Thursday, April 30, 2009

Four days post planting

First buds on my Mini Red Bell Pepper who's future includes being stuffed with goat cheese seasoned with fresh herbs!

Yellow squash. The only original growth present on Sunday was the yellow leaves. I was afraid I killed it before getting it in the ground. Now I'm afraid it's going to be the squash that took over Annandale! I could have worse problems than too much squash...

More later but wanted to give a quick update on the nursery!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Homemade Tomato Cages and Planting

Finally, at long last, Sunday was the day to plant! I had to wait until the sun was off the gardens so I didn't get started with the actual planting until 6 or so. In preparation for the planting I did the following:
1. Crush the 2 dozen egg shells I have been collecting to add to the tomato and pepper plants planting hole.
2. Made my tomato cages (more on that later).
3. Went to the hardware store to get soaker hoses and bamboo stakes (more on those later too).
4. Filled my deck boxes with soil for my herb boxes.
5. Talked to my Mother on the phone for 2 hours...I think a record!

The tomato cages are made out of Tomato Guard, made by GroTall. I purchased mine at Southern States. It is galvanized welded steel. It comes in rolls of 4x20 feet. We were able to make 3 - 6 foot round cages and I had enough left over to make my climber for the cucumbers.

This is a 2 person job, so have a helper. Wear gloves, there are lots of sharp ends. To cut, lay the wire flat to a 6 foot length. At one end you will have a flat edge. Cut the other end with tin snips so you create another flat end for your next cage and pointy ends to connect the edges (click on the photo for a better look). Let the fencing roll back (careful not to let it fly back and hit your legs) and use the rough edge to attach to the flat edge (you can see what I mean in the picture). Then clip every other section of the bottom so that it creates stakes when you set it in the garden. I also used 6 foot lengths of bamboo to weave top to bottom and then pushed it down in the ground to hold them in place. I will probably need to do something stronger when they get bigger, but for now they should stay.

I planted the tomatoes by trimming the branches and leaves on the bottom two thirds of the plant. Dug a hole deep enough to get them that far down. Sprinkled my crushed egg shells in and around the hole and plunked the tomato plant in there. Filled in with dirt and put the collar on. The collar, I read, is supposed to keep cut worms from coming along and clipping off your new tomato plants. It is also supposed to slow down the slugs, we'll see. I'll be putting beer bowls out if I start to see slug activity. We do have a lot of them so I image they will make it to the backyard. I made sure I put my plant labels in the ground next to all the plants so that I will remember what I have.

I planted the peppers with some of the crushed egg shells also but didn't do collars. I also did cages for the peppers because, I read, they can get heavy with fruit (I hope) and can fall over from the weight.

Anyone know what is already eating my pepper plant? I just notice the holes in the leaf when I was planting.

So here is the freshman class of the left garden:

L to R back: Red Grape, Yellow Grape, Beefsteak

L to R front: Yellow squash, Zucchini

Here is the freshman class of the right garden:

L to R in the back: Cucumbers, Black Pear Tomato

L to R in the front: French Green Bean, Mini Red Bell, Yellow Bell

Wish us luck! Send advice if you have it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Promise to Stop Showing You Dirt Soon...

But not today...

Last entry I showed that the gardens were almost complete. The picture attached shows the conditioning I did to the soil. I purchased leaf compost from my local nursery. Sometimes this is referred to as "black gold" because it is so rich in nutrients and plants love it.

I read that you need to make sure that it is leaf compost and hasn't been mixed with bad stuff like weed trimmings or other unsavory yard waste. It should smell rich and clump when you pick it up but not pack tightly. It shouldn't have a super strong ammonia smell.

In order to lighten it up a little I mixed an 8 liter bag of vermiculite and probably another gallon bucket of perlite in with the soil. Both can be purchased at your local nursery or garden center. It was easy to do this year since it is all new soil. I just used my garden claw to mix and then the shovel to really get it moved around.

I'll be planting this weekend, I can't wait! Next time plants and not just dirt!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

And so it begins...

I've read plenty of books, blogs and websites. TastefulGarden was by far the most helpful as a beginning gardener. Some helpful books were; "You Bet Your Tomatoes" and "Mike McGrath's Book of Compost" both by Mike McGrath.

We finished both of our raised garden boxes last weekend. Each measure 4x8 feet. The last bit of dirt is going in this weekend. The plants are here, waiting patiently to be planted. Here in Virginia I think we are all hoping today will be the first day of the rest of spring. The attic fan turned on today, that's always a good sign it is warm out!

We had a little aphid scare today. A first for me. I was keeping the plants inside until we planted but apparently that makes them more prone to having aphids attack. How did I know I had aphids? The plants leaves started to curl and if I looked closing I could see little white and green specs, only about the size of a well sharpened pencil. I called and spoke with Cindy at Tasteful Garden and she explained what I had and how to fix it.

First, get the plants outside. They come to us ready to be left outside as long as we don't have a freeze warning. Second, dunk them in mildly soapy water (I used Dawn) that is cool-warm. Rub the leaves very gently to loosen the aphids. Let them dry in a shady place (very important or their leaves may burn). At the end of the day, rinse them in cool-warm water and let them dry. It worked! I didn't see any more aphids. The watermelon beefsteak is looking a little sad and droopy right now but I hope that will pass.