Friday, June 25, 2010

General Vegetable Garden Information

In the last few years, I tried to take care of my weeding work by simply hoeing the soil in the garden. If you've ever tried that, you know it's backbreaking work that never ends. This year, I planned the spacing in my garden a little differently so I can use my tiller to do the hard part very effectively. Instead of having my plants and rows close together, I spaced them further apart in order to have room for my tiller to go between the plants and rows. I measured off and planted my individual tomato plants and the rows in a grid pattern, four feet on center each way, having laid out the positions using dry lines. That would give me the clearance on each side of my tiller so I wouldn't damage the roots of the vegetable plants.

I admit that when I had just put the tomato plants in the ground on April 18th, they looked lost in the soil because they were so far apart. But thankfully, they didn't look like that for long. Using organic fertilizer on a monthly basis and watering them frequently really helped them to grow fast. I think watering the individual plants when they were small instead of watering the entire garden area helped keep the weeds down in between the rows and plants for a while. But, I knew that watering practice would have to change as the tomato plants grew.

Here are my tomato plants on June 3rd with the home-made cages around them. I had tilled around them on June 2nd. I generally till around and between the plants when the weeds get to be 3 or 4 inches high. I have noticed that there are fewer weeds coming back between tillings.

Just 22 days later, these are my tomato plants on June 25th after tilling between the plants and rows. The tilling really does a thorough job of getting rid of the weeds. This time, the time between tilling was 23 days! I think that's a great success in weed control! Another major weeding part the tiller plays is that the weeds don't get a chance to go to seed. That prevents thousands of weed seeds from being introduced into your garden! As for the weeds inside the tomato cages, when they grow enough to stick out of the cage, I just walk through and pull them out as I go. With the soil loosened around the outside of the cages, the weeds come up very easily, roots and all.

Here are my Fortex Snap Beans from Johnny's Selected Seeds with the rows spaced 36 inches apart. I have found the Fortex beans to be absolutely stringless, just as they are advertised! That was a big deal to me. I also use the tiller for weed control between these rows. You can see how effective it is. I have done this a few times this year for the bean rows, and as you can see, it doesn't hurt the beans at all. And I do the same thing as I do with the tomato cage weeds when the weeds are big enough to grab. I just pull out the weeds that are in the row, roots and all.

For the last two years, I have had a terrible problem with Mexican Bean Beetles. In two of the rows of beans, I also planted Yukon Gold potatoes. The theory is that the potatoes will help protect the beans from the Mexican bean beetles, and the beans will help protect the potatoes from the Colorado Potato Beetles. We'll see how they do. I expect a slight impact on both beetle populations, but not actual control to the point of hardly seeing any beetles at all.

Here is my Whiteout brand corn, also from Johnny's Selected Seeds. The ears are making up pretty good right now, so I'm keeping the corn thoroughly watered. You can notice from the position I was in when I took the picture, that the corn closest to me is a little shorter. That's because behind me is a large maple tree. The shade really negatively affects crop production! The shorter corn only gets midday to late afternoon sun, while the rest gets all day sunlight. It makes a big difference in the appearance of the plants, and consequently the crop yield.

Here are 71 cucumbers that Noah (my 5 year old Grandson) and I picked on June 23rd. After we picked them, we watered the cucumber row heavily enough to where water was standing between the rows of vegetables. Noah has been helping me in the vegetable garden since he was three years old.

The next day, to our amazement, we went out and picked 35 more cucumbers from the row we had picked clean yesterday.

While we were picking the cucumbers the other day, we noticed two hidden red tomatoes, so we picked them as well. You can see them in the previous picture of the basket of cucumbers. They were supposed to be Park's Whoppers, but turned out to be Romas, which is fine with me. The point here is that these were the only tomatoes that were red or even turning red at the time. The day after we picked the two Romas, this is what we saw. These Park's Whopper tomatoes turned red in one night! There will be a flood of tomatoes coming in during the next week or so!

Here is a picture of the 10 pounds of Fortex snap beans we picked. Notice how long the beans are! This is the best tasting virtually stringless snap bean that I have found. I canned several quarts of them last year, and plan on doing the same or even more this year. I highly recommend them to vegetable gardeners!

