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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gardening 2

Well, it was my favorite weekend of the years last weekend.  Its the day I start seeds of some of my favorite crops.  8 weeks before average last frost day...

It was TOMATO DAY!  And bell pepper, broccoli, cabbage, radicchio, celery, and "some other stuff" day.

I love fresh heirloom tomatoes above all individual foods.  Right from vine to mouth, sides on the dinnerplate, in salads, as snacks.

But the last few years, my heirloom tomatoes have not produced well (even for heirloom tomatoes) in spite of good care.  So when I read about grafting heirloom tomato stalks on disease-resistant hybrid roots, I got interested.  Well, almost all grapes grown for wine are grafted on disease-resistant roots, s why not tomatoes?

I planted 2x my normal number of heirlooms (Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Aunt Gertie's Gold, and Striped German) and as many of the hybrid Big Beef to use as hybrid roots (plus 4 to grow for themselves as backups).

The idea is that you cut the tops off the heirlooms and the hybrids and attach the heirloom tops to the hybrid roots.  I bought small silicon clips to hold the 2 together.  It may be tricky to do (I have shakey hands from teenage DDT exposure), but I will give it my best try.  And I've planted enough of the heirlooms so that, if the grafts fail, I will have enough regular heirloom plants for the garden.

I will take LOTS of pictures so that I can look back on the points of success or failure.

There is good news on the previous weekend flower plantings.  There are SEEDLINGS showing!  That is encouraging, because the seed packets said "germination in 7-21 days" and I'm seeing some at 7 days.

I bought a mini greenhouse today.  And I mean "mini-mini".  Its a steel frame with metal mesh shelves and a vinyl cover with zippers that allow you to adjust how closed/open the cover is.  Its for hardening off plants outside before permanent planting, a transition I have always had difficulties with.  It's kind of simplistic, but at $30, worth a try.  I found it at Lowes.

The other gandenng project I keep working on is an enclosed garden surrounded by chicken wire to keep the squirrels from tearing up the seedlings and eating the ripe veggies. I made a fast and crude attempt last year and it "sort of worked".  But not well enough and it was a real effort to harvest anything through the barriers.

I looked up "enclosed gardens", and found a decent design.  But it was small and had flaws.  I've been thinking of improvements.  Thinking of improvements even in my dreams at night...

I think I have something easier to construct, easier to build larger, and sturdier.  I won't give out all the details right now (they are changing daily), but basically, its a 20'x20' grid of 1/2" metal pipe built of 10' pipes and connectors, covered all around with chicken wire and chicken wire extended out from the bottom at ground level about 3' to discourage animals from tunneling under.

I'll show pictures when I settle on the design.

I will have a busy early Spring to deconstruct my existing framed beds in early April (falling apart after 25 years) before the planting season starts in late April.  But it is either then or not and I want to have a garden free of the evil squirrels.


Megan said...

Isn't it wonderful that we can get so excited about simple things, like growing vegetables? Given the wildlife population around here, I use several Vegepods (

Sydney, Australia

Megan said...

PS. Take your photographs of tomato experiments at high resolution Mark (at least 300dpi). I would think that you could readily write up an article with photographs and pitch it for publication in a gardening magazine. Why not?

Sydney, Australia

The Cat From Hell said...

we have one of those green houses! They are great! but word of caution, make sure you put it where the wind can't knock it over and watch moisture! The plants really suck it up and the first year I used ours, I lost half my plants because I did not water enough (we are really dry here)
Are you growing from your own seeds for the tomatoes or are they commercial?

Mariodacatsmom said...

I am so envious. Obviously you live in a state much warmer than ours. At least 2 feet of snow on the ground, bitter cold, and more snow coming tomorrow night.