Monday, May 31, 2010

"EARTHBOX" and More Experimentation

No name miniature potted rose
The new garden space double dug at last.

84 tomatoes in place. The next job will be to start them growing vertically.
Apollo broccoli
Root maggot carpet guard that will expand as the plants grow
I use an old weight bar to punch my parsnip holes
Compost in the hole.
Topped off will potting soil and seeded with parsnips while inter planted with lettuce.
The smaller holes are for the salsify.
Beet transplants ready for a short 5 ft row.
The beets were thinned to 2 plants cell.
These are the survivors of the first graft attempt.
The graft union.
This graft union could be more complete but I think with growth it will close off.
The EARTHBOX false bottom with water reservoir.
This is the fill tube that one uses.
My soil mix was half compost and half potting mix.
Filled EARTHBOXs ready for planting.
Peppers planted and this experiment begins.

A week ago today my garden thermometer registered 96 degrees - that's a WOW for May in Wisconsin. Plus we are back into the "no rain" cycle of last year - not good even though the rain barrels are still full, more than two weeks without precipitation is not good for garden work.
The enlargement of the garden space is complete for now. I double dug the new space. The sod is at the bottom of the turned earth and I got down to the hard compacted clay subsoil that was really dry and hard. The plan now is to plant in this new ground some of the vine crops and maybe the cardoons as I have plenty of seedlings. Then in the fall, I will add the peat moss and hopefully the sod will have had a chance to deteriorate and make the tilling a bit easier. I will have to be on the lookout for some more straw as the four bales in the little house will just about do the tomatoes and potatoes.

I had one of the best tomato seedling crops I have had in a long time. The plants were healthy strong and ready to go into the ground this weekend - early by a week for me. I took the flats out the the space and thought I did a good job of deciding what should go where. Planting was fun and the ground was really hot. I planted away and then started to ask - where is that plant? And - where are those seedlings? It was then I realized that I was missing a whole flat of plants and the rows were full! So I pulled plants and replanted with my missing plants. I sure hope my notes are right after this. The final count is 84 plants in the tomato patch. Yes, they are rather close but because they are grown vertically I think I can get away with it. Only time and harvest will tell. Besides, we like tomatoes; we really like tomatoes.

I got my potatoes late again this year. I will have to remember to get them before May 1st next year. I cut them and let them dry and planted them early in the week. Sorry I forgot to get pictures but I spaced my potato pieces about 6 inches apart in my trenches. I have the soil mounded on one side to pull in as the plants grow. The varieties are Carola, Inca Gold, All Red, and a French Fingerling. The last two varieties are the ones I am most interested in because of the color of the tuber flesh. I did not use the tower method of last year because I was not happy with the results. I did not save as much space as I thought and the plants on the south side of the tower shaded the plants on the north side. As a result I am back to trying rows and because potatoes are not high on the food list here we will just have to see if this is a crop that will stay in the garden. I planted broccoli this week in a row next to the potatoes. I used the root maggot guards that I made last year around the base of each plant. These are made from the carpet we removed last season. The carpet will expand as the broccoli stem grows but will protect the plant from root maggots that lay their eggs on the carpet and when the eggs hatch they cannot get into the soil by the stem and later in the season destroy the crop. They worked well last year and should again.

I also got the parsnip row seeded with Javelin Hybrid. I will include a short video showing how I make the hole for the roots to grow into. We really love parsnips as the first entry of 2010 shows. This year I had enough screened compost to fill the holes with instead of potting soil. I used the potting mix in the top several inches and again sowed radish seeds in the spots to help mark the parsnip site till the seed sprouts - about 20 days later. I inter-planted with lettuce and in another row I am experimenting with salsify, done the same way. I punched holes for this root crop and sowed the seed thick and will thin as the plants grow. I even punched holes for my daikon radishes that are in a cold frame. Another root crop that was planted this week were the beet transplants. Last year I transplanted both beets and carrots and the success was good enough to try that again. The beets are a cylinder beet called Rodina and the carrots are the a short round type; Parisienne is the first try and I have some other seed that I will try later.

The experiment with grafted tomatoes is on-going. The pictures included show some of the result. I grafted a dozen plants and by now I have four that seem to have taken. Not too bad a result - 30% - much better than nothing. I replanted seed and am going to go at it again. I figure I have all summer to get the grafting part right and then I think I can manage the planting part. Even if I don't get a fruiting plant this summer as long as I have the technique worked out I can continue the experiment next summer. But for now I am happy that any seemed to have grown. I did learn several things on this first try. One: make the cut on the root stock below the cotyledons so they do not grow as several did and thus causing the scion to not take. Two: remove more leaves from the scion as the amount of leaves that the scion can support till the graft takes is minimal. Thirdly: graft smaller; my roots stock was just too big and thus my clips did not fit properly. So next time I will graft smaller diameter stock and hope for better results.

