Saturday, July 9, 2011

Garden Update: Blowing Up

I'm alive!  Sometimes real life gets in the way of this crazy   My garden has persisted during my internet vanishing act though, and I have some tales to tell.

My general treatment of the garden has been simple:  fertilize once a month using GardenTone fertilizer:  loosen up soil 2-3" from the base of plants and sprinkle fertilizer on top.  Work it into the soil and water really well for the first time.  Daily treatment involves just weeding, watering when the soil is dry (it's been so hot, I have had to water nearly every day).

My tomatoes have easily evolved into the most successful thing in my garden.  Despite weeks of 90º+ temperatures and very little rain until just recently, everything has survived, but some things seem happier than others.  Garden genius Mike next door told me that my tomato plants would slow down when the temperatures got above 90, but these tomato plants must have been determined.  They are now officially taller than me, that's 6' tall.  If you recall from my garden setup post, I have a mix of stakes and tomato cages in the garden.  Most of the stakes that I had were about 3' tall, as were the cages.  A couple of smaller stakes I had to replace with full-size 6' stakes, and I am so glad that I did.  The 6' stakes are easily the most effective guiding device in the garden.  Next time that I plant tomatoes I am only using them.  They are like $2 at the store, they last for years, and they are incredibly stable.  The plants have gotten top-heavy in their maturity, which caused multiple cages to start to pull out of the ground.  I currently have a crazy ass tying setup in the works:  plants which overgrew their small stakes tied to cages which are tied to big stakes.  Basically everything is only standing right now because I have 2 tall stakes that everything is tied to!

The Juliet and Cherry tomatoes are producing massive amounts of fruit, they also began to ripen this week.  I had my first very ripe Cherry tomato the other day:  I was out after a rainstorm cleaning up the garden, making sure everything was in order, and I decided to go ahead and eat it right off the vine.  Still wet from the rain, still warm from the sun, actually really ripe instead of ethylene-expedited... you can talk all you want about organic local farm fresh ingredients but it still doesn't compare to doing it yourself.

The tomato forest

Juliet tomatoes - they are like small Roma's in taste and structure

Backside of the forest and some ripe Juliets

Unripened Cherokee Purples

Garden genius Mike gave me one tip that I wanted to share about tomato plants:  The ability to grow new plants from the currently existing ones.  I was going to write up a quick instructional thing but another blog has done it well (with pictures!) so I'm just going to pull a lazy link here.  You can see on tomato plants that they eventually split these middle shoots from the main vine.  They will eventually blossom, but they can lead to the main steam weakening and also pull nutrients from fruit on the vine, so Mike suggested pruning them.  What's neat about the process is that you can plant these shoots into regular soil and they will grow roots and become new plants.  Luckily, in North Carolina, we can actually have 2 planting seasons, so when my current plants are done (if ever, just look at those monsters), I can plant these shoots and have a new batch of plants already up and coming.  Here are the instructions for pinching shoots:

In other garden news, the radishes are done already!  Neighbor Bruce said they were incredibly spicy - I have not had the privilege of trying them yet, but I suspect that we left them in the ground too long, increasing their spicyness.

The okra seems happy although it has not produced any blossoms yet.  It's an incredibly interesting plant:  at one point, I thought it was dying because leaves were falling off and the leaves and stem were covered in these small water globules.  I assumed they were insect eggs or something, but it turns out it's a natural defense mechanism for the plant that occurs on the stems and undersides of the leaves.  Fascinating!  Also, while the plant grows, it kind of 'molts' it's smaller leaves, so it's apparently not uncommon for it to continuously lose leaves as it grows.  I'm curious to see how it blossoms and how the blossoms differ from the regular growth pattern of the plant.  This is my most experimental plant, easily.

My Black Eyed Peas and Kentucky Blue Pole Beans are moving right along.  The pole beans are more aggressive than the Black Eyed Peas and have produced more pods to date.  The Black Eyed Peas are more lush though, and they seem overall happier.  Both plants seem to have struggled climbing the trellis - the ones on the outside near the support stakes happily climbed the stakes and are the tallest vines in the garden.  The ones in the middle seem to have stunted a bit because they couldn't climb the trellis that was there despite me trying daily to help guide them along (even tying them so they stay fixed in place and don't blow off the trellis).  I think that perhaps I will have to have more regular rungs in the trellis next time that I build it.. Right now they are spaced at about 6".

Lastly, a quick shot of the rest of the garden:  my arugula (middle) is doing great.  Beets are ok but seem to be having a more difficult time, perhaps they are getting too much direct sunlight.  In the front of this shot is a row of carrots.  Considering our raised bed is only about 4" deep, I'm very curious to see how these guys turn out.  I hope there's something there to eat!


  1. Dude!! The garden looks awesome!

    Congrats on the success, I moved to a new place with less yard, but am contemplating a rooftop container setup myself!

  2. i've seen some really sweet rooftop containers... sounds like fun. you could also set up a bee farm! :o