Sunday, April 27, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday Tomatoes and Going to Bakersville!

The early tomatoes that were planted outside this week are doing great! Here is my first baby picture:

See it? Its right in the center of the picture, small but oh so cute. Grow quickly little fella!

Around here folks always say that if you don't like the weather just wait a day or two because it changes drastically. It works the same way in reverse too. Thursday and Friday were perfect Spring tomato weather days with highs in the 80's and lows in the 60's. Last night however it got down to 36 degrees and tonight is supposed to be even lower! Yesterday I had to spring into action and construct the temporary lean-to greenhouse. Last night, this it what my early tomatoes looked like:

Here is what they looked like inside:

It was enough to get them through last night. Hopefully tonight and the rest of the cold front will be okay too. If I would have left them out in the open, I probably wouldn't have them today for Green Thumb Sunday!

Don't forget to visit other Green Thumb Sunday participants!

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Next Sunday I will get to be with the man who possibly has the greatest green thumb of all - Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

What an amazing business he and his wife Emilee have established by collecting and growing 1200 unique heirloom seed varieties. The reason I may get to meet him next Sunday is because I'm headed to Bakersville! Next Sunday and Monday, May 4th and 5th is Baker Creek's Annual Spring Planting and Heritage Festival.

Yes, Baker Creek is in Missouri and I live in Kentucky. They are 9 hours away but I can't think of a better gardening pilgrimage. Last year they had over 5000 people attend and many vendors. It will be neat to see their set up, the town they have built and the period costumes and demonstrations. The speakers at the festival should be spectacular as well. If you live anywhere near Mansfield Missouri or are willing to drive long distances like me, you should really check out this event. I would love to hear from anyone who has attended in the past and find out if anyone I know is going this year. It would be fun to meet up with a fellow garden blogger or someone who reads this blog.

I am pretty excited about going. My family and I are making a whole vacation out of it. See you in Bakersville!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Big Grow Light Stand Annex

Much has been going on in the garden lately. I have planted broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, chard, peas, potatoes and my first installment of extra-early tomatoes outside. Inside has been even busier. I now have peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and over 100 tomato seedlings under the lights. The problem is that I still have 10 giant extra-early tomato plants also under the lights. Things were getting pretty crowded!

I couldn't fit everything in and I couldn't get the lower lights to go any higher. The plants were growing into and over the lights.

The only way to fix this without abandoning my extra-early tomato plan was to build a light stand annex. I rounded up another old table, some more hooks chains and shop lights and presto - a lovely annex on the other side of the room!

They are already growing up to touch the lights, but I can keep moving the lights up higher now.

Moving these plants around has reminded me that I never shared with you my creative container choices. Anything goes when I get into the larger pot size.

I won't be able to use these double pots again since I had to cut out the bottom. I have already planted some of these out in the garden and I had to completely cut away the pot to get the plant out. The sand pail is a better idea. Just remember, if you use something that wasn't originally intended to be a planter, you need to drill holes in the bottom for drainage. This sand bucket won't hold water anymore!

I have already transplanted five tomato plants in the prepared outside bed. Soon I will have pictures of them. They were Early Girl, New Girl, Orange Blossom, and two 4th of July plants. I did manage to put black plastic down over the bed to heat up the soil but I have not yet built my makeshift lean-to greenhouse to go over them. I haven't had to yet because it has been unseasonably warm this week in the mid 80's! Next week's weather will not be so tomato friendly though. It is supposed to only get to about 50 degrees with overnight lows in the 30s - yikes! That is why it is crazy to plant tomatoes outside here in April. I hope I can get my plastic up soon and it works!

In the meantime I will be potting up the inside tomatoes to even bigger containers. They are looking very happy in their cozy warm indoor environment.

Too bad I can't grow them to fruit stage inside. Sooner or later they have to brave the elements outside. I am still dreaming of ripe tomatoes here in northern zone 5 by June 1st! Wish me luck!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Garden Journal: Peas, Potatoes, Lettuce, Tomatoes

I can't believe it has taken me a whole week to post this. Last Saturday, when we got home from vacation I took inventory on the garden happenings and wrote it all in my paper journal like the old days. I really do like paper records better than digital ones, but journaling on the computer allows one to post photos much easier.

So I think I will be journaling here at Garden Desk. These posts will be a bit different than my others because it will just be a list of how things are going. It may be more for me than for my readers, but you are welcome to read along. Maybe you can help me by commenting on how I could fix my problems or improve things.

So here goes, my first 2008 Garden Journal - 4/5/08:

I already wrote about the new potatoes I bought last week. I have been pretty frustrated with my peas. The germination rate is listed as 7 to 14 days but after 18 days there was still nothing. Finally, they are emerging!

In the pea beds, I transplanted the lettuce plants that I grew inside and hardened off in the cold frame.

I was delighted to find that the beds were teeming with worms! I hope that means that the soil here is healthy.

Now the beds look prettier. I hope the lettuce grows bigger quickly.

Also growing well outside are potato onions and garlic. Inside, the early tomato plants were looking great.

Uh oh - upon closer inspection maybe not. What are these tiny spots on the Orange Blossom tomatoes?

I had no idea, but a gardener is only as good as his gardening book library. I hit the books and found out that I had Septoria Leaf Spot.

I found it in my trusty Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy Without Chemicals. It has an extremely long title, but it is also extremely helpful! It says that Septoria Leaf Spot is Fungal. The control is simply to remove and destroy infected leaves, so that is what I did. Now, a week later I'm happy to report that there are no new signs of the fungus. I will have to keep a close eye on them. Luckily it was only on three of the four Orange Blossom tomatoes and none of the others. Even if the Septoria leaf spot comes back and damages or destroys the Orange Blossom tomatoes, I have five other early varieties ready and will be raising almost 30 other varieties. I guess I could afford to lose one variety.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Vacations are hard on the garden!

Here's an obvious fact: you can't work in your garden while you're on vacation. I have often realized that after returning from a Summer vacation, so this year we took an early Spring vacation. Leaving on March 30th for a week or so, I thought would be a great time for a vacation. After all, not much is going on in the garden yet. Of course I only thought that until we returned. We had a great time on vacation visiting my brother and family (I have a new baby nephew!) and even getting away for a quiet night alone with my wife, but I have soooo much to do now.

Yesterday I worked all day in the yard and garden and I journaled about it the old fashioned way - on paper. Soon I will convert that to these electronic pages to document how things are going with my peas, garlic, potato onions, lettuce, early tomatoes etc.

While on vacation I didn't entirely leave the garden behind. I found a great little old fashioned general store in the mountains of Kentucky with cheap seeds and seed potatoes. I bought more peas, beans, onion sets and 40 pounds of seed potatoes - so now I have even more to do!

I bought some Red Pontiac and Irish Cobbler potatoes. Hopefully I will get them planted this week! The weather is great now and Spring is springing - how exciting!

So this is just a quick post to let you know that I haven't abandoned Garden Desk or my garden. Quite the opposite is true. Stay tuned for more....

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