May In My Food Garden
I am finally back in the garden, playing catch up by planting up a storm. How I have missed it! May sowing and growing is one of my most favourite times in the garden! All is full of potential, dreams of the perfect summer, the best garden season yet … everything is possible.
This year’s planting was derailed by the ‘tailbone incident’, a fall that cracked my tailbone and put a halt to all lifting and bending for a while. However, here we are, several weeks later and feeling quite a bit better already, raring to go in the garden. The majority of the planting happens this month, so is a busy time indeed, no time for ailments or injuries!
One of the first things that had to get into the garden asap was the carrot patch. Thus far, I only have a wee smattering of winter sown carrots coming along, (sown in December, I think). While they are looking nice, growing great, half of them were dug up by a bunny. Grr! So, l still need to sow a few hundred more to get us, and the pups, through the next winter.
Carrots can take a really long time to germinate, anywhere up to 21 days, and must be well watered until you see the greens popping through the ground. This can be very difficult in this hot, dry weather we are having this spring. To help keep them moist, cover with burlap sacks, or burlap sheets (doubled up), or even boards set up on bricks. Anything that will shade the earth to keep them from drying out till they pop through the ground. If they were to dry out during germination, the seeds die, and you end up having to reseed, thus starting all over again.
We are growing 2.5 beds of tomatoes this year, which means approximately 100 plants in all. My beds are 40 feet long and 4 feet wide, so each one holds 40 tomatoes when spaced 1.5 to 2 feet apart on either side of the bed.
One entire bed is just paste tomatoes for our ketchup, sauces, and other canning, the rest will be an assortment of slicers, cherries, and beefsteaks. I like to grow one of each of the new varieties that I sell, as well. That way I know how it produces, grows, and tastes, so that I can decide whether it is worth growing again the following year. I still look forward to your feedback though, love to hear what you all think of them, as well!
I’m also hoping to have extras of all colours, shapes, and sizes to sell at my lovely new farm stand this summer … Let’s get everyone hooked on the heirlooms ; )
That said, I am also trialing a few of the new open pollinated tomatoes this year, some from Wild Boar Farm, a couple from Artisan Tomatoes, and a few from the Dwarf Tomato Project. Not a lot, maybe 10 of the 100 will be these new varieties. Will see how they compare to the heirlooms… I am a bit hesitant about this, as I am truly an heirloom gal through and through, however, one never knows until one tries them/tastes them. They may well be wonderful and become the heirlooms of the future.
So… here’s. how to plant and grow the best, healthiest, and happiest tomatoes…
Make sure that you have great soil as tomatoes are heavy feeders. If you do not, add manure or compost to the planting hole and perhaps some organic vegetable fertiliser, as well. I like Gaia Green 4-4-4 but have also recently discovered a new fertiliser called Acti-Sol that I really like, as well. If you do not have this at planting time, plant your tomatoes in the compost amended soil and then scratch in the fertiliser on top afterwards, it will still get to the root system of the plants as you water.
Remove all the foliage from the bottom half of the tomato plant. Rough up the root ball a wee bit so that the roots begin to spread after planting. Drop into the planting hole, bury it at least half way up the stem. it will grow roots all along the stem that you buried for a sturdy, healthier plant.
Water it in well, leave for a day or two before watering deeply again. It may look a bit wilted for a bit, but will soon perk up.
Space your tomatoes 1.5 to 2 feet apart for good air flow to prevent fungal issues and blight. Companion plant with basil, parsley, and marigolds for pest control and healthy, happy plants. It has been said that basil makes your tomatoes both grow better and taste better. I cannot swear that this is true, but I have been growing this way for over 20 years and I grow great tomatoes!
During the summer, water approximately every third day with a really deep soak. Set up a drip watering system or use the weeping soaker hoses for an easy way to a healthy, thriving garden. Try to avoid wetting the foliage to prevent fungal diseases and powdery mildew.
