Saturday, May 2, 2009

May 2nd

My Siberian tomatoes are coming along. I am very impressed with the Amateur's Dream plant. If the tomatoes from this plant are any good, it will surely become one of my standards. This plant is at least twice as big as the biggest of the rest:

It has blooms already. All I need now is for some pollinators to do their thing.

The potatoes in the bags are doing ok. If you grow potatoes in a bag, make sure you give the bag some structure, like chicken wire, otherwise, the bag is hard to work with. Also, wherever you put the bag at first, that's where it stays because if you try to move it once the potatoes have rooted, you risk disturbing the plants. The potato plants in the bag that I did move, are smaller than the others. Here is my best bag of the three:

I am also growing potatoes in tubs. Here's what one of the tubs looks like now:

My pepper plants are not growing much but they are not dying either. In this tub, California Wonder, Red Bell Pepper, Pasilla, and Padron:

My purple onions from sets and my garlic are doing great. I bought both at a hardware store (Sutherland's). The bags they came in did not say what variety they were:

Tin Tin lettuce. I failed to thin when they were young and now it has been a mess trying to get them to a single head. I will be planting a new set tomorrow morning and this time I will do a better job. I may make a home-made seed strip using flour and water as a binder and newspaper strips. I think my local newspaper is printed with soy ink, at least the black and white sections.

I planted corn, squash, giant kale, and more peas (Mr. Big).

I got some coffee grounds from Starbucks on Thursday and so I am ready to plant the new blueberry bush but I did not have time today due to my wife's friend coming to town and the subsequent visiting and merry-making. I hope I get to put the bush in the ground tomorrow.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Aspirin spray

I sprayed all my plants today at 5 pm with an aspirin solution of 350 mg of aspirin per gallon.

I did not put any soap or any other substance to make the water stick.

By the way, I think the aspirin is synthesized in a lab so this is not an organic method. Still, I will continue spraying since I believe aspirin to be fairly benign.

I bleed red clay

I took my first pottery class. It was a humbling experience at best.
When I arrived, I was assigned my wheel and was given my tools:

You use your garroting tool (really, it is a wire with two wooden handles, just like in The Sopranos) to cut a chunk of clay.
You wedge (knead) the clay to "awaken" it and to remove air bubbles. "Make a ram's head" Kaye told me, as she expertly produced something very much resembling the head of such an animal. As she wedged the lump of clay, the ram's head appeared and disappeared under her experienced hands.
When I tried it, well, let's just say that the animal whose head I made has not yet been seen in nature.
Next, Kaye showed me how to center the clay. You put the lump of clay in the middle of a tray called a bat and then you affix the bat to the potter's wheel. Then you turn the wheel on and using both your hands you center the clay. I was to practice this for an hour. An hour?! Come on!
A child could center clay

An hour later, I still could not do it properly.

Sweat pouring down my red clay-smudged face, feelings of shame and insecurity running rampart in my heart, I continued until I got the clay to stop wobbling so much.
"Keep your elbows tucked in and point your left hand toward 1 o'clock" Kaye reminded me.
My more experienced classmates kindly encouraged me:
"It takes a while" someone said.
"Once you get this, the rest is easy" Dave said. Dave has been doing this a long time; ever since returning from Vietnam. I stopped for a second to watch Dave put some finishing touches on a beautiful flower vase.
While I was struggling with this very first step, Kaye built a huge, perfectly even urn. As it turned flawlessly on the wheel, Kaye exclaimed "it's a little wobbly".
I felt small.

I moved on to the next step, which was to make a cylinder out of my lump of clay. Kaye had already shown me how to do this. She made a whole in the middle using her thumbs while the wheel spun.
"Only touch the clay when it is moving" she said.
Then, she touched the clay and it magically rose smoothly and evenly into a perfect tube.
I practiced this for the next hour.
These are the results:
If you look really carefully, you can see that by the end of the class, I was tired and disillusioned.

So it will be a while before I produce my first Olla it seems. Let's just hope that pottery does not totally destroy my self-esteem and I end up on the street muttering to myself "I did tuck my elbows in! I did push toward 1 O'clock!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More stuff

I thought I was almost done planting. I thought I was moving on to the cultivating stage of my veggie gardening. I thought wrong.
I want more stuff.
I need to build a couple more square-foot-gardening beds to grow more stuff.
I don't have enough stuff growing.
I still have one more day in April.
I can do this.
I never planted cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower.
I did not plant enough lettuce varieties.
I don't have green beans growing anywhere.
Oh Eggplant Where Are Thou?

Surely my wife and kids will be fine without me while I grow more stuff. Wont' they?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Great idea but...

