking my tomatoes.

But I can't really complain. I planted "sweet million" tomatoes this year. My gardening guru Jim Sherman suggested them. If you grow celebrities or beefsteak tomatoes in a tiny raised bed like mine, a couple of bird pecks can wipe out your entire crop. But when you grow little cherry or grape size tomatoes like sweet millions, the birds can take out a couple here and there and you still have plenty.

Sweet millions are getting more and more popular--they are harder to find every year. I got mine in March at Joshua's Native Plants at 502 W. 18th St. just off Shepherd in the Heights (713-862-7444). Joshua's has one of the best selections of pepper seedlings in town. I also bought a few unusual herbs there. My culantro plants are looking very good. And if you like Vietnamese food, you can never have too much culantro.

It's a little late for planting tomatoes, but a perfect time for starting some peppers and herbs.

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