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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Garden 2010! A much-needed (?) update

Well, it's been about a month since my last update. I've gotten way busy with my other website venture ( and almost forgot about this one.

So, a month later... this time I'll just try recapping everything and then toss the photos at the bottom. Just for a change in pace. And because I'm extra lazy today.

The tomatillos have almost all gone from flower to husk but they're still (very) slowly filling those husks in. Most of the fruit is still smaller than a cherry tomato. I've gotten several red tomatoes off the vine (probably 7-8 now) and perhaps two dozen yellow pears. The reds have slowly gotten their good flavoring (the earliest handful tasted gross) and the yellow pears are growing into it as well. So far, I haven't had anything from the garden that's FABULOUS, which makes me sad.

I harvested a lot of basil and we've had half a dozen pesto dinners from it. I still have a little basil left which will be harvested in the next couple of days for another (smaller) batch. It seems that my soil mixture was so awful in my herb garden that the turnips are all about two millimeters in diameter and my radishes are only slightly larger (but aren't good). My green onions have also been unable to flourish, leaving me solely with basil from those three boxes. When I pulled out the basil I replanted some green (and purple) bush beans that I didn't manage to get off the vine quickly enough -- they were too hard to comfortably eat but apparently great for replanting.

My bucket tomatoes are still green on the vine but boy are those vines huge! Several of them are several feet taller than I am (putting them at 7-8 feet). My blueberries have pretty well shriveled up this season. I imagine that part of this is due to not wintering well (I should have thrown some burlap over them) and part of it due to my irrigation system being broken for a month without my noticing. Our arborvitae are also struggling, but I think we'll be able to bring them back. I hope! My raspberry didn't fruit last year and hasn't fruited this year, but it has grown a rather long vine. My blackberry put out four or five long and thick canes from which I've picked about a dozen large, ripe, and the sweetest of berries. The only thing that I lament about the berry plants is that it will take an extremely long time before I can get multiple pints (or quarts) of fruit per season -- and to be honest, we probably won't be in this house when it happens.

I'm also very disappointed with my soaker hose in the garden: it doesn't have a problem with water pressure at the end but for whatever reason, most of the water is rolling off the hill away from the roots. This may be due to the soil mixture (which is similar to that in the herb garden) being poor. Next year....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another day in my garden...

Well, I've backdated this one too. Why? Why backdate EVERY single entry in this blog? Well, I want the blog dates to match the dates the photos were taken. It's a lot easier to look back at the garden's progression that way. Also, I'm far too lazy to write the blog on the same day that I take the pictures. It just won't happen.

So, as you can see, my tomatillos have gotten quite a bit bigger and bushier. Each of the stalks has several forks which are approaching 5 feet long...I wasn't planning on putting up any sort of other stakes/ties, but I think I may have to do that now!

For all of the tomatoes, we ended up with a variation on the Florida weave. Every plant is staked up the center, then additional stakes were placed on either side and between the tomato plants so that the string could alternate between them. It looks something like this from above:
.* *
.x x
* * *
.x x
* * *
.x x
* * *
.x x
.* *
*=stake, x=tomato plant, .=spacer for this post (I'm html illiterate, what can I say)

So far it seems to be working out rather well. The plants are something like 6-7 feet tall and each branch has gotten heavy enough to lean on various intersections of string. Hopefully it will hold! Also, hopefully there's enough room for us to get in there and harvest! As of this time, there are only a few dozen tiny green tomatoes. I think we won't harvest until mid-August at this rate.

My peppers have all grown up quite a bit. Above is a view of the jalapenos. The tiny plant on the right is a weed that replaced my caterpillar-eaten serrano :( I think the tall plant second to the right is also a serrano.

Here is a view of my poblanos, starting to catch up to the jalapenos and serrano. With any luck, there will be chile rellenos aplenty in a month or two!

I have a shot of one of my bucket tomatoes. For the most part, they all look like this but it's hard to see in the photo (green leaves on green leaves) -- they're all really quite big, but because they're off on their own in a bucket I haven't been able to do the weave. I actually ended up taking some extra stakes and adding one to each bucket to give some additional support. Unfortunately, these bucket tomatoes are all mortage lifters and other LARGE tomatoes so it's going to be a headache keeping the plant from falling over!