I want to spray my plants with aspirin. The original article (see this post) called for uncoated aspirin. I think the reason for this is that uncoated aspirin is easier to crush and dissolve in water, but it also may have something to do with the coating itself in coated aspirin. I did some research on the Internet and found different substances (like ethylcellulose and methylcellulose) used in the coating of aspirin. There is no way for me to know what effect those substances would have on my plants so I decided to use uncoated aspirin only.
I could not find uncoated aspirin anywhere. I tried Walgreen's. No go. I tried Dillon's (a supermarket chain owned by Kroger) No go. I tried K-mart, Walmart. No go. All those stores only carried Coated and Enteric Coated aspirin. Finally, on my way back to work from lunch, I drove past a Deep Discount pharmacy and decided to try there and lo and behold they carried uncoated aspirin. You can tell it's uncoated because when you handle it, you are left with a dusty residue of aspirin in your fingers. Plus, it did not say Coated anywhere in the bottle. I checked the ingredients on the back of the bottle and the only other thing in the pills was corn starch.

Let the spraying begin!

In the original article, the dosage for this is 1.5 aspirin (81 gr) per 2 gallons of water. I can only assume that 81g stands for 81 grams. 81 grams equals 81000 milligrams(1000 milligrams = 1 gram) My aspirin came in pills of 385 milligrams each so that means I would have to use about 210 pills to make the solution stated in the article!!!! That did not seem right so I went online and began researching this. I found this article where a more sensible recipe is given: 250 - 500 milligrams of aspirin per gallon of water. That would be one of my aspirin tablets in a gallon of water. Much better!
As for how often to spray, I will still follow the every 3 weeks schedule.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Final Tomato plant tally

This is the final list of tomatoes I am growing this year:

Market Miracle - Siberian. Determinate, 8-12 oz (~227-340 grams) red tomato

Amateur's Dream - Siberian. Indeterminate. Big, bright red tomato. This plant has outgrown ALL the others and it now looks like a small tree. Short but with a very thick stem.

Black Russian - Indeterminate. Medium size black tomato. Someone claims that when dried, they have a delicious smoky flavor. I will have to try that.

Perestroika - Siberian. Indeterminate. 8-10 oz (~227-283 grams) orange-red tomato.

Urbikany - Siberian. Determinate. Very early 2 inch (5 cm) red tomato.

Galina - Siberian. Indeterminate. 1 inch (2.5 cm) yellow tomato. Sweet.

Maskotka - Determinate. 1 - 1.25 oz (25-35 grams) red cherry tomato.

Jet Star - Indeterminate. Hybrid. Medium size red tomato.

Yellow Pear - Indeterminate. 1 inch (2.5cm) yellow pear shaped tomato. This one I actually grew two years ago. Because it did not produce fruit in the Spring or early Summer, I let the two plants go. They did not die but thrived and then they started producing like crazy in late Summer and produced all the way to October. I liked the flavor of this tomato. I did not try to grow it last year but just a few days ago I decided to plant a few seeds of it to see what happens.

Golden Jubilee - Indeterminate. Yellow softball size tomato.

Brandywine - Indeterminate. Large, beefsteak type tomato. I failed to stake them properly last year and they broke in half during a thunderstorm midseason.

Alien unknown cherry - I planted a cherry tomato last year. I lost the packet and I don't remember the type. The plant grew and grew. I did not know last year about pruning tomato plants to a single vine so I just kept tying the vines to stakes. This year I have a bunch of volunteer seedlings from that plant. I took two of them and put them in a container.

I have come to the conclusion that one lifetime is not enough to try every tomato variant out there but I will have fun trying. Also, there is ALWAYS something new to learn about tomatoes.
For example:

Feed them via the leaves (Foliar Feeding)
Give them Aspirin
Prune them

I went with mostly Siberian tomatoes this year because I wanted early fruit. I put the Siberian tomatoes ouside when the highs were hardly in the 40's and the lows were often near freezing and none of the plants died. (I did lose a couple to very high winds). I did get to eat one Black Russian tomato last year and it was indeed rich and flavorful with a taste unlike any of the red tomatoes I've ever eaten.

Lots of rain, no rain water

The rain began falling right around 3:00 pm yesterday. Watching the water rush out of the water spouts with some force, a little voice told me to go check my rain barrel, but I did not. The rain continued to fall almost continuously until around 5:00 am today. When I let Lexie out this morning, I checked on the rain barrel and sure enough, the force of the water stream had knocked it over and I collected zero rain water.
The storm that dropped all this water --3 inches reported on the radio, was a strong one but none of my plants received any damage. My area is somewhat protected by many mature trees and there are wooden fences everywhere to baffle the winds. Mercifully, there was no hail.
The tornado sirens kept going off throughout the evening and this had Dominic worried. Ronan of course had to come and sleep in our bed because he is terrified of thunder and lighting. Curiously, Dominic never was.
The tornadoes that touched down did not even come close to our part of the county.
Today I will go look at the rain barrels at Lowe's again.