This season we are using the commercial "EARTHBOX" for some patio pepper plants. I have seen the product in production in Florida and was amazed at just what was capable in these containers. The system has a water reservoir in the bottom that makes watering plants more efficient. I filled my boxes with a mixture of potting mix and compost and the half of the fertilizer and soil amenities supplied by the manufacturer. The wheelbarrow full of soil was my mixing site and even with that much I need to make an additional small batch of soil to fill the second box. I let them sit for a week and planted a mixture of peppers in them - Franks, Gourmet, Carmen, and Healthy Choice - all sweet types. They will be in front of the greenhouse when the cold frames are moved out and along with he fig tree should make for an nice display and hopefully a good crop of peppers not plagued by slugs or earwigs.
Happy Gardening

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tomato Grafting with Pictures

Red Peach is my root stock for this grafting experiment.
One kind of plastic grafting clip

I trimmed the cotyledons off, and the next set of leaves.

I cut the scion and trimmed off leaves here, too.
To get my cut angles the same, I positioned both stems together and made a new cut.
When you make the cut remember which is the scion top.
I placed the clip on the scion.
Then, I brought the two cut surfaces together.

The grafted plants went into a propagation chamber.
They must be kept warm, moist, and covered for several days as the stems grow together.
The chamber is covered here with a black plastic bag
And darkened for what is recommended - 4-5 days - after that we will see.....

Earlier this season, as I was reading my seed catalogs, and I came across a page devoted to tomato grafting seed stock and supplies. Imagine my surprise: What? - why graft tomatoes?
Well all you have to do is Google the topic and the answers will appear. This is a horticultural procedure that began in the 1920's in Japan and Korea and has continued ever since. Major portions of vegetable crops in Asia and even in this country are now being grown from grafted stock. Even the tomato farmers in Missouri have Internet information about grafting tomatoes and why they are using the process. You can even buy grafted plants at some English gardening catalog sites for this the second year of such offerings.

As a result of these findings, I decided to give this procedure a try. My experience with apple grafting has been acceptable so why not try these herbaceous plants. I watched as many on line videos as possible. I got a few grafting clips and located some aquarium tubing along with some razor blades as my cutting tool. The root stock I choose was some of my own seed - my Red Peach tomato. I choose this one because as a producer, this plant really makes a great root system and just keeps growing all season long. I have to cut the tops off the plants to get all the fruit set to ripen in the fall. For grafting stock, I chose some of my old seed just as trial - Sugary, Grubs, and Pineapple. As you go through the pictures above, realize that this is my first time doing this grafting and as in anything - practice makes perfect.

I grew the root stock and the scion stock; trimmed off the cotyledons and cut both stems together so as to get the same angle of cut; slipped the clips or cut tubes over the scion and then onto the root stock; misted them well and placed them into a tray with dome cover under black plastic just like the directions in most of the sites suggested. I used a heat mat to keep the chamber warm and mist the inside at least twice a day. After 4 or 5 days I will get to see if anything took.

Take a moment to go to the Johnny's Selected Seeds web site and watch the tomato grafting clip there - this guy has been doing grafting for many years! It's like someone has been doing all this fun garden stuff in secret.
I did some other gardening this week to but the grafting was the most challenging and most exciting.

Happy Gardening

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Double Digging the Garden

Alliums of spring- onions at their best.
One more lilac of this spring.
Bleeding hearts are just neat flowers.
The start of double digging the new garden space.
Compare the pelletized lettuce seed to the regular seed..
Which do you think is easier to plant?
Two seed per/cell for transplanting lettuce.
Seven varieties of lettuce planted in cells for future transplants - I love this system.
My naturalized Jack-in-the-Pulpits.
I still have apple blossoms wanting BEES!!!
This is last years parsley edging that we have this spring before I plant a new edge.
Pulling soil in on the peas.
Mulched and staked with apple water spouts from March tree prunings.

