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Garden Report June 2017

Let’s talk tomatoes!!!! We built these two trellises out of electrical conduit and “trellises netting”… 6 feet tall, 12 feet wide, with a horizontal support tying into the wall of the house. As expected, this location seems to be great for the tomatoes, full sun all morning and then eventually some shade in the late afternoon.

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We just harvested a few wittle tomatoes off of one of the stupices, they’re 52 days to harvest so that’s about on schedule. But we’ve got tons of big fruits starting to red on the early girls (no surprise) and the san marzanos (whaaaa that should be for another 2 weeks at least. Weird.) Here you can see, from front to back, a San Marzano, a cherry, and an early girl. Oh, and some sad looking basil:

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Both of the cherry tomato plants seem super small, but they have plenty of fruit, and the fruit is supposed to be small, so maybe that’s normal?

Also, this whole thing where I prune the indeterminants so they make a single vine up the trellis has been working great. They’re only 2 feet apart, but already 4 feet tall, and not crowded together at all. Well except I planted 2 romas, and they’re determinate, so I’m just letting them be crazy bushes. I thought I could kinda tie them to the trellis, but they’re too…. 3D. 🙂 the stupices are semi-determinant, so I’m pruning them to 3 vines. Since they’re next to the romas I can sorta rain them up and over the roma bush things. 🙂 but yeah if I do determinants again I’ll put them somewhere else and go the cage route.

Enough about tomatoes, here’s the rest of the garden:

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The peas were fantastic, they almost got to the top of that first trellis. But they’re done now and I’m trying to convince some spaghetti squash to grow there… I’m not doing a very good job of watering though, so I already lost the 2 seedlings that actually germinated. Bah!

Here’s my box o’ potatoes:

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I was expecting them to be done by now, but I dunno, I’ve never grown potatoes before. I think they’re supposed to flower or turn yellow or something? Anyway, I’ll give them another 2 weeks then I’ll dig them up, because I want to grow some green beans here!

Here is my “slightly shady” box in the foreground, and my big sunny box further back to the right:

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There was an incident with my broccoli… ok not really, it was the only thing still growing in the sunnier box and I wanted to make room for the peppers, so I tried transplanting it and it wasn’t so happy about that. Ah well, the kale seems happy at least… and I already have one little pepper fruit growing, so I’m already doing better than last year with the peppers.

Here are my two new strawberry boxes:

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I got some fruit at first, but then temperatures were in the 80s and I think I wasn’t watering them nearly enough. These boxes get late afternoon shade (as you can see) so I’m hoping they won’t fry like my plants last year…

And here’s my experimental strawberry patch:

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The decorative fence is to try to convince the dogs to stop running right through it. Sigh. I’m cutting all the runners off the plants in my long skinny boxes, but here I’m just letting the runners do their thing, and we’ll see what happens. The soil here was really compacted, and I just added a few inches on top, so it’ll be an uphill battle for these guys.

One last thing, since my front yard is just a plot of weeds, I decided to try growing some pumpkins. This area near the front gets full sun:

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I’ll just have to make sure the vines grow back toward my yard and not into the neighbor’s yard… what could possibly go wrong??? And if nothing germinates, well now I’ve got this random compost-y spot. I’m sure I’ll think of something. My neighbor is really cool, he says he used to grow tomatoes right next to this spot, on his side of the property line of course. 🙂 If I actually manage to grow some pumpkins I’ll totally give him some.

February Gardening

In the past few years I’ve made some novice attempts to get a veggie garden going, with some successes and a lot of misses. So now I’m reading up on how to grow veggies effectively in our warmish San Francisco bay area microclimate. For starters, I’m making a concerted effort to start a bunch of seeds indoors, for real this time. My problem in the past has been that all of our south-facing windows are blocked from the sun by the patio covering thing. Oh and we have curious cats who like to knock over anything that’s sitting on “their” window sills. So I’m setting up the operation in the garage. It’s not even remotely insulated in there, and overnight lows have mostly been in the high 40s Fahrenheit, but I bought one of those heat mats to sit under the seed flats… and everything is sprouting really fast!

