2018 Evaluation

Kitchen Remodeling dominated my life this summer and is still not totally complete. Heavy spring and early summer rains prevented planting of spring crops, stunted the growth of the peppers and let the weeds get totally out of control.

The heirloom tomatoes produced early and well in spite of the weather with Cherokee Carbon being an extremely flavorful and prolific producer. I was late getting plum tomatoes and bought San Marzano instead of Roma from Goebbert’s. They didn’t produce as well as the Romas, but it might have been the weather. We’ll stick with Roma next year.

The peppers were very late and the green peppers weren’t very large, even at the end of the season. I picked a lot of peppers to freeze in mid-October, which was when they finally matured. The Shishito peppers produced very well and I would like to plant more next year. I got 6 plants by visiting multiple Home Depots.

For a garden that received little care, it did well enough and I was able to give a lot of tomatoes away.

2017 Evaluation

The July rains killed all of the tomato plants by the end of August. Eggplants did extremely well and peppers were good. Zucchini was poor. Setting out spinach and red romaine in the early spring yielded well again.

Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

When you buy tomato seeds or plants, they are classified as either determinate or indeterminate. I knew that determinate tomatoes tend to be better behaved than indeterminate and less likely to spread all over the garden, but I never really knew much more than that, so I looked it up.

Determinate tomatoes are also called “bush” tomatoes. These are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height. When the fruit sets on the top or “terminal” bud, they stop growing, and all the fruit ripens at nearly the same time, then the plants die.

A prime example is the “Roma” tomatoes that I grow. I grow these plants closer together than the others as they are more compact. This year I staked each plant with a single stake rather than using cages as I did in the past.

It is recommended that determinate tomatoes not be pruned, as it will significantly reduce the yield.

These types make great “patio” tomatoes as they do well in containers. Celebrity and Rutgers are two other determinate varieties that I grow, although I was unaware that they were determinates.

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes may also be called “vining” tomatoes. These types will grow, flower and set fruit throughout the growing season up until the first killing frost. They also tend to spread quite a bit and usually require cages for support. (And sometimes a heavy stake to support the cage if they get too top-heavy.)

Indeterminate tomatoes might benefit from pruning. One technique is to prune any flowers away about 1 month before the first killing frost to encourage the ripening of the remaining tomatoes.

Coyote and Cat

Was awakened from a sound sleep last night at 3 AM by a coyote yipping and howling nearby. We also have a cat and kittens in the area. They have been hanging out but stay out of sight. Neither of these animals is vegetarian, which is good for the garden and none of my plants have been touched. There were lots of rabbits earlier in the year, but they are gone. The groundhog is also gone.

Hot and Dry – No Mosquitoes

The temperature climbed into the eighties during the week and was in the nineties by Sunday. After a cool wet spring, the rain abruptly stopped and the humidity has been less than 30%. Fortunately, we haven’t seen a single mosquito. The spinach and arugula totally bolted and I need to water heavily each day.

Main Planting – Finally

I finally got some landscapers to come and till the garden on Monday, June 5. They didn’t do a perfect job but it is ready to plant with a little raking and breaking up of some large clumps. I had them till a bag of peat moss into each of the beds by the firepit, the one next to the compost structure and the area on the west end of the garden. They also dug out a couple rows of horseradish on each end of that plot, freeing up some of that prime, sunny, soil for more productive crops. I got most of the planting done on Wednesday and Thursday, with the remaining few plants on Saturday.

Here’s the tomato rundown, first in the bed next to the firepit. These were all from Goebbert’s. The Romas were the small 4 per container size and the others were the larger ones in the 4-inch pots.