Busy week here in the garden. The pictures show some of what is happening. Along with seeding more lettuce, getting the cucumbers and melons started in peat pots, transplanting peppers and basil, we decide on the new bed lines for the garden and I started to double dig the space. I had thought about renting a sod cutter and stripping off the sod on the new garden space but I really want that organic material in the garden space, so good old fashioned double digging is what I guess I will end up doing. I will just do a little bit at a time until I get all the new space done. Right now I think I can plant this new ground with the melon crop and allow them to vine over this space. Then , maybe, in the fall when I pull the vines I will add peat moss, as much as I can afford, and till that organic material into the garden. That's the beauty of this blog I can think and then change my mind when I realize - wait! that won't work.
The warm weather has prompted me to cut the plastic in the hoop house. The temperature was getting too warm and the spinach crop is bolting so I need to cool the space down and get more moisture onto the plants. Most of the radish crop is done in there, and we are eating radishes from the cold frames, so it's time to plant some more some place else. I got the peas staked today with the water sprouts that I saved when I pruned the apples. The pictures show that I pulled dirt in around the stems along with mulching with grass clippings. All this will help to keep the roots cool - something that peas like.
One of the picture sets this week shows the pelleted lettuce seed that I like to use. This is a great way to plant lettuce, either as transplants or if one was direct seeding into the garden. I did have a problem with some of my seed being damaged by the post office but I made a call to the seed company, and a new shipment will be in the mail. A good company will always stand by their product and shipping ( Thank you Johnny's Select Seeds). I finally received my potatoes this week so as soon as I can get sprouts, I will cut them and plant them out. Next year I will ask for them much earlier as I know of several gardeners who have real nice plants by now - this spring has been good for them too. All the melons and cucumbers this year are in peat pots. The reason: I want to avoid transplant shock and this is supposedly the best way to do that. The plants will go directly into the garden and hopefully they will not even know they have been transplanted. I do all my pole beans this way and they grow really well; so I hope the cubits will also flourish.
The apples are still blooming and I am still waiting for bees! I have no idea what this apple crop will be like this year. I was thinking that maybe the massive apple drop last year was not because of the drought but because apples that are poorly pollinated drop. Well, it will be a "wait and see" for this year. With the warmer weather, I also feel that plum curculio, my first apple pest, might be a noticeable problem on small pre-bagged fruits. Only time will tell on that one too.
Late spring flowers are blooming. The bleeding hearts are lovely this time of year as are the Jack-in-the-pulpits.
Both Susan and I worked plant sales this week. One for Master Gardeners and our garden club, and one for the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. We helped people get plants and share ideas about growing. Both sales were fun to work and as always we enjoy sharing our time and skills for these groups.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wrens, Robins and Orioles

The last of the tulips
The lilacs are REALLY early!
A true Robin Egg Blue
The garden without most of its fence.
French Sorrel - what a great vegetable.

This was a return week for two of my favorite back yard birds - wrens and orioles. Both are back and singing out there borders. The wrens are great for the garden and the bug population. The orioles are just pretty. I have been told that orioles return to the same spot pretty much the same time each year so I will have to keep records on their May 9th return date for a few years to see if that is true.

All the lilacs are in full bloom. I am amazed because back in the 70's we used to have an awards day at school for kids and one of the teachers would bring in armloads of lilacs to decorate the stage and that was at the end of this month not the second week. Global warming anyone?
The weather was most unsettled this week and downright cold. I protected the peas and fig tree two nights. We were even threatened with snow!

Today I transplanted all the tomatoes and tomorrow I will try to get at the peppers. I thinned parsley and annuals and planted some annuals out in the yard. Also this week I rototilled the garden. I got the job done early in the week, so the rain this week helped to settle the new tilled ground and will help the tilled winter rye to break down. The winter rye is my green manure for the garden and for years it has been one way to help add good organic material to my heavy soil.
I also took down most of the garden fence as the picture post shows and used the panels to rabbit proof the whole back yard ( I thought). I did find a bunny in the yard yesterday and will have to make a real good perimeter check this week to see if there is any opening anyplace. I was sure I had the whole back yard cordoned off but maybe not. With the fence down the garden space just looks so much bigger and it truly will be.

We have been eating spinach, arugula, and radishes this whole week with some lettuce and nice sorrel mixed in. I have brought the radishes into the house with their tops attached as they make a quick and easy way to clean the dirt off the radish bulb before you serve them up. Try it. Just bend the tops over and use them to scrub the radish and then cut them off and compost them.

The upland rice has sprouted and the corn transplants are up and growing too. So with the garden tilled I can now decide where I want to put things. I planted quite a bit of lettuce this week but the sparrow decided to have some salad so they did a bit of damage to my transplants. I will start some more lettuce for transplants this week, too, along with maybe some broccoli and brussel sprouts as they are 90 day crops that needs frost to make them good. I want to start some early cucumbers this year and try for two different planting. Someone asked me about beans, and for me, my soil is still too cold for beans. Some crops just will sit and do nothing if the ground is cold and beans are one - wait till the ground is warmer to start a bean crop.
I also was asked about herbs. Herbs in our garden are planted out but herbs are a fine candidate for growing in pots. Chives, parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary are fine candidates. Just remember they need lots of sun (at least six hours) to be happy; and when growing in pots try to keep the roots cool while keeping the tops in the sun - a neat trick. So one of the best ways is to cluster the pots to help each shade one another. You can move the pots occasionally to keep the root temperatures cool and the plants from shading each other.
Happy Gardening