Summer Sprouts

We planted pole beans and cucumbers in the garden about 10 days ago and they recently sprouted!

bean cucumber
Pole beans planted around a wire cage and cucumbers planted under a trellis.

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Baby bean and cucumber sprouts.

The cucumber seeds were started under plastic bottles with the bottom removed to create a mini-greenhouse.  After the seeds had sprouted, we removed the bottles and replaced them with plastic rings cut from water bottles to keep the seedlings separated from the mulch.  This helps to keep the seedlings from staying too moist which can cause disease.

We have also been harvesting blueberries as they ripen.  Blueberries don’t ripen all at the same time so you should check every couple days and harvest the ripe ones.  It can be a little tricky to tell if blueberries are ripe, but look for berries that are completely blue/purple without any hint of green.  Blueberries can also be sweeter if left on the bush an extra day or two after they turn colors.  Just remember to pick them before the garden animals do.

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Blueberries.

Garden Update

The longer days and warmer weather are great for the garden.

The beets and carrots we planted a couple months ago are almost ready to harvest.

homegrown beets via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U homegrown carrot & beet greens via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U homegrown carrots via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U

Since beets grow partially out of the ground, you can easily tell when they are ready for harvest.  Beets can be picked small or large depending on personal preference.  Beet greens are also edible and are very nutritious as well.  To determine if carrots are ready for harvest, gently brush away the soil near the carrot top to check the carrot size.  Its always a surprise when pulling carrots because you never know whats hidden under the surface.

Our recently planted tomatoes are also growing strong and will hopefully provide us with plenty of tomatoes over the summer.

growing tomatoes via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U

Each tomato seedling is surrounded by a plastic ring made from recycled 1-gallon water bottles.  This is to keep mulch away from the base of the tomato plant to allow the stem to remain dry and helps to prevent disease.  When watering tomatoes, try to keep the leaves as dry as possible to help prevent blight.  Watering in the morning is also best so it give the leaves time to dry during the day.

Summer Seeds

Our summer seed order from Johnny’s Selected Seeds came in a few days ago!  Excited about all the different fruits and vegetables we have planned.  Click the links to read additional details.

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Seed packets from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Hybrid Diploid Watermelon – Little Baby Flower F1: Small 5.5 inch fruit with dark pink flesh that is sweet and crisp with high sugar content.

Hybrid Cantaloupe – Sarah’s Choice F1: Named “Most Flavorful” by Johnny’s.  Also has resistance to powdery mildew and fusarium wilt (races 0,1 and 2).

Hybrid Zucchini Squash – Dunja F1: Organic, early and powdery mildew resistant.  Yields dark green, straight zucchinis.  Also resistant to papaya ringspot virus, watermelon mosaic virus and zucchini mosaic virus.

Hybrid Winter Squash – JWS 6823 F1 PMR: Good tasting butternut with shorter vining and smaller fruits compared to Waltham Butternut.  Resistant to powdery mildew.

Slicing Cucumbers – Marketmore 76: Long, slender, dark green cucumbers.  Begins bearing late but picks for a relatively long time.  Resistant to cucumber mosaic virus, downy mildew (specific races), powdery mildew and scab.

Specialty Cucumber – Diva: Persian cucumber that produces distinctly tender, crisp, sweet, bitter-free, and seedless cukes.  Resistant to cucumber vein yellowing virus, downy mildew (specific races), powdery mildew and scab.

Sweet Peppers – Lunchbox Pepper Mix: Mix of yellow, orange and red snack peppers.  These mini-sized peppers are remarkably sweet and flavorful.

Soybean, Green – Butterbean: Sweet, buttery, and high yielding; Butterbeans are acclaimed as the finest in green vegetable soybeans.

We chose to grow a lot of hybrid varieties because there are a lot of gardens in close proximity in our community garden and diseases can spread quickly.  Also since we have limited space in our community garden, we chose hybrid varieties what were more compact.

Weekend Gardening

Busy weekend in the garden! We bought and planted 5 varieties of tomatoes during our community garden’s annual heirloom tomato sale.  The seedlings were grown by Windrose Farms in Paso Robles.  Descriptions below are from their plant tags.