The next hurdle was getting light for the seedlings. I ended up buying some 6 watt LED “grow lights” and a shelving unit with a zip-up plastic covering billed as a “mini greenhouse”.

Grow Lights

I set the grow lights and the seedlings on the top rack, with the heat mat and unsprouted flats on a lower shelf. Possibly the extra heat keeps night time temps just a little bit warmer for the seedlings, I’m not really sure if it made a difference. But everything still seems to be growing fairly well, so that’s cool. The plastic covering certainly keeps sawdust off the plants while they hang out in the garage, and I’m in and out of there several times a day doing laundry and such, so I get lots of opportunities to peek in and see how they’re doing. I have a spray bottle sitting right there so I can easily mist anything that’s looking dry.

I’ve already started tomatoes, broccoli, kale, leeks, celery, basil and parsley, and I’ll be starting some bell peppers in a few weeks. The basil, tomatoes, and peppers I’m growing inside now to get an early start. For the broccoli, rather than picking at random I actually did some research and am trying to grow a fast-maturing cultivar called “De Cicco”. I got a different one to plant in late summer, “Watham 29”. I’m so fancy with my names and such. 🙂 We’ll see how it goes. The celery and leeks I probably could have seeded directly outside, but those were two that I failed at last year, so I’m starting them indoors to keep an eye on them.

I did sow some seeds directly in the garden boxes too, basically all the ones I had success with in the past: spinach, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and lettuce. And I’m growing some radishes too. I don’t really ever buy them to eat, but maybe I’ll eat some if I grow them. 🙂 Really they’re supposed to be super easy to grow, and I figured I could direct Dakota’s “helpful” energy at the radishes so hopefully she doesn’t drown my other veggies with love and too much water. Maybe I’ll even make a special garden box just for her and plant more radishes in it.

I’m going to try to grow a winter squash this year, so I’ll plant that in April. I’ll build a big trellis for it and the tomato, and hopefully they won’t take up too much horizontal space.

Oh, for the spinach I bought a culitvar called “Okame” that’s supposed to be more heat tolerant. I sowed the last of the cultivar I bought last year already, but when I sow more in a month or two I hope to have more success than my late-spring attempts last year.

February Garden

The big plant on the right in the picture above is the one kale plant that actually germinated from what I sowed last fall… It took its sweet time and came up while I was away for xmas. Cool. The radishes are poking up on the left and the spinach is along the back.

Herb-wise, The sage got too big for the raised box so I moved it over next to the rosemary, and it’s doing just fine.

Sage and Rosemary

My thyme and oregano both died. For the thyme I think I just wasn’t watering it enough, but for the oregano I planted a new plant in one of the main veggie boxes, because I think it needed more depth than the little herb boxes provided. We keep checking the home improvement stores for thyme plants, but they don’t seem to have any in stock yet. Blarg. I’m also going to try to grow dill and chives this year. I don’t currently use either in any of my recipes, but I’ve heard that dill, at least, tastes good in chicken soup… Oh! And I’m going to grow ginger indoors. Should be interesting…

Last but not least, the strawberries! I was sad last year that Dakota couldn’t reach them in the middle of the big box, so I made a long skinny box just for the strawberries, and they seem to have transplanted okay. I’m going to stick with the “remove all the runners” philosophy of strawberries and see how it goes. Having them in this box by themselves probably makes them more vulnerable to birds and bugs and stuff, but I’ll just take things as they come and see how it goes… Here’s Dakota watering them shortly after I transplanted them. You can still see the sage in its old location in the background.

Strawberries

We had bought the temporary fencing to give the chickens their own space on the other side of the yard, but the dogs seem to respect it (though Alaska, at least, could totally jump it if she was feeling adventurous) so we set up the extra fencing to keep the dogs out of this part of the yard. The dogs need to stay out because we’re slowly getting around to repairing the fence and it’s full of exit routes, but the extra benefit is that this setup keeps the dogs from digging in the garden boxes. Sadly it does nothing to deter the neighborhood stray cats. >:|

Temporary fencing