Friday, May 15, 2009

Tomato techniques

If you don't want to stake or cage your tomatoes, here are some overlooked techniques for keeping them upright:

Hold them upright yourself:

Implant Adamantium skeleton:

Alter them genetically:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Various and sundry things

My big potato plant has flowers now. I know it's way to soon for any potatoes so I don't know why it's flowering already. This is one of the potatoes that I started inside in a peat pot and that may be what people where talking about when they said that potatoes do not do well when started inside. The flowers are pretty though.

Update on the self-watering, wicking experiment. It's been 2 full days and the wick is still wet and although the soil is not dried, I am not confident that enough water is moving across the wick. I must say though, that the day before yesterday was hot, 80+ and sunny and the fact that the wick did not dry may be proof that indeed, there's plenty of water moving. I still think that a wider piece of cloth may deliver more water.
Interesting thing about capillary action. The reason water moves is that water molecules are attracted to water molecules and that is why both the wick and the soil must be wet when you first build a system like this, or when you build a self-watering container (or sub-irrigated container as I and other people preferred to call them). So the water molecules in the soil pull the water molecules on the wick which pull the water molecules from the bottle creating a flow. There are more things under heaven and earth that are dreamt of in our philosophies indeed!

Last, here is where I am on the road to Ollas (for slow-watering purposes)

I have taken 3 pottery classes now and I finally began to understand centering the clay and pulling the clay up into a tube. I say I began to understand, which is to say that I still have some ways to go before I can throw an Olla. I think next class, I will learn how to fire this cup and a couple of bowls that I've made.
Much like capillary action on water, learning how to throw pottery has attracted a desire to make my own potter's wheel since the ones I use at school cost about $1200 dlls.!!!!!!
I've seen several designs online for wheels and I just have to decide which one is simpler. Also, I want to build a kiln that uses wood because A) I am very scared of propane B) I want to fire my own stuff whenever I want to.

Over and Out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grow your own for your own good

Here is a list of various fruits and vegetables graded according to their pesticide load.

Notice Peaches are at the very top. Have you ever tried to grow Peaches organically? Phew! If someday these darn late freezes stop killing all my blooms, I plan on bagging each Peach to try to get one or two not sampled by a legion of bugs.

Please visit for more information. Meanwhile, by growing your own of the stuff listed here, you can be sure to control what you are eating.

1 (worst)Peach100 (highest pesticide load)
3Sweet Bell Pepper83
10Grapes - Imported66
13Collard Greens60
16Green Beans53
17Summer Squash53
21Grapes - Domestic44
28Winter Squash34
31Honeydew Melon30
33Sweet Potato29
41Sweet Peas - Frozen10
45Sweet Corn - Frozen2
47 (best)Onion1 (lowest pesticide load)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tomato question

I just learned that determinate tomatoes fruit once and then they kind of stop. Obviously, to get fruit from determinate tomatoes all season long, we need to stagger their planting.

My question is; if I pinch a sucker off a determinate tomato, can I fool mother nature and get a plant that will fruit? Or will the tomato genes know that they are done fruiting for the season?

What if I do some extreme pruning? Will that allow me to coax another set of fruit from the plant?
Extreme pruning is just that, pruning the plant to the extreme. I read somewhere that a tomato only needs three leaves to live (that is leaves, not leaflets) and that by pruning extremely, all of the plant's energy goes into producing fruit.

Has anyone tried either one of these techniques?

Inquiring minds want to know!

I am off to pinch a determinate tomato plant's sucker.

Monday, May 11, 2009


2 liter bottle. Check.

Cloth scrap. Check.

3 dollar container from Dollar General (from last season). Check.

Add soil. Wet soil. Add wet cloth.

Cover with soil to the top of container. Wet soil. Insert other end of cloth into 2 liter bottle. Fill 2 liter bottle with water.

As I was finishing this project, it occurred to me that it would improve my chances of success if I made the wick (cloth) wider thus increasing the surface area to deliver water to the soil.

Also, to avoid growing algae in the water bottle, it would help to shield it from light somehow (duct tape perhaps)

I planted Dill, Oregano, and Spinach. I'll report on my progress.

Also, I was preparing a couple of sub-irrigated containers and I thought it would be useful to show what they look like before the dirt goes in.

This is my fill tube. I hope you can see the notch I made in one end. (I used my cell phone to take these pictures)

Finally, this is what it looks like before I add the dirt.