  1. Japanese Black Trifele – Black Tomato, Indeterminate, 75-80 days.  Exceptional fruit with the shape & size of a pear with rich flavor.  Abundant producer of great purplish-black, smooth fruit.  A favorite! Good for coastal gardens.
  2. Cherokee Purple – Dark Purple Tomato, Indeterminate, 80 days.  A must-have in every garden.  Beautiful 12 oz dusky rose/purple heirloom beefsteak from Tennessee, with a sweet rich flavor.
  3. Isis Candy – Bi-Color Cherry, Indeterminate, 67 days.  Delightful medium sized yellow-gold cherry tomato with red marbling.  From just a blush of red to streaks , always a sweet delicious rich fruity taste.
  4. San Marzano – Roma Tomato, Indeterminate, 80 days.  Excellent for canning, paste, or puree.  Rectangular pear-shaped, 3-1/2 in. long bright red fruit with mild flavor & meaty texture.
  5. Cosmonaut Volkov – Indeterminate, 65 days.  This Russian heirloom, named form the Russian space explorer who fell through space is the quintessential eating tomato.  A juicy, sweet, rich full-bodied early slightly flattened 8-12 oz. tomato that will produce well in cold or coastal conditions.

We choose a good mix of colors, shapes and purposes to give us good variety all summer long.  Since we are growing our tomatoes on a trellis, we choose indeterminate tomatoes that will keep growing till they die.

We also built 2 trellises (72 inches tall by 96 inches long by 30 inches long) to support the tomatoes, cucumbers and butternut squash we have planned for the summer.

Garden Trellis via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-7W Garden Overview via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-7W
Trellises in the garden.

We also saw the first red strawberries from our strawberry tower!  Looking forward to many more.

Our First Strawberries via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-7W
First strawberries from the tower.

Strawberry Tower

We built a stacked redwood and cedar planter strawberry tower over the weekend to give vertical gardening a try. (Planter details will be in another post).

We used both redwood and cedar planters to see which one would hold up better.  Both are insect and rot resistant and the contrast between the red redwood and white cedar looked nice.  Planter dimensions are 15×7.5×7.5inches.  The bottom of each planter has 11 0.5inch drainage holes to allow water to exit the planters.

The planting mix we used was 1/3 screen compost (from the community garden), 1/3 organic potting soil and 1/3 organic azalea mix since strawberries like slightly acidic soil.

The strawberry varieties we planted were “Seascape” and “Sequoia”.  Be sure to check which strawberry varieties do best in your area before planting.

strawberry tower via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/ strawberry tower 2 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/

strawberry tower 3 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/ strawberry tower 4 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/
Strawberry planting.

We started by filling each planter with soil mix and then lightly tamping the soil down to remove air pockets.  The final height of the soil was 0.75 inches from the top of the planter.  The lower soil level makes it easier to water the plants and it also prevents the soil from being washed out during watering.  It also allows us to add a layer of mulch to help retain soil moisture.

After all of the planters had been filled, we used a hand trowel to dig a shallow ditch on one side of the planter (1.5-2 inches deep) to plant the strawberries.  Ideally the strawberries should be planted so the soil level is even with middle of the crown (here is a good picture that shows proper planting depth).  Since we purchased strawberries that were in 6-packs, we just has to make sure that soil level in the planter matched the existing soil level on the strawberries when we planted.  If you wanted to plant bare-root strawberries, you would have to dig a slightly deeper hole to give the roots room to spread out.  After placing the strawberry plants in to the hole, we gently filled the soil in between the plants and lightly tamped to remove large air pockets.  We planted two strawberry plants on each side of the planter for a total of 4 plants per planter (one in each corner).  We also interplanted the two varieties just to mix things up.

The strawberry tower is supported by a 6ft metal t-post driven about 1.5 ft in to the ground where the planters cross (behind the planters so that the wind will blow the planters in to the post).  The bottom planter was set on two patio pavers to allow for better drainage and to provide a level base for the tower.  It is very important to have the base level the all directions before stacking, otherwise the tower will be unstable.

Finally we stacked the planters on top of each other, alternating directions so the boxes formed an “X” pattern.  Then we gave the planters a deep watering to help them establish deep roots.

strawberry tower 5 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/
Stacked strawberry tower.