Posts Tagged ‘tomato grafting’

Design Your Summer Veggie Garden! Plan for marvelous production!

Simple, humble, or elegant and intricate, gardens definitely say a lot about the Gardener! Just be you! Plant in rows, circles, squares, diagonal rays, or have no plan at all, jungle style! That’s a plan too, right?! Make your space plant accessible, with safely wide enough pathways, or stepping stones. Straw in pathways will compost in place. It may be a bit slippery until it settles in. Keep replenishing it.

Choose what you would like to eat! Think about nutrition. Some think that most corn isn’t really food, and it takes up a lot of space per square foot per production. Kale is super nutritious, but will you eat it, or do you need a different recipe? Are you growing something because your Mum did? It’s ok if you have the room and it makes you happy.

Right along with what you would eat, comes how much will you eat or can you eat?!

  • Over planting zucchini is the classic example! You better have a lot of hungry zucchini loving friends if you over plant it! You probably would rather freeze tomatoes or ferment pickles for probiotics, than take up space with zucchini, though you can ferment it too.  But what claim to fame does it have? Not a big taste. Only one to two zuke plants is likely plenty! If you over plant, in self defense, harvest when they are small. Fresh slices in salads give a crunch and color. It comes in greens and brilliant yellow! Plant both!
  • Pole beans are another commonly over planted veggie. They produce tons throughout the season, and are time intensive to harvest. At the end, you may just burned-out-on-beans stop picking. Canning them is easy; freezing even easier if you have freezer space.

Stored vs Fresh  In SoCal, if you want to take a winter break, you can store your veggies and live off them. But if you prefer fresh, we can grow table veggies here year ’round! I do very little storing of veggies, just some for emergency contingencies, so I plant only what I can eat. Having more space lets me grow more varieties, experiment, let that volunteer grow and see what it becomes! For me it puts Magic in the Garden!

How much space do you have? What is the footprint of a mature thriving plant? You especially need to know that if you are planting alternately. For example, peppers thrive with a tad of shade between tall tomato plants in cages. Will you need to be using upright space-saving cages and trellises? Almost all your summer plants can go upright – pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, even zucchini can go up and over structures so you can plant summer semi shade-needing lettuces underneath. Winter squash (grown in summer) just needs space on the ground, LOTS of space. It’s leaves are huge, and the thriving vine will go 45, 50′!

How long does your plant choice take to grow?

  • Bush beans produce faster. You can plant bush and pole beans at the same time, and remove the bush beans when they finish, leaving your pole beans to continue producing throughout the season.
  • Determinate tomatoes jump up quickly, take up less space, produce intensely then quit. Indeterminate tomatoes are vines that can easily grow healthily up to 12’+ and they produce all season long! Plant the determinate little guys for first and fast fruit. Plant several at once if you are canning. The indeterminates give you a summer long fresh table supply.
  • Patio and container varieties often produce quicker and wonderfully, and take up a smaller space. If you want more different kinds of plants, they are the way to go. To keep a steady supply, just keep planting them successively.
  • Some crops take a long time, like jicama. You plant them in late March if it’s quite warm, April 1 is the usual time, May if you miss April. If you remove the flowers, the roots enlarge in fall as days begin to grow shorter. A warm fall helps. Harvest will be in Sep/Oct depending on when you planted, how hot it has been. That’s 5/6 months. Many other plants will produce in 2 months from transplant. Let one plant flower for seed harvest. Jicama seeds can be hard to come by.
Succession Planting  Knowing how long your plant takes to produce is essential for succession planting. It takes will power of steel not to plant every space you can when spring arrives! Leave areas free for the next round of your favorite veggies!  Grow ‘littles’ there to hold space. Maybe some carrots, beets, radish, or arugula, turnips, lettuce varieties, bunch onions, garden purslane. Mark your dates to plant more on your calendar so you don’t miss your planting windows. When areas are done, compost what remains, add more compost you made and your favorite amendments to the new planting holes, plant what you want there now!Summer Companion Planting is a crucial part of your plan!
  • Cukes and dill. Dill needs a bit of room! Plant WHITE radishes with cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Tomatoes – DANDELIONS FOR WILT. Dandelions produce cichoric (or chicoric) acid that ties up soil-bound iron needed by the disease called fusarium.  Plant them first, let them grow up, then put your tomatoes in amongst them. Chives enhance flavor and growth of your toms, and basil repels pests. Chamomile has been used to increase production of wheat, tomatoes and other herbs. It helps them to grow better and releases fungal inhibitors.
  • Beans – The Mexican beetle avoids bean rows that have Marigold, Calendula, or Petunia growing among them. Planting dill deters the Mexican bean beetle, which feeds on the foliage of bush and pole beans.

Direction to plant  Tall in the north or the most shaded area, gradually working to less and less tall plants to the South and least shaded areas.

Where can you plant?! Are you using fences as trellises, have movable containers on wheels, a narrow pathway that is in a summer sunlight corridor all day?! Be clever! Is your soil funky? Ha! Put in a raised bed with perfect soil. Keep laying on sheets of compost in areas you would like to revive and increase friability and water holding capacity. Plant green manures there. To get more sun, raise plants up on top of barrels, hang them high, up on the fence, install hydroponic towers!

