Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tomato Time

A potato tower and the first planted potatoes

The sprouted beets and the radish markers
The parsnips pushing up
The future tomato crop
Pole placement
Pole pounding - tough and noisy
Rows ready for anchor twine

I planted three each of my fourteen varieties.
Here is the finished planting with some repeats and our favorites in the last row.
Time to cover peas with soil to keep their roots cool
The compost bin is filling with leafy garden refuse.

A very busy week. Many planted seeds are sprouting nicely. The parsnips broke ground and the beets have too. The spinach crop is almost over. Last falls planted spinach has provided us with a harvest since March and we have been eating it at least five times a week. I hate to make it into compost but I need the space for a pepper crop. Radishes and lettuce planted this spring are also part of the our harvest along with the sorrel which is bolting so that those seed stalks need to be removed to keep the plants producing edible leaves.

This years tomato crop is in the ground. I have five rows of twelve plants per row for a total of sixty tomatoes - yes sixty! We will enjoy every one of those tomatoes as fresh, juice, frozen, or dried. I added another row this year because the plants I grew were so good I hated not to give them space. I gave a fair number of plants away at garden club on Wednesday and still have few more that I will pass along if I can. Everyone has space for just one more tomato plant. As the photos show we do a post and string method to keep the plants growing vertically and use our space efficiently. As I go along I will show each step of the process. For now, the rows have four iron posts with twine secured on the bottom to act as an anchor string for the vertical strings that will later support the growing tomatoes. As I add more strings and wind the tomatoes up the strings, I will show you how I do that; along with the way to remove the suckers that the plant produces. I stopped using cages years ago. I did not find that method near as productive as this string method and even with pruning to two leaders per cage, I still did not like the production. Additionally, I had all those bulky cages to store in the garden all winter. This post and string method works so much better for me.

We are also attempting to grow potatoes vertically this year. I have started two towers and will keep you posted as to how that is going. I developed the tower by making a sandwich of straw and compost and as I add potatoes I intend to add more layers of straw and compost. I think each tower will have eight to ten plants. We have, I think, six or eight varieties of potatoes to go into our towers. This weeks planting is Princess LaRatte Fingerling potato.
The apple flowers have all fallen and so I did my first and only spray application this week. To attempt to foil the plum curculio I sprayed my trees with Sevin. I will begin bagging the fruit as it sizes in another week. Three of the grafts seem to have taken but a few more weeks will be needed to see what really has happened. I always hope for the top graft to take but that is not always the case.

The bagged of the apples will be the subject of one post with a video to help you see how we do the selecting of the fruit and bagging of the apples. One spray application means our apples do not qualify as organic fruit. But as the fruit is bagged to prevent other pest damage, I feel it qualifies for what could be called an ECO-apple. The process is as close to pesticide free as I can make it in my garden. I have been bagging apples for the last eight to nine years and have had good success with this process. In the next two weeks it is very important to keep the plum curculios off your fruit so that you can bag the best fruits that have been pollinated. This might mean a single spray application. But, if you bag your apples, that will be the ONLY spray you will need. Traditionally, home-grown un-bagged apples have been subjected to bi-weekly spraying during the growing season. I feel the "spray once and bag" method works far better for our family.

This week I am off to Canada so I will have a skip in the blog as I will be - GONE FISHING
Happy Gardening

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beets and Broccoli and Compost Bins

Compost Bin in the making

Make the notch to fit the board you are using
Planting board to make beet rows
Beet seed and radish marker seeds

Covering the seed with potting soil for easy germination

Back side of carpet showing hole and side cut
Top side
Barriers in place in planted rows of broccoli

Our spring is moving right along. The second crop of bunnies is out and about and the season's first mosquito found my arm yesterday and had a quick snack. What little rain we had this week really did not make much of a difference to growing plants. A good soaking would be appreciated.