Here's my herb garden. Apparently the sun came out since my last post; the basil is all in full swing and the turnips and radishes are doing a bit better. I don't think my radishes are ever going to live up to their 29-day cycle, but someday they might fatten up enough to eat. You can BARELY see the green onions behind the turnips in the second box; the boxes in this particular order have ended up shading the lower boxes. We'll have to fix that at the end of the season (the soil in the boxes is WAYYY too thick anyway, it needs to be mixed with some sand).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Garden 2010! (Part 2)

I'm back-posting this entry because...well, I'm lazy :(

Here are some photos from about 2 weeks after the last entry.

Here you can see that the tomatillos and tomatoes have grown up a bit (though not a lot); they've about doubled in size. The peppers haven't done much at all in these two weeks except get eaten by slugs. Along the left you can see some weeds sticking out where beans might be (again, slugs devoured the starter leaves).

My rose bush (from last year) has come up quite a lot; eventually it will have a nice trellis to climb, but for now it's just hanging out with some bamboo.

Here's a close shot of the tomatillos; you can see them slowly climb up the stakes; tomatoes are in the row immediately behind.

My orange-bucket tomatoes are slowly getting bigger too. Not bad for left-over seedlings :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Garden 2010! (Part 1)

There's hardly anything left from last year's garden except for strawberries. Unlike last year, these guys have grown TALL actively reaching for the sun. It's a very neat look, I think.

This year I decided to completely change my garden orientation. Instead of 4 long rows, I have 4 short rows. Sounds worse, right? Well, technically I do have fewer plants in the garden, but last year it was too tight.

Last year, we used these flimsy cheap tomato cages. Given that I couldn't find any more robust cages, and building some stronger cages would be prohibitively expensive (even cattle wire is too expensive), we decided to try something different...very different. For starters, each of the tomato plants is staked so that the center mass of the plant will be supported. In a couple of weeks, we'll put down some other stakes and wind twine around them to fashion a three-dimensional Florida weave (of sorts) around them so that their limbs are also well supported. Why not just do this latter thing? Well, it will be a few weeks (or more) before they're large enough (wide enough) to require this other support, and I think this will be better. We'll see :)

From closest to farthest in the photo above, we have serrano and jalapeno peppers, then a row of poblano peppers, then a variety of cherry tomatoes (yellow plum on the right, then from a mixed packet for the other three), then four bloody butcher heritage tomatoes, then four tomatillos.

The peppers won't have this special weave, but we will do a standard Florida weave; you can see the stakes on either end of the row in anticipation of this.

Along the fence on the left are bush beans that haven't quite sprouted up through the fabric yet. We planted two plastic stakes on either end and ran some twine in anticipation of them; they probably won't get as tall as the stakes are, but..oh well :)

Along the fence at the bottom of the picture (where you can't see) are carrots that haven't quite poked out yet). Along the fence on the right are weeds :P

As far as the garden's architecture is concerned, each row has soaker hose running its length (as well as some along the fence-line), then garden fabric was put down and cypress mulch on top of that. Hopefully this will keep the ground warm and moist and prevent requiring a lot of watering. The watering is all on a timer; right now it's daily for a half-hour at 6am and it seems to be working pretty well. The butchers have grown about 3 or 4 inches since I put them in the ground last week. The peppers are doing well too, but some bug has been eating their leaves; I got some insecticide soap spray today and some slugbait. Hopefully between the two, I won't have any more holey leaves. One of my serranos was still a wee seedling when I put it in the ground; whatever bug it was ate all of its leaves (I don't think it will survive).

I started almost all these plants (except the tomatillos) back in March in our basement closet with some 4 foot grow lights in shop-light fixtures. Naturally, we started more plants than we'd have room for in the garden "just in case"...but because we can't throw away anything, we decided to throw the remaining EIGHT tomato plants into irrigated buckets and threw them in the landscaping where they won't kill the lawn. These are predominantly mortgage lifters; for some reason, they weren't doing so great when it came time to plant so I didn't put any of them in the garden. We'll see how they turn out! You'll notice that there are only 6 orange buckets...there's also a black bucket that I doubled-up because I ran low on soil. We'll see how that works out (I imagine not so great!)

Last but not least, we wanted a place to put some herbs and other small plants. The house came with a small planter box (the smaller older-looking one in the picture below) and we decided to make two more and tier them. We opted to make them match the length of the deck rather than the length of the prior box. Each of the new boxes is approximately 8'x1'x1'. From top to bottom, we have two kinds of basil, then turnips and green onions, then radishes and cilantro.

We'll probably end up replacing the smaller box with another cedar box eventually (and maybe the deck too), but that's a project for another day/year.

I'll post updated pictures in about two weeks so you can see how they've grown!