Plant your roof! Plant in lightweight canvas containers or cover the entire roof with soil if it is strong enough! Energy-efficient rooftop gardens are great insulation from heat, give a 26% reduction in winter heat losses! They cool the environment between 6.5 and 20.3° F. It is common for the soil of a roof garden, built on a heated structure (home), to be at least 5C warmer than a conventional landscape. With home rooftops, you can plant sooner, the elevated temperature of the soil brings the plants into growth earlier in Spring and sustains their growth in the Autumn. The Philadelphia Water Dept says green roofs extend the lifetime of the roof by 100-200%! And we haven’t even talked about rainwater catchment! Have a greenhouse up there, do beekeeping, have chickies! Above all, pun intended, it’s your food, your organic food!

4 Rooftop Veggie Gardens
From simple to elaborate, even elegant, rooftop gardens have surprising and numerous advantages!

Successful summer garden design is complemented by choosing summer successful seeds/plants that have heat/drought tolerance, resistance/tolerance to summer diseases/pests. Heat tolerant, bolt and tip burn resistant lettuce varieties are good choices – Jericho, Sierra, Nevada, Black Seeded Simpson. Mildew resistant beans. Choosing the right plants keeps your design working and you get optimum production!

See February, March, April, May SoCal Veggie Garden Planning! for perspective on what exactly to plant when in the months to come! May you have happy dirty hands!

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Its’ Tomato Time!

July Gardening is Red Hot! Tomatoes and Peppers!

Fine image from TheGardenersEden.com

Relax in the hot summer sun, get a big basket, line it with a light kitchen towel, grab a container for berries, mosey on out to the garden and fill that puppy with your finest! Beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, a couple peppers, zucchini, strawberries, some cooking herbs. Before you leave, top off your basket with some lettuces, chard if you still have it, garden purslane. Last, gather your corn, and hustle to the fridge, or cook it right up, so it doesn’t go to starch.

Gather your seeds before the birds get them all, but leave some for them too, if you can spare them, and don’t mind a dry brown plant for a few days. Brown and dry has its own beauty.

Do some watering, give yourself a splash or two, stay hydrated. Make sure any seed/seedling beds don’t go dry. I often weed as I water, checking soil tilth as I go. Add some compost where needed. Maybe mix in some well aged manures. If you have some worm castings, add them too. Summer is for sidedressing – that’s feeding your producing plants. They are working hard! Put on fertilizers high in P, Phosphorus to keep your plants flowering and fruiting. SEE June 15 post on how to fertilize each of your plants!  Lay down some more mulch on thin spots, and especially under your tomatoes and cucumbers, but not on eggplant, peppers, melons or winter squash that need all the heat they can get here on the coast. Only exception might be those eggplants. They like humid. A nest of straw might be like a little local sauna for them if you keep it moist.

You can still plant most of your very favorite heat lovers – tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, zucchini. Transplants are best now. Too late for winter squash that needs to harden. And, as always, plant your year-rounds, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, radish, to keep a steady supply.

The Great Jicama Hunt!  When your jicamas flower, designate which plants you intend to save seeds from, then cut the flowering stalks off the rest, so the energy goes to that lovely tuber forming underground!

Start thinking about your upcoming fall plantings – where are you going to put things? If you love winter crops, get a head start! If you are going to start cool season SEEDS in the ground mid month August, – celery, Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kales, improve your soil now as plants finish, areas become available.  Start seedlings now for your first August plantings!  Or, if you love summer plants more and want to eke out those last harvests, you can wait and do September transplants, Labor Day Weekend is perfect! Another option is to start your fall plants in a safe designated small nursery area and transplant as space becomes available…. Just plant them far enough apart so they don’t get damaged in transplanting and you can take them complete with their growing soil around them. That way there is no damage to their roots, no interruption in their growth! Happy babies, happy gardener!

Get your compost started now, ASAP, for fall planting! I can’t say enough good about compost! It adds a wide variety of nutrients that are easily taken up by your plants, adds tilth to your soil, that’s loamy nutrient laden soil with excellent water holding capacity, and stabilizes Nitrogen. And it is easy to make! The simplest method is to throw stuff in a pile and wait. That takes the longest. Layering, thin layers of chopped up bits of discarded or finished green plants plus kitchen trim, crushed eggshells, torn tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, layered with straw (not hay), is much faster, especially if you turn it once a week, or every couple days! Sprinkle it with a bit of live soil every few layers, add some red wriggler worms, sprigs of yarrow or chamomile to speed composting, and you will have a fine black fluffy great smelling mix in a few months. Your plants will be singing Hallelujah!

Follow up on Tomato Grafting! Cherokee Purple or whatever your favorite, heirlooms! Yes! I was hoping to start a tomato revolution! We may have to educate our nursery people. If we all ask for those Maxifort seeds, or the Japanese equivalent, He-Man, then they just might stock them for the profit! Turns out the Maxifort seeds are $23 for 50 seeds! Yup. Even so, to get the rightful amount of tomatoes for our efforts would be wonderful, especially those favorites! To get 3X the regular amount?! There’s a little modification on that point. It depends on the variety. Some are more invigorated than others, but all tested had greater production! Pure tomato heaven – canning galore, drying for backpacking food! There are some nurseries offering the already grafted tomatoes. Yes, they too are expensive, and more so to ship. This last info is for lucky people who might live near such a nursery or might visit family in a nearby area. A fellow Master Gardener and I have gotten our seeds (from Johnny’s), little guys now growing, grafting to happen soon! Will keep you posted.

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