Planting continued this week with beets, a white and a cylindrical variety, and I also positioned the cucumber trellis so I could plant around it. Cucumbers will not be started for a while yet but having the trellis in place marks that spot in the garden and I can plant lettuce in that space. Broccoli raab transplants along with lettuce were also transplanted under another trellis and with the spinach and arugula fast approaching maturity it is time to set up a compost bin.

The compost bin will be filled with any and most vegetative materials and because of the way it is built will grown as it is filled. The boards are three feet long and notched so that the bin stacks like "Lincoln logs" (to date myself). I usually have several bins and will sift the material from last year and re-compost the materials that did not completely break down. Six foot fence material is good stock to use to make this kind of bin.

Beets were planted in short rows, 6ft., and I mark the rows again with radish seeds. I also cover the seed with potting soil to allow for better water retention and an easier way for the seed to break through as my soil has a tendency to crust and make seed eruption difficult. The pictures show my procedure. Some thinning will be necessary after germination. The radishes will be allowed to grow to maturity as they are much faster than the beets

I also planted broccoli. We removed carpet from one of the bedrooms and it was just perfect for making root maggot barriers for my broccoli transplants. I cut 6 inch squares and punched a hole in the center and cut from the hole to the side. I place these around the stem of the transplants and they do a fine job of protecting from root maggots which are hard to deter now that a range of pesticides that dealt with them is no longer available. I have used this method in the past with good success and the broccoli plants don't seem to mind the pads. The pads are tough and will last a long time. However, no sooner than I got the row planted but a white cabbage butterfly was observed hovering around the plants. That's when the butterfly net is hung in the garden. It is tough to net all these pests but each one removed is a whole generation of eating machines that will not be around to feast on my plants. This week's video shows the planting for the broccoli and the application of the carpet root maggot barrier.

Tomato planting time is fast approaching as the ground warms. We use a post and string method to grow the tomato crop vertically so look forward to that process in the next post.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Parsnips and Onions for the future

The sweet smell of the V. carlesii
The onion seedlings planted out in their rows

The onion transplants and lettuce ( parsnips on the far right)
The onion sets and lettuce
Making the holes

Sand in the holes
Potting soil in the holes

Parsnip seed
The finished parsnips
The lettuce in between the parsnips

Planning ahead means that next winter's onions and the parsnips need to be planted now that the Viburnum carlesii is blooming. I have special techniques for each of these plants.

I did have some onions sets, the onions that were too small to eat from last years crop that I stored in the crawl space in my basement, and planted them a few weeks ago for the lettuce video. My other onions were seeded and grown in community flats until planting time. As the pictures show, I plant them thickly in the flats and then plant them in bunches in the garden. This allows me to harvest clumps of onions as a thinning process. As the videos shows, I rinse off the seedlings and plant them in soft ground about 2-3 inches apart. Later I came back and planted some lettuce in the space between the rows. I planted five rows of four onions and one seed shallot - Trailblazer, Derby, Red Marble Cippolini, and Olympus Shallot. I also planted Ailsa Craig exhibition onion. This variety is labeled as very large, so these transplants were planted in between the main rows and I still have a few more to plant out when the main garden gets tilled in the next week. I will harvest green onions from these rows all season long. I like this "water rinse " planting method because it is easy to tease the seedlings apart , they go into the soil with nice roots and seem to keep right on growing even though they have been transplanted.

Parsnips need more work. In my heavy ground I need to do some preparation to get nice big parsnips. I use a old barbell pole and punch cones in the ground. This year I made fourteen holes eighteen inches deep. Into the very bottom I put some play sand I had from last winter and then I filled the hole with potting soil as it holds moisture and is easy for parsnip seed to grow in. I plant the seed, which I buy fresh every year, into the center liberally as shown, and then to mark the parsnips, I plant radish seeds. The parsnips take over 20 days to sprout but the radish are up in 5 so I use them to mark the spots. I will later thin the parsnips to one plant for each space, the radishes will have been harvested by thinning time. I also mark the row with lettuce in the spaces between the parsnips and they will also be harvested before the parsnips get real big and fill the space with their long leaves. The parsnips will stay in this space till harvested in December or later in the winter and spring of 2010. Always planning for the next harvest.