15 – La Roma (planted 3 across instead of 2 since that worked well in the past)
2 – Beefsteak
2 – Celebrity
2 – Primo Red
2 – Brandywine

I also took a trip to Countryside Nursery in Crystal Lake. for heirloom tomatoes, I bought and planted the following, from 4-inch pots, in the west end of the garden past the horseradish:

1 – Cherokee Carbon
1 – Cherokee Purple
1 – Aker’s West Virginia
1 – Mortgage Lifter
1 – Mr. Stripey
1 – Oxheart
1 – Rutgers
1 – Green Zebra
1 – Lemon Boy
1 – Chocolate Sprinkles Cherry Tomato
2 – Romanian tomatoes that Jared started from seed

2 — Goebbert’s Purple Eggplants
1 — Countryside Rosa Bianco Eggplant
1 — Countryside White Star Eggplant

Peppers in the second bed by the firepit:

10 — Sweet Banana
4 — Melrose
9 — Lady Bell
8 — Early Sunsation
5 — Hungarian Hot Banana

Peppers in the bed by the back fence

8 — Jalapeno

Next to the compost structure:

1 — Sweet Heat Pepper
1 — Pepperocini Pepper
3 — Hills of Goebbert’s Zucchini
3 – Peter Pan Summer Squash

Warm Weather Planting Starts

Finally, the rain stopped and the weeks of 50-degree weather finally retreated. All of the pots got planted this weekend, Jewel had $1.49 seed geraniums, so I made two trips and bought them out each time for a total of 48 plants. Home Depot was still selling $4.50 single geraniums.

I also got some beautiful mounding petunias with deep blue and purple colors from Goebbert’s that I planted in alternate pots next to the geraniums for contrast. More importantly, I bought the rest of the herbs and the first tomato and pepper plants. I also got a large potted basil plant which I planted in the large pot behind the herb garden so we could have basil immediately. It’s about the same cost as 3 packages of fresh basil, will regenerate itself and be fresher than the packaged stuff.

So, today I finished up the patio herb garden with parsley and curly parsley, thyme rosemary and basil. The chives are up full, and the oregano has also returned in great form. The sage plant survived the winter and is leafing out. I also planted two grape tomato plants, and two cherry tomato plants in their usual pots. The top bed where I plant the curly parsley is still infested with black ants, so I dug down and put a layer of cayenne pepper about 4 inches under the soil. Maybe that will slow their activity. They have been in here for a few years, but I can’t use poison since it is a herb garden.

Tomorrow I’ll start on the main garden, but I haven’t sone any prep yet, so it will probably take a week or so.

Spring Vegetables

Spring Vegetable Planting Complete!

Spring Vegetable Planting Complete

I got the spring greens into the ground today, all plants from Goebbert’s and the Arugula seeds from Terroir Seeds.

I prepared the soil with three bags of mushroom compost and a dressing of organic nitrogen fertilizer.

Here is the list:

  • 3 Mustard Green plants
  • 4 Regular Kale plants
  • 20 Red Romaine plants
  • 28 Spinach plants
  • 3 rows Arugula from seed

The bed is fenced, but if the rabbits are daring they can probably get under it. I will probably need to upgrade the fence if we have deer this year because they can reach right over the top.


Soil Testing

Getting ready to test the garden soil.

Getting ready to test the garden soil.

I have never tested the soil in my garden. It is something I have wanted to do and never got around to, but I was placing an order for some geek stuff to American Science and Surplus and saw this test kit in the catalog and ordered it.

It’s a nice kit and has enough materials for ten soil tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. The pH test was easy, just mix a small soil sample with a capsule of the pH test chemical and water, wait a minute or two for the sediment to settle and compare the colors to get a readout. I tested five different beds in the garden and they all had a neutral pH of 7 which is ideal. So far, so good.

The tests for the other nutrients were a little more complicated. I needed to mix one cup of soil with 5 cups of water and shake well. Then it needed to settle for a couple of hours. Then I used an eyedropper to add the cleared water to each of the test containers, added a capsule of the appropriate test chemical to each, waited ten minutes, and compared the colors to the windows on the test container.

I only tested two areas of the garden. One sample was from the garden area next to the compost pile and the other from the bed next to the fire pit. The results were nearly identical for both samples. Phosphorus was more than adequate at both, the potash was adequate at both, a little higher in the raised bed by the fire pit, and nitrogen was zero, nada, at both locations with maybe just a trace in the bed by the fire pit.

I guessed the nitrogen would be low, but I didn’t think it would be that low. So, I need to add nitrogen before I plant tomorrow. I’ll also add some mushroom compost to build up the soil.

Home Depot should have some high-nitrogen fertilizer, so it’s off to there tomorrow before I head to Goebbert’s and try to get some romaine lettuce plants and the rest of the herbs that they didn’t have when they opened earlier this week.