Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Planting Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant and Other Garden Preparations

Saturday was a hubbub of activity in the garden. We went from 50˚F days early in the week to 80˚F days by the weekend. I don't mind summer weather, but the extreme temperature change along with high humidity is not easy to adjust to and made Friday difficult to work outside. On Saturday however, the sky was overcast and the temperatures were comfortable. Since the humid temperatures were expected to return soon, I took full advantage.

It was foggy and the grass was still wet with dew early Saturday morning. I planted some peppers and eggplants into the previously prepared garden beds. The soaker hose was turned on and allowed to water the bed thoroughly.

Marconi Rosso Pepper


Top Row: Eggplant   Bottom Row: Peppers

I pulled out all the self-watering containers, cleaned them out, refilled them with soil, added fertilizer, filled them with water, and planted the Roma Tomatoes. There are five in all holding two Roma tomato plants each:

Roma Tomato in Self Watering Container

Roma Tomatoes in Self Watering Containers

K joined me later in the afternoon to help me prep the second in-ground bed now that the soil was dried out enough to work. It was tilled and raked smooth. Planting beds were plotted out along with walking paths in between. This bed is where we planted the Dark Red Norland Potatoes.

To the north of the potato bed is the pole bean plot. Two double rows were plotted for the pole beans and a soaker hose was laid:

Pole Bean Beds

The area to the south of the potato bed was planned for some summer and winter squash. But this has changed with the new garden expansion. The squash will be moved to the new garden bed and the quantity increased. This area will now be the tomato overflow bed:

Tomato Overflow Bed

We then moved on to finish up preparing the new garden bed. I worked on shaking the soil out from most of the sod on Friday. While I was laying out the soaker hose on the other bed, K finished up shaking the sod and tilled the new bed.

I worked in some compost and raked the soil smooth, while K extended the fence to enclose the new bed:

I just need to pick up another soaker hose, lay it out and cover the soil with solar mulch and it will be ready for planting. The squash seedlings are more than ready to go:

It was an exhausting but very productive Saturday. I have time off from work this week and am looking forward to finishing up the garden planting.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Garden Expansion

When I arrived home from work Thursday, K had removed the sod for a new 5x20 foot bed.

I recently brought up that I would like to expand the garden in the near future and thought adding to the south of the existing garden would be the best option. I was thinking maybe we would dig the new bed next week when I am on vacation. K decided to surprise me.

According to the neighbors, this part of the yard was garden space at one time. The soil seems to be in really good shape. I began working on shaking out the sod pieces today. No rocks or roots, but I did find a metal spoon and an old plastic plant marker for cauliflower that wasn’t mine. Proof that this soil had a greater purpose then just growing grass.

Before this expansion, the Garden Spot consisted of two in-ground garden beds and six 4x4 Square Foot Gardens amounting to around 500 square feet of growing space. The new bed will add 100 more.

It is going to be a busy weekend :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We Saw Sun Today!!

Last evening it was so cold and damp (mid 40s F) that I lit the woodstove to get the chill out of the house. The local weather people were predicting that today would be warm, but I didn’t believe them as I drove to work in the chilly rain.

Low and behold, early afternoon the sky turned brighter and the sun was out. I walked outside during my lunch hour just to feel the warmth. The sky was mostly cloudy for the rest of the day, but it remained dry and reached 75 degrees F!

The first thing I did when I arrived home from work was check out the seedlings. They have been spending the last week outside day and night and I was worried how they would take the rapid temperature change from 40s to 70s. They looked completely unaffected. So I thought I would pop a few seedlings into the garden.

I began with a few basil and cilantro plants:

Basil and Cilantro

It was so easy that I decided to transplant some bell pepper plants:

Bell Pepper

Bell Peppers

Then I grabbed the San Marazano Tomato seedlings and planted those as well:

San Marazano Tomatoes 

San Marazano Tomatoes

It was so easy as the beds have been prepared for a while now. I am looking forward to Memorial Day weekend when the rest of the garden will be planted.  I hope the sun stays a while.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Harvest Monday: May 23, 2011

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

The garden harvests have officially begun with lettuce and a little bit of pak choi.

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Not much gardening happened over the past week due to the continued rain. We saw some sun on Saturday, but it didn’t last long as more showers rolled in and stayed for a while. I dodged the rain showers on Sunday and planted out some, parsley, sage, dill, and cucumbers.

The weather still looks rainy in the next week or so, but temperatures are predicted to warm up and we may see some sun on Wednesday.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Planting Potatoes the "Grow Biointensive" Way: Part 2

Last weekend was a very productive one in the garden. Before the rainy week began, we tilled the in-ground gardens, prepared the pepper bed, planted the Kennebec Potatoes, and Dark Red Norland potatoes.

