Friday, March 21, 2008

Soil testing

This morning I tested the pH levels and temperatures in all 6 plots. Here's the results.....

Well, it seems that the adding of lime has done a good job of raising the pH level as it was down around 4.0 before. All I need now is a planting plan. Here's the 1st draft so far.........
Each plot is approx 8ft x 4ft.
Plots 1 and 2
These are alongside the shed and have not been fitted with floating row covers. I intend to plant Sunflowers up against the shed wall, just to add a little brightness to the proceedings. This means I'll probably have to rig up some kind of trellis against the shed. In front of the Sunflowers in Plot 1 maybe Pole Beans at one end and Cucumber or Squash at the other. Both these will be trained up inverted tomato cages which seemed to work OK last year. Also a row of Onions along the front.
In front of the Sunflowers in Plot 2 I was hoping to have a go at growing some Watermelons from heirloom seeds purchased last year.
Plot 3 Is earmarked for Bell and Hot Pepper plants, purchased from our local nursery along with Lettuce seed and Radish/Carrot seeds mixed at front of them.
Plot 4 Here there may well be Turnips (I've some seeds kicking around somewhere) along with Spinach. There could be another row of Radish/Carrot mixed seed planted a little later along the front to spread out the harvest.
Plot 5 is designated Potato land this season and I'm trying 2 methods of cultivation. One row will be in the conventional style by which you plant the tubers 3 inches deep approx 12 inches apart and "hill" the soil around the plants as they (hopefully) get a foot tall. The second row I'm going to try the mulch planting method instead where straw is built up around them as they get over a few inches tall.
Plot 6 finally will be home for the Tomatoes. As I mentioned earlier I have 3 different heirloom varieties at seedling stage at the moment and I'm planning on picking the best 2 plants from each type giving me 6 plants for that bed. The rest of the plants will be given to any friends and neighbors who desire them.

This mass of potential food will be interspersed with Marigolds and Basil because they look nice, smell nice and generally get along with everyone else in the garden, me included. Tomatoes and Basil taste good together too.
There could also be more Radishes where space permits as (a) they get along with most things (except the Pole Beans), (b) they're easy to grow and (c) they taste great in salads.

OK, so that's my plan for 2008.
Come back tomorrow because it may all have changed by then.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Floating row covers

March 16th
I have already constructed 2 floating row covers for the front beds and I’m pretty happy with them. So happy in fact that I went down to the local lumberyard and purchased more wood lath strips to make another 2. The lath strips are not essential but make the covers a whole lot easier to handle and store in winter. You can simply roll them back when you need to access the plot.
I picked up this tip from my favorite book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith, which I highly recommend to anyone, novice or expert, who wants to try to improve their seasons yield.

Supports made from old tomato cages

If you are not familiar with floating row covers they let sun and rain through while keeping bugs out. They also give a little frost protection. I had a few old tomato cages hanging around in the shed and decided to put those to use too. I cut them into 4 separate pieces and used them as supports to hold the covers up above the plants making a mini greenhouse. If successful I may use the same idea using clear plastic sheets at the back end of the season and try to get a little more growing time when the temperatures drop.
If I were rich I'd have a greenhouse but I'm not, so I dont.

Easily rolled back to give access for weeding etc.........

......and keep everything snug and bug free hopefully.

Startup 2008

The 2008 startup actually began in 2007 when the first seed catalogues became available. After the previous 2 years of random planting I decided to try to be just a little bit more organised. Not too much, mind you, hey this is gardening and in Oklahoma too!! The beds had already been dug over and covered with straw the previous fall. I should have checked the soil but I didn't get my soil sampling kit/meter until Christmas. Oh well.

24th February
I decided to try 3 different types of tomato seeds, all purchased from my favorite seed supplier Heirloom Seeds. I already had some which I'd saved from last years crop which were simply called "Big Red ". I also started "Old Virginia" and "Giant Beefsteak". These were all planted into a seed starter mix of sphagnum peat moss and perlite as seeds should not be started in plain old garden soil . There is a big chance of the seedlings getting disease if you do.I punched holes into the bottom of the polystyrene cups and set them in a tray lined with plain old paper towel from the kitchen. This I gave a good soaking with water. I lightly sprayed the cups with a hand sprayer and placed the whole lot on top of the refrigerator.

March 5th

Seedlings have sprouted and are moved under lamp

The first seedlings have sprouted, some of each variety have come through so now they are moved to my little growing room in the house where I have a table with a simple fluorescent lighting strip hung over it. This light is left on for 16 to 18 hours a day and is positioned about 3 to 4 inches above the top of the plants.

Now that the top of the refrigerator is free I've started my next batch of seeds which are Red Wethersfield Onions and Spicy Bush Globe Basil. I planted lots of Basil in with the tomato plants last year and was amazed to see the amount of Honey and Bumble bees they attracted. I decided that this time I would try to grow some from seed.

March 10th
I've finally checked the Ph level of the soil in all the plots and it's fearfully low, around 4.0 in fact. Ideally it should be neutral which is about 6.0 to 6.5 so I've added around 5lb of Calcitic lime to each bed in an effort to get rid of the acidity. I hope I'm not too late, this should have been done in the fall. I'm wanting to get some direct planting done on the Easter weekend if possible so I'll check it then and keep my fingers crossed.

I've also noticed that the first onion and basil seeds have sprouted.

March 12th

More onion and basil sprouts have appeared so now they are moved under the lamps with the tomatoes

Tomato seedlings at 3 weeks