Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!

Gardening season is ramping up in a BIG WAY around here, although it's coinciding with my belly this year since I'm pregnant! Not sure I'll be able to do a lot of the heavier maintenance (which is fine with me!) but I can still pull weeds and transplant tomatoes and such.

Which is what I did on Tax Day, 2009! 19 tomatoes went into the ground, including Green and Black Zebras, Paul Robesons, a Great White, some Thessalonkis, some Cuor di Bues I got in Greece, some Cherokee Purples, some determinate Big Months, some Golden Queens, and a Bonus tomato from a random seed that fell on the floor while I was planting my seeds. Of course I've planted them too close together again, but I vow to keep them well pruned this year (Ha! Well, see!) which should ease up on the space issue. They're in a spot where they should receive 8+ hours of sun, so barring a repeat of last year's rainy, mucky bad weather, we should see a good harvest.

The tomatoes are spaced in a diamond pattern at the bottom of the picture. At the top middle is a small clump of Sylvetta arugula and behind that some flowering kohlrabi and broccoli.

Here you see my awful, terrible, no-good attempt at thinning.

The thinning didn't happen. These are the Great White tomato seedlings. I put two of each seed in each cell. Some died off or didn't sprout. If they did, I still couldn't manage to kill them off, even though I always vow to scrupulously thin each year (and fail). Maybe someday. It's partly that I don't want to kill something that wants to live but it's also because I am a frugal bastard. Instead, when I transplanted the tomatoes, I just separated them as much as I could to get them growing different directions. Then I'll see if I can cage or stake them enough a part to be viable. If not, I may still have to do some hacking...

My tomato seedlings stayed in the cell pack a bit long. I planted them Feb 13 and they came up in the next week or so. I should have moved them into larger pots (or transplanted them into Walls of Water or something) a week or two earlier. Instead they ended up a bit leggy. This is perfectly okay, though, since it's common place to pull off the bottom set of leaves of the tomato plant, trench it, and allow the stem to grow more roots, which strengthens the plant. To trench the plant, dig a sideways trench instead of a deep hole. Lay the plant in there with the roots and stem horizontal to the ground. Cover with soil, leaving the top part of the tomato poking out. The top will turn itself toward the sun in a few hours, leaving it growing in the proper direction. The stem puts out roots, strenthening the whole thing. I also add a teaspon or two of regular Epsom salts and about a tablespoon of bone meal to each hole or trench. This helps with root development and also helps strengthen the plant. For the Rodale's Organic Gardening Encyclopedia told me so.

Here's a full view of the backyard garden.

You can see the wood planks we used to hold down the frost blankets all winter. They'll get put away in the next week or so. In the back left is a huge patch of gorgeous garlic. We planted two pounds worth of Bavarian Purple and Ontario Purple Trillium garlic last October so we're hoping for a big harvest. Garlic takes 9 months - like a baby! - so we've been watching it all winter. Soon...soon.

In front of the garlic are onions and then fava beans (they look lime green in this picture and actually have small favas on them!) followed by more broccoli, then a scrubby looking patch of mesclun (wild lettuce mix) which should spruce up with some sun in the coming weeks. We'll soon be eating salad by the bowlfuls!



To make room for the 14 peppers I have to transplant soon, I'm going to pull some of the broccoli this coming week. The stuff that's flowering will go and I'm thinking about pulling the lush de Cicco specimen on the bottom left because it's doing NOTHING! No broccoli shoots to speak of. I am disappointed! Last year I waited until the end of June to pull them out - they were hole-ridden by stupid cabbage moths at that point! Don't think I'll be that patient this year. I'll probably at least cook up the leaves, though. I'd hate to throw away a perfectly beautiful plant that is edible and tasty.

Then the peppers are going in! The limon peppers bit it during transplant into larger pots this year. Not surprised. Same thing happened last year, but one made a miraculous Lazarus-from-the-dead recovery. That's why I only ended up with one plant last year. I don't think I'll have any limon peppers this year! The rest of the peppers look fine and will be transplanted soon, probably this coming week.

I also re-planted five kinds of winter squash yesterday - jumbo pink banana, Japanese black futsu, Chicago warted hubbard, compost butternut from last year, and buttercup. I don't have high hopes for them since only one of my six plants survived The Horrendous Squash Bug Infestation of Ought-Eight. Here's to hoping this year is better for squash, both summer and winter!

Still plenty to talk about - smothering bermuda with cardboard collars, pimping your soil, growing cucumbers over ugly hedges, and the Sand Springs Herbal Affair '09...more to come!