Sunday, April 27, 2008

Empty Nest

Sunday April 27th

The empty nest.

They've all gone.
I miss them already.
I hope they all do well in their new homes.

All the tomato plants have been handed out, 25 in total. 12 Giant Beefsteak, 7 Old Virginia and 6 Big Red. I’ve asked everybody who received them to give me feedback, good or bad.
Later, when the plants had all gone one of my co-workers approached me and said they would buy any spare tomatoes that I had. They didn’t want any plants, they just wanted to buy the tomatoes from me. This got me asking myself what I was doing here with this small project of mine, and what I was trying to achieve.

The first year I grew tomatoes I had a bumper crop. I didn’t do anything special, it was just one of those years. I had spares so I took them into work and left them in the lunchroom, along with a small moneybox, and asked people to donate whatever they could and the money would go to the local Humane Society. The tomatoes were popular, money was left in the box and everyone benefited.

I then thought that, if I could get more people interested in growing their own heirloom tomatoes and encourage them to save the seeds I would be doing my bit to propagate these old varieties and help spread them around. Also, I hoped that when people ate them they would realize how tasteless and overpriced the ones were that they were purchasing from Wal-Mart and such.
Last year I gave away around a dozen plants and one person did actually save the seeds, grow more plants and pass them out to THEIR friends and relations. Hey, some went to Oklahoma City. I was proud!

This year I’ve tried to expand the project a little by growing more plants, but the idea is still the same. What I want from all this is information. Feedback on what works and what doesn’t in this area. I hope to find out which varieties work best and build on it. Maybe some of mine will fail to bear fruit, maybe all.
But perhaps if we are lucky we will get some of each type so we can exchange seeds between us if necessary. I’d prefer to pass on spare fruit to people who didn’t have success with their plants (but at least tried) as an encouragement for them to try again. By doing this they would get seeds from the fruit too, and hopefully grow their own the following year. All that I’d request would be the same small donation for the Humane Society.

Early start

Saturday April 26th
As usual, I received my weekend early morning call from Alvin at around 6-30am.
After a hard night out hunting he comes and sits on the window ledge outside our bedroom and
wails to be let in.

Alvin. Better than any alarm clock.

It's a lovely sunny Saturday morning, a little on the cool side, but ideal for gardening. I've made a list of things to do so after a couple of cups of Rington's tea it's time to start...........

Plot 1

Plot 1. Corky's Winter Onions and even more onions.

There's been a radical change of plan here, I've decided to make this the onion patch. I didn't want an onion patch, I didn't need an onion patch but it's because of this little chappie...

The dreaded Carrot Beetle.

This is a Carrot Beetle and a whole swarm of them literally fell from the sky one evening in late spring of last year. I thought it was hail-stoning and went outside, armed with flashlight to investigate. I discovered that it was the noise from them hitting the shed wall, bouncing off and falling into Plot 1. By the following morning they had disappeared so I forgot about them.
Big mistake Mick!

That year I'd planted my potatoes in there and they were coming along great. Fine healthy plants with the promise of a good crop. I'd screwed up the year before, planting them in a location that ended up shaded as the trees over them flourished and cut off the sun. I had compounded the problem by overwatering. But these looked well. I was a happy man.

Then one of the plants fell over, then another, then another. No sign of disease or wilting. They simply fell over on their sides. I dug around and found scores of these black beetles huddled around the stem of each plant, about 2 inches below the surface, chomping away at my precious spuds plant stems. It was as if someone had taken a pair of scissors and snipped them through. I lost every plant.
I dug the plot over and got as many out as possible (but obviously not them all), moved my Pole Bean plants to the other end and got on with life.

So today, when I dug the plot over and found them still here I had an idea. I called round at Corkey's, picked up a dozen duck eggs from Mr Corky and liberated a few Winter Onion plants from their garden. These I planted along with some white onion sets so now any beetles that are still in there can eat onions if they like, not that they will of course. Perhaps by next year they'll be gone. Watch this space. But now I've lost room and will have to do some shuffling around.
Once the onions were in I planted my row of Sunflower seeds along the back.

Plot 2

Plot 2. Sunflower seeds are in. Watermelon later, hopefully.

The Red Onions along the front look a little on the wet side to say the least and I may lose them through rot. But who cares, it looks like there's going to be no shortage of onions this year.
I dug over the rest of the plot and planted my second row of Sunflower seeds along the rear edge.

Plot 3

Plot 3. Bell pepper and not much more here.

The Bell Pepper plants seemed to have settled in well and a few Romaine Lettuce seedling have popped through though not many yet. This plot seems to be really slow on the uptake this year, carrots, lettuce and radishes either not appearing at all or struggling and I dont know why? Hmmm, perhaps a change of plan is called for here too?

Plot 4

Plot 4. (l to r) Turnips, Spinach, Radish. Potted Basil hardening off.

The Turnips and Radish are doing fine. The Spinach plants are sparse but trying their best. I'll be pulling the Radish soon so maybe I'll try a few more Spinach seeds before the temps get too high. I let the potted Basil harden off a little as I worked.

Plot 5

Plot 5 showing traditional and deep straw mulching methods.

The potato plants are doing well. I hilled the front 5 in the traditional way and gave the rear 5 a thick covering of fresh straw. I raised the height of the floating row cover to give them a little more room and better air circulation.

Plot 6

This African Blue Basil will join the tomatoes in Plot 6

I gave this another forking over and weeding. The plan was to put the tomato plants in today but the forecast for Sunday night is pretty low so I'm going to wait until Monday. Then they are going in. Period! I also have an African Blue basil plant to put in with them as this did especially well last year and attracted lots and lots of bees. It grew like crazy and I ended up hacking huge sprays off and placing them in a vase on the dining room table so we could enjoy the aroma in the house. I also have some Spicy Globe which I've raised from seed. Although this doesn't have the same strong aroma as the African Blue it's better for cooking, having a strong spicy taste.