Over watered tomatoes will be much less hardy, will tend to be bland, watery, and somewhat tasteless. If you water less often, but deeply, your tomatoes will form deep roots and thereby be much sturdier and healthier, providing you with more tomatoes, and they will have that great, real tomato flavour that you are looking for.
You should not have to fertilise during the summer if you have great soil, but if you feel that they need a boost, side dress around the tomatoes with a bit of manure or compost. You can also spray the foliage with liquid seaweed or manure tea for a quick boost, if they are looking a bit peaked.
If in pots, you may need to water every second day.. check by putting your finger into the pot, if the top few inches are dry, go ahead and water. If it is still moist, leave it for another day.
Don’t forget to feed your tomatoes if they are growing in pots. Epsom salts on top of the soil once a month, just a tablespoon or two. Use an organic liquid or water soluble fertiliser every couple of weeks, or as recommended in the instructions.
I’ve been planting up a storm this week after the greenhouse closed for the summer. I now have the squash all planted up, too, some from seed and some from starters. I am growing a hodge podge of both winter and summer squash, tons of pumpkins in all sorts of colours, pattypans, zucchini, mini-jack’s, spaghetti squash, and loofa gourds, too. Hoping for a really great squash year, as that is a lot of garden space to be giving up. Fingers crossed.
I get a lot of questions about growing a variety of squash together … will they cross pollinate, can I grow them all together, do I need to separate them, etc. The short answer is… yes you can grow them all. While they will cross pollinate each other, it will not result in crazy, funky, frankensquash this year. Everything will grow and produce just as it should. However, problems will arise if you save their seeds and try to grow next year’s crops from that saved seed. Those will be the cross-pollinated, funky, crazy squash. So… yes, you can grow anything you like, just roast and eat the seeds and grow from fresh next year.
Sow cucumber seeds now and they will take off quickly in the warm soil. I grow the cucumbers up small tomato cages or trellises in the garden, or up strings in the greenhouse. This keeps the fruits off of the ground for nice straight cukes and evenly green on all sides.
I hear a lot of comments about people being so late to plant, is it too late, etc.. I assure you, is not too late to plant just about anything. Some things have to be from starters rather than from seed, of course, but other than that, no problem to plant most anything at this time of year. Cucumbers, squash, corn, and other heat lovers will take off quickly from seed when sown into warm soil. Put them in cold soil and they either rot or pout. So go ahead, plant and sow!
Mm, wait, I need to amend that a titch. There are two sorts of vegetables, warm weather and cold weather. It is now too late to plant most all of the cold weather veggies, things like broccoli, spinach, radishes, greens. They all like cold weather and are planted in late winter or early spring. If you were to plant now, they would quickly bolt/go to seed. So, plant warm weather veggies now and leave the cool weather ones till later, for your fall and winter eating.
The radishes in the above picture (between the celery and the alyssum) were planted in spring and do not like this hot and dry weather, they will soon be bolting. I will be harvesting them all this weekend, and planting or sowing something else in their stead. Maybe a squash? Some parsnips? Or more carrots?
Don’t forget to add lots of companion plants in between the rows or the plants themselves., to bring in pollinators, beneficial insects for pest control, and to add beauty to your potager.
The six best food garden companion flowers are marigolds, calendula (pot marigold), sweet alyssum, zinnias, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. Plant lots, plant them everywhere for brassicas that are virtually pest free, tomatoes that taste better, squash that grows better because they are well pollinated. Every kitchen garden should hold an array of flowers, whether annual or perennial. If you like it, plant it, and they will come.
I am just about done planting up the potager. Have been at it for a week now, in spits and spurts, trying not to be out there during the hottest part of the day. Still have to sow some beets and plant my onion seedlings, maybe a bit more carrots, then I am done, whew! Can water, weed, and watch things grow.
Seems like it will be a hot and dry summer this year, so we will have to be water wise. Don’t forget to mulch, if you can, to help with moisture retention. Once your plants are established, water less often, but deeply, use drip tubes or weeping hoses for ease of watering.
Wishing you all great planting success and crossing my fingers for a wonderful gardening season ahead.