After my tomato post the other day, several of you had garden questions. I can’t remember how much I’ve told y’all about this before, so you may want to skip this if gardening isn’t your thing. I suppose our garden would be small to a farmer, but it is big by most people’s standards. The main garden is about 120 feet by 50 feet. Then there’s a separate melon patch (probably about 18×10), a 30-ft row of strawberries, a 40-ft row of raspberries, 6 grapes, and 6 fruit trees. (Gracious – no wonder something’s always in desperate need of weeding!)
My husband moves the tomato plants from starter packs to yogurt containers because they’ll be stunted if they stay in the starter packs much longer. But around here it can still possibly freeze at night for a couple more weeks. The varieties he’s growing this year are Beefy Boy, Romas, Prudens Purple, Brandywine, yellow pear, and Sungold cherry tomatoes.
He’s also already started cabbages, dill, melons and peppers– all indoors under lights. This year he’s also starting more trees– chestnut trees, hickory, black locust, Kentucky coffee trees, and sweet gum trees. My hubby is a bit of a tree fanatic– he can’t walk past a tree in the park without checking for seed pods. When we moved to this property, there was ONE lone wild rose bush on the entire 3 acres. Now there are at least a hundred. A few huge, many small, but when we remember the look of the place 15 years ago when we built the house it is quite the tranformation.
Since their transplant to the yogurt containers, the tomatoes got moved out from under lights to a big sunny bank of windows in his shop. There they’ll experience colder temperatures and start to harden off, which will make the move to the garden in a couple weeks less of a shock. Out in the garden, each baby tomato will be planted a little deeper than it was in the pot to develop good roots, then be surrounded with a tomato rack and covered with clear sheeting for a week or two, to prevent sunburn. By mid-July they’re usually up to my shoulder, and by early August we’ll hopefully be getting our first tomatoes.
As far as spraying fruit trees, we’ve discovered it is really necessary, esp with apples. We use Sevin, per package recommendations, with a pump-up cannister sprayer with a wand. We spray about 4 times over the summer, once soon after bloom, and about every 4 weeks after that, stopping at least 3 weeks before picking. I don’t love spraying, but the truth is that grocery store apples are loaded with spray. We spray less often than the regular growers do, and don’t get perfect results. About 50% of our apples are ‘perfect’– ie, bug free. about 30% have a small bug hole or two someplace, and the other 20% of our apples are only good for applesauce after some careful trimming. But I am content with the results we get, and am not anxious to use more spray than that.
For those of you interested in starting your own seeds, John recommends The New Seed Starter’s Handbook by Nancy Bubel. Growing your own plants allows you lots more variety and is much more affordable than buying plants already started, especially if you want a good-sized garden.
One thing that really makes this huge garden possible is the help of everyone in the family. About 3-4 days a week we all head out to work in the yard/garden for 30-45 minutes after breakfast. Working together we can get so much more done! Last night 9 of us worked on flowerbeds for 45 minutes. Add that up — that’s almost 7 man-hours of yard work complete in less than an hour. And the truth is, when we all work together, the atmosphere tends to be pretty decent. I call out 15 minute intervals so that people know that the time is ticking away. People chat, sing… and yes, they occasionally whine (but not much, because that earns bonus minutes!) The littlest girls fill sleds with weeds and drag them to the burn pile. And when we are done we can step back and see real improvement.
Anyway, that’s the scoop on the garden for now. I’ll share growing pictures later!