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Evaluating veggies

ripetom It’s always good to take a look at what’s happening to the vegetables in the garden as well — where are they in terms of development? If they aren’t where you think they should be at this point (mid-July, which for us is mid-point in the growing season), what do you think caused it? Anything to be done to help at this point?

In this photo, you can see the Tumbling Tom ™ tomatoes in their hanging baskets. “49 days from transplanting” is what it says on the package and I think we’re pretty close on that. And considering what a horrible May and June (9 inches of rain in June alone – great on the water side but not much on the sun side) we had, I’m thinking these are one terrific tomato for container growing. Not exactly what I’d call a ‘cherry’ tomato – they are slightly larger and more ovoid than those are but so far, a very good deal. They are still setting tomato flowers, so with some attention and judicious watering, I think we will be able to get production all through the rest of the season.

TOMATOES! IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY! I’m dumbstruck, seriously.

One other thing – with something like this (that is, plants in containers), we’re faced with a limited amount of ‘food’ in the baskets, so I have been feeding them once a month with a watering of fish emulsion (two tablespoons in a gallon of water). The plants are working extremely hard in situations like this where they don’t have access to compost in the soil or other amendments, so regular feeding is a good idea.

I’m still slackjawed – tomatoes in mid-July here at Chez Siberia. I realize for folks in warmer zones, it is highly possible that you’ve already been picking tomatoes and peppers – perhaps in places such as Arizona, you are basically finished with your ‘first garden’ of the year and are waiting out the summer until you get some rain in the fall for a second garden. Speaking of rain – National Weather Service is predicting what they call a ‘major’ El Nino event for this fall and winter, so it looks as if California and the US Southwest can expect probably their best chance of decent rain for a while. If you have plans to plant native plants, bushes and trees out there, people, now is the time to start planning for that because you will have rain to help you this fall and winter.2015 El Nino Outlook

But, back to the garden, itself. Now that things have really started (and I realize that all of this is relative – there are folks in Europe and the southern half of the US who are dealing with temperatures in the 90s and low 100s F) to warm up here, the garden has really taken hold. We have lots of little peppers on the plants (and a good thing too, since I want to make hot sauce for holiday gifts this year). With another 9-10 weeks of frost-free weather in front of us here, this means that with any luck, we will have a good crop of hot and sweet peppers, something I am very much looking forward to. So far, the real champs out there are the ‘cayenne mix’ peppers I grew from seed. The plants themselves are not terribly big (which makes sense since this is a short-season mix; if the plant spends most of its time making plant before it starts to flower, we would never get any peppers here), but they have lots of flowers, flower buds and baby peppers on them. The peppers I got for making paprika so far have not done well; I think the cold wet weather set them back a good deal. Ah well, this is what gardening is all about, I suppose. We’ve got cucumbers (a bush type, short season) coming thick and fast and the garlic patches are starting to show signs of dying down (this is actually pretty early – I would not have expected to see this so early in the gardening season), so we will probably be harvesting some of them in any case, by mid-August. We will be evaluating those, since I planted exactly the same amount (half a pound) of each of four different types. We’ll see how they did – counting actual garlic bulbs, cleaning them and weighing them to evaluate which one or two types did best under our conditions (horrific cold winter, lots of snow, and cold and rainy spring). The biggest cloves of the best performers will be kept and replanted this fall.

Something New
A trend in gardening which is not new, but which might be new to some readers, is a field referred to as ‘permaculture’, where native plants, bushes, ground covers and trees are used to save water, harness whatever water there is, provide food and shade and protection. There have been some amazing examples, in places such as Jordan, California, Arizona, where areas can literally be transformed by the use of harnessing the water that naturally falls with mulches, shade trees and so on. For more information, here are some links (I love the Geoff Lawton videos – really ‘knock your eyes out’ results in the worst conditions. Geoff Lawton )

Of you are looking for books on the topic:
Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Jessie Bloom
Anything by Bill Mollison (the grand old man of permaculture)
Anything by Toby Hemenway (very readable and accessible)

One book I would not recommend, unless you have a) your own backhoe or bulldozer and a lot of free labor available to you through interns and so on is this one: The Resilient Farm and Homestead, by Ben Falk. Again – unless you own a good chunk of land (or plan to buy a big piece of property) and own big equipment, this book will put you off. It does have amazing information on permaculture design, how to build swales and so on, it should not be the first book you read. Seeing all of that equipment being used to carve up the land will scare you to death.

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