I have been thinking about the best way to re-use 2 liter bottles to water my plants. Here's an idea:

Step 1: Take a standard 2 liter bottle.
Pepsi for me, thanks!
Step 2: Take an empty 5 gallon bucket donated kindly by a local restaurant. Drill or punch drainage holes on the bottom.
Prior BBQ sauce vesselStep 3: Take an old cotton t-shirt and cut a 1 - 2 inch wide x 1.5 foot swath from it. These measurements are totally arbitrary. Do what works for you.
Groovy!Step 4: Fill 1/3 of the 5 gallon bucket with potting mix.

Step 5: Get the t-shirt scrap wet. Really wet.

Step 6: Lay one end of the t-shirt scrap inside the 5 gallon bucket on top of the potting mix. Add enough water to moisten the soil.

Step 7: Fill the rest of the bucket with potting soil and add water to wet the newly added soil. Put your plant in.

Step 8: Insert the other end of t-shirt scrap into 2 liter bottle and fill bottle with water.
Put capillary action to work for you!
I just thought of this when I awoke this morning. I haven't tried it but I think it will work.

The magic here is provided by capillary action. The water travels up the cotton fibers as water from the soil vanishes.

Our nemesis here is evaporation. We don't want the t-shirt scrap to dry. I think I could wrap the exposed fabric with a plastic grocery bag to keep it wet during the hot days of Summer.

Unknowns are: Will it work at all? Will the water wick fast enough for a big plant like a tomato?

  • Although the sub-irrigated container using two buckets works well, it uses two buckets and requires more drilling, cutting, and assembly. A new method that requires a minimum amount of cutting, drilling, and materials is nice.
  • Burying a bottle or olla in a container takes up precious space needed by the plant.
  • I apparently do not have enough to do.
I will implement this design and report on my progress.


Yesterday, in the evening, I finally planted some herbs:

Basil (Genovese)

I planted the Basil in the tomato sub-irrigated containers. This will not work if I don't keep the tomatoes neatly pruned.

I sowed more bush watermelon (Sugar Baby and Sugar Baby yellow). I hope these don't die like the others.

I also planted the Catalina flower (Torenia) in a nice partly shady spot. The flowers are blue/purple. I hope it takes.

I sowed the last of the seed of French Marygolds from last year. Last year they sprouted and grew large but did not bloom. I wonder if I waited too long.

I finally put a suggestion of a fence around the Hollyhock bed to see if my dogs get the hint.

The Black Beauty Zucchini and the Butternut squash are up. I love Butternut squash. I just slice it, saute it in olive oil with onion, garlic, and then I add some cheese. Yummmm.....

The Yellow Pear and the Golden Jubilee tomato plants have been up for a week now but are not getting bigger. They look healthy however.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

All the mothers in my life woke up to, what else...rain. Sigh!

And if you bought your mom one of these upside-down tomato planters (hey, you never know, some moms may want one :-) ) here's something they don't tell you on the commercial: The tomato plant will want to grow UP.
This is a problem because, as the plant gets bigger and produces fruit, the weight of the tomatoes may break the plant. This was actually reported by some acquaintances of mine who tried this planter a couple of years ago. I don't know if this happens to all varieties of tomatoes. It is happening to the Jet Star growing in my upside-down planter. I think putting a bamboo stake and training the plant when it is young may solve the problem.

The tomatoes in my containers are finally getting taller. I thought they may not grow anymore since I started them so early and left them in their small pots for so long but they are showing vertical growth at last. Some of them are bearing fruit now.

Because of all the rain we've gotten lately, I am growing small mushroom forests on some of my containers:
Mushroom Forest
The Tom Thumb and Tin Tin lettuce are doing ok in the square-foot-gardening beds

And look at the pretty squash flower! This plant won't survive unfortunately as it has been attacked by some borer. I would show you the beast but I sliced it when I extracted it from the stem of the plant and it just looked like goo afterward. I may have killed the plant as well, although the leaves are not droopy anymore.

Flower six packs were on sale so I picked a few.

The largest of my potato plants is budding. I can't imagine that there are potatoes in there already so I am going to let it sit for a while longer.

Here is my 3 year old at breakfast. Later, he will go and dig in the yard for the sheer pleasure of it and I will dig alongside him (for the sheer pleasure of it).
My 5 year old was unavailable for a photo shoot.
Also, the sweet corn is as high as a cricket's eye, the giant sunflowers are all up, the giant kale has sprouted, black bean seedlings are making their appearance as are the sweet peas. I planted green beans and more radishes. I harvested and ate all my radishes except for a few that just did not grow.