Noah and his two year old sister Keira, planted my red onion seeds in flats on my kitchen table while I taped it! They had a great time, but better than that, they were learning about gardening. They are gaining organic gardening knowledge, and they remember it! I want them to know how to grow some of their own food organically. Them helping me is another reason why I am strictly organic. To hear Noah laughing as he ran through my corn when he was three with the leaves swishing against him is priceless. He was having pure fun! That fun continues. I will always be an organic vegetable gardener!

Have a wonderful vegetable gardening day! I hope that I have shared something with you that you may benefit from. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you come back many times as I document this year of organic vegetable gardening.

Veggie PAK

Friday, June 18, 2010

Progress with the Tomato Crop

It looks so nice, I wanted to share a picture of our vegetable garden taken from the second floor of our house.

Here is a picture with the morning sun shining on the vegetable garden. The long shadows are interesting.

This is the view out of our kitchen window. Beautiful, isn't it? Just think. It used to be just grass to cut, but now it's food to eat and share with the food kitchens for hungry folks that need a boost.

The following photos show how my tomato plants are adapting to my method of tucking in the new shoots every 1 or 2 days into the inside of the cage. So far, the vines appear to be very strong using this practice.

Notice how they appear to be so straight and tall. I think this is good for the flow of nutrients throughout the plant, rather than having a crimp in the vines where they make a hard bend from the weight.

Here's a closer look at the vines above the top edge of the cage, showing how healthy they look. It's almost as if they prefer growing straight up.

Here is a nice sized Brandywine beauty!

Here is a nice cluster of Brandywines within one of the cages. I believe the strength of the home-made cages helps promote good growth for the vines the way that I maintain them. Hopefully, there will be a higher yield than last year when the plants were staked.

Notice the nice size of these Brandywines. By the time they're ripe, several will easily be around one pound apiece. Great for tomato sandwiches!

Here you can see the Park's Whopper tomatoes growing inside the cage. They look very good with no blemishes around the blossom end of the tomatoes.

Here's another cluster of Park's Whoppers.

All my tomatoes appear to be doing very well. I use a well to thoroughly water the garden every two or three days. Of course that's a great help to the overall growth!

I use organic fertilizer on my entire garden, but for my tomatoes I use this specifically designed organic tomato fertilizer. I think it's the major contributing factor to the health and vigorous growth of my plants. I just follow the directions on the first of each month, which makes it easy to remember, and each tomato plant gets three tablespoonfuls of the fertilizer.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you found it interesting and informative for your vegetable gardening.

Veggie PAK

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Vegetables Are Growing!

This is the containerized Tomatoberry plant that my wife wanted to try, next to one of my horseradish plants. I've gotten 9 tomatoes from it so far this year. I've used field fencing material to help support it's branches, along with two metal fence posts to keep it from blowing over in the wind.

This is one of the three Black Beauty Eggplants we have. There are several eggplants that have already gone past the blooming stage and are now about the size of a large acorn.

These are our Giant Marconi peppers. According to my spreadsheets, they should be ready to begin harvesting on June 29th.

Here we have Henderson Baby Butter Beans. Some folks call them Baby Limas.

This is Ruby Red Swiss Chard. I began harvesting it a few hours after this picture was taken.

These are slicing cucumbers, also using the field fencing material for support. They all look very healthy, so I expect a good crop.

There are dozens of blooms like this one, and some have dropped the flower already. It won't be long before we're picking cucumbers.

This is the Whiteout Corn from Johnny's Selected Seeds that I planted in the back corner of my garden.

This is is a Brown Turkey Fig tree. I planted it recently, so it has a while to grow before it bears fruit. The maximum size of the tree is supposed to be 10 feet high and 15 feet wide.

Here are some of the blueberries from one of my 4 bushes. It's almost time to put up the bird netting to protect the crop.

I have 3 sets of posts and wires for my grape vines. I have three types of seedless grapes: Reliance (Red); Nimrod (White); and Glendora (Blue). With proper care, the vines are supposed to last 50 years.

This is the first cluster of grapes that my vines have produced! They are of the Reliance variety. They have a long way to go before they're ripe.

Along with my Heritage Red Raspberries along the driveway, I planted 17 Giant Mammoth Sunflowers. The large stalks of these can be used for tying up the raspberry canes when they grow to sufficient height. The sunflowers are supposed to reach a height of 10 to 12 feet, with a head greater than 12 inches across.

I have five Heritage Red Raspberry bushes. They are planted between the driveway and the house foundation. I chose this location to keep the raspberries from taking over the yard.

