May 16, 2007

First Tomatoes

My heirloom tomatoes are off to a good start, probably due to the extremely hot weather we've been experiencing in the last few weeks. Since I planted them into the rich soil of the raised bed, they have grown about a foot taller. The cages are doing well in supporting the plants and keeping them vertical, but I have to wonder if I bought large enough cages for the plants. I'll have to wait and see.

I'm surprised that I already have a few tomatoes forming on the vine and look forward to turning them into homemade pasta sauce in my crockpot this summer. I love heirloom tomatoes for sauce because of the lower acid content of the fruit. The tomatoes in the picture are paste tomatoes.

May 07, 2007

Planting the Main Raised Bed

I had been dreading doing the work on my long raised vegetable bed because I knew that it was going to take effort and time. First I had to dig up my overwintered chiles and place them into pots so that they would be more able to take the transplanting. Next, I emptied several bags of organic garden soil and one bag of steer manure into the bed to refresh the soil and raise the soil level so that it was closer to the top of my two level high cinderblock garden sides.

Transplanting the chiles from the pots back into the garden took more time that I had realized because not only did I need to plant the chiles, but I also needed to cage them. I had a few wire cages left over from last year, but not nearly enough to cage all of my new plants. Mid-way through the planting process, I had to drive down to the Home Depot to buy ten more cages. Fortunately, they were on sale for around a dollar each, so this was not a big expense for the garden. Being metal, they will last for many years to come. Putting cages around my chile plants was very important to me. Last year, most of my chiles flopped over and the pods were attacked by bugs in the soil and the branches would not support the weight of the fruit. I'm hoping to increase my production of chiles via the cage method this year and to keep the pods free of insect damage. I also put cutworm barriers around the new seedlings in addition to the cages so that their stems would be protected until they were large enough to stand against the insects.

The last task was to place the soaker hose watering system around the plants. It was already hooked up from last year, I simply had to weave the hoses around the new plantings. With the spaces between my plants being further apart this year, I found that the soaker hose fit in the bed much better than it had before. I'm having some problems with the soaker hose. The end of the bed is not getting enough water and the first bed is getting so soaked with water that mushrooms are sprouting up around my tomatoes. I will attempt to fine tune the watering system as the summer progresses.

The entire planting process took me around four hours, but I'm well pleased with my efforts. Now that everything is in place, there will be little work to do in the garden beyond watering, an occasional weeding and the harvesting. That is the best part of square foot gardening in raised beds, few weeds grow in the protected soil, the vegetables are up higher so that you don't need to bend over as much to tend them and because my garden is just outside my kitchen door, harvesting is an easy prospect.