The Dark Red Norland potato bed was dug a little differently than the Kennebec. We began by digging out the entire bed down to 12-inches, aerating the soil with the Mantis tiller to a depth of another 12-inches (for a total of 24-inches), added compost and fertilizer, used a bulb planter to be sure the seed was planted 9-inches deep, planted the entire bed, then covered with soil.

Digging out the Potato Bed 12-inches

Aerating the Soil another 12-inches with the Mantis tiller

Worked in Compost and Fertilizer to the Soil, then Leveled Off

Used Bulb Planter to Plant Seed 9-inches Below Soil Level

Topped with Soil and Leveled Off

In the book, The Sustainable Vegetable Garden, John Jeavons suggests that staking potatoes helps the plants to remain upright creating a microclimate to keep the plants and soil cooler. So we added four poles in the corners of each bed and will string some cotton twine to provide some support as the plants grow. This will also keep the plants from flopping into the walking paths.

I kept feeling that I was late in planting potatoes this year, but looked back through this blog and found that I am only a few weeks off. Last year, I began harvesting young potatoes by July 4th. So hopefully by mid July we will enjoy home grown potatoes again.

It has rained all week and it looks like it will continue for the next week as well. The rest of the in-ground garden bed containing the Dark Red Norland potatoes still needs to be to prepped for planting the beans and squash.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Update on the Pepper Seedlings

The Pepper seedlings were spending most days outside enjoying some sunshine. Night temperatures are still cold, so the seedlings are shuffled inside each night and shuffled outside in the morning. Unfortunately, not much sunshine this week. Rain is supposed to continue through the upcoming weekend.

Here are some updated photos of the peppers:

Marconi Rosso

Marconi Rosso

California Wonder Bell

California Wonder Bell

Quadrato Rosso D'Asti

Quadrato Rosso D'Asti





Some pepper seedlings are a little behind the others. I had a tough time getting some older seeds to germinate. Hopefully they will catch up. I had the easiest germination with the Marconi Rosso and Quadrato Rosso D’Asti. These were from Granny :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Preparing the Pepper Beds

It was a busy weekend in the garden preparing the in-ground gardens for planting. Once the Kennebec potatoes were planted, the rest of the plot was prepared for the peppers.

The garden was tilled with the Mantis to aerate the soil and blend in the compost. The soil was raked smooth and 3.5 foot wide planting beds for the peppers and walking paths in between were plotted out. The paths in between were tamped down with my feet giving me solid footing to walk in between the planting rows. Then, soaker hoses were laid out:

The plot was blanketed with solar mulch. Before laying the solar mulch down, I used a drill and a small drill bit to drill numerous holes through the solar mulch about 3-inches apart. This will allow some air and rainwater to go through the mulch. The solar mulch is used to help warm the soil, conserve moisture, and keep the weeds down:

Small cages were put in place to support the peppers as they grow. These also help hold the solar mulch down:

Depending on the weather, the peppers will be planted into the garden around Memorial Day weekend.

The second potato plot was also planted over the weekend and will be shown in a later in the week. Unfortunately, the rest of the second in-ground garden will have to wait until next weekend to be prepared. Rain began late Saturday afternoon and is expected to continue all week. At least the garden will be watered.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Planting Potatoes the "Grow Biointensive" Way: Part 1

As I mentioned in previous posts, I am trying new method of growing potatoes this year. Over the winter months, I did my research on the garden philosophy of “Grow Biointensive.” The spacing for potato is 9-inches centers by 9-inches deep while double digging. No hilling is required. The rows are planted in an offset, or hexagonal spacing. The closer spacing helps maximize space and reduce water loss.

The potato section of the in-ground garden was layered with compost, tilled, and leveled off. A row was dug about 12 inches deep and the soil placed into a wheelbarrow.

A digging fork is used to loosen the soil in the trench to a depth of another 12 inches, which helps allow oxygen into the soil and permits the roots to penetrate easier.

I tried using a digging fork, but then opted to use our Mantis tiller. Held in place, it easily aerated the soil down another 12-inches. I double-checked with a digging fork to be sure.

Once the soil was aerated, fertilizer and compost were added and worked into the loosened soil.

The soil was really fluffed up by the Mantis, so I used a bulb planter to be sure the potatoes were planted 9-inches below the soil level. I used a 9-inch stick to check myself along the way.

Then the seed potatoes were spaced out 9-inch centers using the stick as a guide.

The center location of each row was marked along the edges with sticks so the next row could be measured out. The soil from the next row was used to cover the first. I tried to offset plant the rows, but found once they were covered, I had to guess the location.

Once the bed was planted, we added the reserved soil from the wheelbarrow, leveled it off, and laid soaker hoses:

The bed was then mulched with straw to help conserve moisture and keep the weeds down:

I didn’t follow the “Grow Biointensive” method exactly (double digging is HARD). I also didn’t use a digging board, which is recommended to help distribute your weight so you don’t compact the soil. We have one more potato bed to plant and I am thinking of modifying the method a bit further.