This is something new this year for our garden. Potatoes in a barrel, or 1/2 barrel actually. I have four half-barrels for this. The plants seem to be doing well as I've added 6 more inches of topsoil to the barrels twice, after they had grown 6 to 8 inches higher each time. I'm supposed to add soil every 6 to 8 inches of growth until the barrels are full to the top. Then, when the plants turn brown and fall over, the potatoes are supposed to be ready to harvest.

The Fortex stringless snap beans from Johnny's Selected Seeds have hundreds of blooms on them. Soon, they'll be the 10 to 12 inch long stringless seed pods that we enjoy so much!

Our Park's Whopper tomatoes are growing nicely. I made my own tomato cages this year, using galvanized rolled field fencing material. As you can see, it's not welded, but wound. I prefer this type of material over all others I have tried. I know it is durable, because the fences are still there that I climbed across 50 years ago as a child on my Grandparent's farm.

... the rest of the row of Park's Whoppers.

These are our Sweet Banana Pepper plants. All 3 plants are doing very well. Lots of blooms and small fruits. Last year the banana peppers were extremely abundant. I made Sweet Banana Pepper Mustard and it was a great success!

This one is the oldest of my 13 horseradish plants. The root system is two years old, but the foliage is all this year's growth. It stands about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. I'll harvest the root and process it this fall.

We have a Chayote plant, or Vegetable Pear, as some folks call it. The taste is like a cross between a cucumber and a cantaloupe. I thought it was delicious! I started growing two of these under fluorescent lights equipped with a timer during January of 2010. Both plants grew about 4 inches high, but one prospered and one died. I planted the surviving plant outside on May 14th. It is on an 8 foot long piece of field fencing mounted on two metal fence posts. The vine is said to grow between 30 and 50 feet long, with 75 to 100 fruits on it. I'll have to braid the new growth into the fence fabric every 3 or 4 days. We'll see what it looks like in September when it's supposed to be ready for harvest.

This is what the Chayote fruit looks like.

Thank you for visiting my blog on Back Yard Organic Vegetables. I hope it inspires you to try growing some vegetables in your back yard or in containers on your balcony, whichever you have. I'm thankful for the vegetable gardening knowledge I have gained thus far in my life. It's all a blessing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Preparation for and Planting of Sweet Corn

This year I planted my sweet corn on May 2nd. We enjoyed the sweetness of the type selected for last year's growing so much that I planted the same type this year. It is called Whiteout, F1, from Johnny's Selected Seeds. It's said to be 25% sweeter than Silver Queen, and based on the taste of last year's harvest, I believe it's true.

After thoroughly tilling my garden, I prepared the area for corn by using my high-wheel cultivator, or push-plow as some folks like to call it, to create furrows for the corn seed. I went in both directions with the push-plow to get the maximum depth possible with it. I knew I would need that soil for later on in the season when it came time to hill the corn.

When I finished with the push-plow the furrows were just right for using the Precision Garden Seeder to put the seed in the ground.

Although the seeder had a disk for planting corn, the seed I had was smaller than what the seeder disk was designed for. The seeder disk was picking up two seeds at a time, which was too much. I saw online where one person had adapted his planter to suite his needs, so that's what I did too. I selected a disk with ten seed pickup slots, and put duct tape over every other one in order to cut the seeding to about 4 seeds per foot of revolution of the drive wheel.

I verified that the distribution was going to be 4 seeds per foot of row by raising the hopper over a pan and turning the drive wheel three measured revolutions, then I counted the seeds that were dispensed. Three revolutions equals three feet x four seeds per foot for a total of 12 seeds dispensed. That's what I got in the pan.

Now I was ready to plant the corn. I set the depth of the trough on the seeder to a depth of one and a half inches, I put the seed in the hopper, and I began seeding. It went very well! In the second picture below, you can see in the bottom of the furrow where the rear wheel of the seeder flattened the soil.

Here is the corn 23 days after planting, on May 25th.

Here is the corn on June 3rd. I hilled it about four days ago.

Here is a short video about my two Precision Garden Seeders that I bought at a Church Bazaar for $6 apiece! You can see the workings a little closer this way.

By the way, it DID turn out well!

Thanks for visiting my Blog. Take time to plant some vegetables. You won't regret it!

Veggie PAK