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Archive for July 30th, 2009

>1. Tomato towers work great. Last year I only used small tomato cages. This year I spent a little more money and bought the towers from Gardeners.com. They are about 5 feet tall and really support the tomatoes well. I will be investing in a few more next year.

2. Tomatoes need so much room. Again, I planted the tomatoes too close to each other. I put 6 tomato plants and two pepper plants in one 4X8 bed. I should have left out the pepper plants. The tomatoes were crowded and the peppers ended up so shaded that they didn’t produce well. Cherry tomatoes get huge! They were at least 8 feet tall and spread like crazy.
3. Cherry tomato varieties. You can’t beat sun gold tomatoes in the spring, but they really don’t taste well when things warm up. Regular old cherry tomatoes were not quite as good in the spring, but I preferred them in the summer. The overall winner are the pear cherry tomatoes. They tasted wonderful spring through summer, and are still producing well now.
4. Drip systems do wonders. I had problems last year with cracking tomatoes and blossom end rot. I was watering myself with the hose and couldn’t seem to get the watering even. This spring I put in a drip system and I haven’t seen the same issues. The next thing I need to do is get a timer. This waking up at 5:15 to turn on the water and go back to bed is not fun.
5. Beans get huge. Those little beans start so small, but wow do they grow. I did not plan well enough and the production suffered. I had a few small (about 3 feet tall) stands, but they couldn’t hold the weight of the beans. For the fall I have switched to metal tents, which should work much better.
6. Squash just may be too much work. I did get some good production this year, but those squash-vine borers are just impossible to deal with. The only thing I found that really worked is to get an early start, get as many as possible before the heat brings the SVBs. I was able to cut into the zucchini and yellow squash to dig out the pests, but the pumpkins are impossible. The plants are just too big you don’t know where to start. Due to the overwintering larva, I think I’ll have to skip squash next year altogether.
7. I love straw. This makes such a great mulch. A friend of mine can get organic straw from his parents’ farm. It also doubles as an addition to the compost pile.
8. I need to fix the melon bed. This year the melons and pumpkin plants grew like crazy. Unfortunately, this kept me from cutting the grass around them. Last year I put a winter garden here, but this year I will spend the winter ripping out all of the grass and making a nice bed.
9. Dewberries are my favorite. Of blackberries, raspberries and dewberries I really like the later. Aside from having thorns, the berries taste wonderful and the plant grows very bushy rather than one or two long branches. I plan on puting a few more of these in next year.
10. If you see a few holes in the leaves pay attention. I saw holes in the swiss chard and just ignored it for a week or so. By the time I really looked the plants looked like skeletons and I couldn’t even count the number of caterpillars. A little Bt would have fixed this right up. I used Bt on the tomato plants when a few spread over there and it was fixed in no time.
11. Back to tomatoes. I love romas. I don’t care for brandywines. The brandywines didn’t taste all that great, didn’t produce very well and tended to crack, due to their size.
12. Zinnias and cosmos handle the heat really well. Mums do not. I planted the mums soon after moving in almost two years ago, and they’re calling it quits. I love my knockout roses. They really love the sun and heat. I want to try them in other colors.
I think that will do it. I’ll have to come back in and add pictures later.

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>Gearing Up For Fall

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It’s hard to think about fall in the midst of this brutal summer, but it’s right around the corner in gardening years. Last week I picked up cedar for my new raised beds and last weekend my friend Rudy helped me build them. I have three new 2″X12″ 4’X10′ beds. We made them w/ the mortis and tenon style to match my other beds.

I also built a new bean tent. My neighbor gave me some fencing from a dog run she had in the back yard. It was made of thick gage wire and pressure-treated pine. Obviously the pine wasn’t going in the veggie garden, so I cut the wood off and will have enough wire for 3 tents in total. I put the beans where the zucchini used to be. The squash-vine borers hit again and I just didn’t have the energy to fend them off. Plus, the zucchini was coming in really hard, which I read can happen when the plant gets too established.
This week I trimmed back the tomatoes. The brandywine had stopped producing, the romas are almost done, and the cherries are still producing quite a bit, but the flavor is severely lacking. I also planted 4 new bell pepper plants in place of the swiss chard that was desimated by caterpillars.
Tonight I plan on planting some seeds. I have kohlrabi, radishes and lettuce. I still need to pick up more, but it’s a start.
I included a picture of the okra, just because it deserves the spotlight. These plants have been solid producers through this heat. I’ve been eating them, pickling them, and giving a ton away. I will definitely be repeating these!

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