Susan and I were part of two plant sales this year. The combined NEW Master Gardeners/Green Bay Gardeners Club sale and the UWGB tomato and pepper sale. Both events were well attended and we saw many happy people with their plant treasures. I made 85 divisions of perennial plants for one sale and helped with the planting and labeling of many tomatoes and peppers for the other. My peppers and tomatoes are in the cold frames for the next few weeks to acclimatize themselves to the cool nights and bright days waiting for their transplant into the garden. I always have something to do in the garden, seeds to plant, transplants to pot, planning to do so our harvest will continue for as long as possible in the growing season. Planning and planting are part of the fun that is growing a vegetable garden.

Happy Gardening

Onion Seedling Planting

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Apple Blossoms and Orioles

The first apple flowers of the season
Short rows planted in a cold frame of spinach and arugula and the cold frame was removed
This is the main spinach crop planted last November.
French sorrel plants from seed last season - a great perennial green

This is French sorrel that is four years old and still doing real well.

Burr Oak catkins so we will have a acorns this year for sure....

The Baltimore Orioles are back this week just as the apples are starting to bloom. That means the grape jelly will go even faster than it has. I have seen more than orioles at the feeder. House sparrows, Black Grackles, and even my Cardinal has stopped by for some. Our Mothers Day meal was a very nice Sorrel quiche made from both of the sorrel leaves above. Sorrel is a really nice garden green. Make sure that as you grow it you do not let it go to seed. Remove the seed heads all summer and the plant will reward you with vigorous growth for repeat seasons.

Today was transplant day for second seeding tomatoes and peppers. I had 144 plants that needed to go into bigger post so that was done today. Most of last weeks herbs are up and moving along - mostly basil and thyme. I think its time for another seeding of lettuce as the two flats in the cold frames are ready for planting in the garden. Most of the seed potatoes are here and I still am working on a cage method. I would like to salvage materials instead of shelling out $$$ so we will see. I will review what is still left in the seed box and decide what needs to be planted. I think most of what is left is for direct seeding in the garden.

I made a presentation Wednesday at my local YMCA to their AOA (Active Older Adults). I gave them a PowerPoint on basic gardening and from the feedback I felt that people got some good hints and I hope if they have questions they use the blog as a way to get them answered - then everybody can learn.

This week pictures show some progress in the garden. Today's salad was made with lettuce planted last fall and wintered in a cold frame so now is a great time to get those season extenders built and then you can use them this season and all next winter.

Happy Gardening

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grafting 2009 - Four New Apples

Since 2002 I have obtained scion wood and grafted different variates of apples on my one semi-dwarf and two dwarf trees. When our apple harvest begins in August through October we are harvesting many different kinds of apples from our trees not just three kinds of fruit. Grafting is not a difficult task and some years my success is better than others. This year I was interested in taking a main branch of the tree and making a complete "red fleshed" apple bearing branch. I obtained four new scion varieties from Maple Valley Orchards and Nursery in Gillett, Wisconsin (920-842-2904, Plant and Fruit sales seasonally). The process of cleft grafting is relatively simple and I will use the above pictures set to show what I did.

I selected four branches about one to two inches. I sawed the branch to leave a three to four inch stub. I used a clean knife and split the branch. Then using a screwdriver I opened the split to receive the scions. I bevel cut the scions and inserted them into the split making as much contact with the cambium layer (the living tissue of the plant) as possible. I then seal the graft with a stretchy electrical tape and coat the graft with a safe tree sealer (TREEKOTE - grafting compound). I will check for the first week to make sure that the grafting compound does not shrink and allow air into the graft. With luck both of the grafted scions will sprout and then I will cut off one of them - but I always do two. My hope is that the top graft to be the one to keep as I feel this makes for a stronger branch.

Grafting is not difficult. All our fruit trees and most of our deciduous landscape and street trees are grafted stock so the process is relatively simple and done in mass production. So read up, take a class, and do some experimenting with grafting.

Happy Gardening