Friday, April 24, 2009

Preparing for Tomatoes

Yesterday was a huge day in the garden. A lot got done, but this post is just about the morning. My morning chore was to start preparing the tomato bed. When I started it was covered in vetch. I wanted to wait to prepare this bed so the vetch could grow well in spring. And grow it did.

Usually one just cuts vetch to the ground when it starts to flower. This kills the plant, but there are no flowers yet and vetch will easily grow back from the roots in other stages of its growth, so I pulled the plants up roots and all. The roots are amazing. When I was pulling the plants out they just didn't want to let go. I had to dig them out. They were just covered in little nitrogen nodules. I didn't get half the roots out, but I think enough. Especially since this bed will get double dug soon. The vetch was spread out to dry. I'll use it as mulch for my tomatoes once they get established unless the worms eat them first.

And speaking of worms, for some reason there were fewer worms in this section of garden, especially where the vetch was the thickest. Do worms not like vetch? Usually when I dig the worms are just everywhere. They existed here, but mostly where the vetch was thinner.

My next problem and main chore for the day was to remove the frame around this bed. This is the one place where I have a lumber frame. It is done in 2x8 cedar and has a hardware cloth bottom. Oh how I regret putting this in. You can't dig when there is a bottom to the bed. And more to the point, I can't grow carrots when the bed is only 7" deep.

I dug all the soil out of the frame and piled it up. There wasn't much space to pile it. Most of the garden was planted or mulched nearby. So I carefully made the pile as it got bigger so it wouldn't collapse. I even brought out the wheelbarrow and one of my pails.

After removing most of the soil I still had trouble levering it up. The maple tree roots - the bane of my existence in this garden - had grown through the wire and were holding it down. The image of an evil creature with long bony fingers holding the wire down came to mind. I had to cut them all off before lifting it up. The cutting would have been easier without that image fixed in my head. Luckily it was the full light of day, so I didn't keep looking over my shoulder at my evil Norway maple tree.

The cedar edging which is about six years old is already starting to rot. The vetch and maple tree roots were quite attached and digging into the boards. I was thinking of using the lumber for a cold frame. I might not with all the rot. I'll think on it.

The next chore was to edge the raised side of the bed (the beds are all slightly terraced due to the slope of the land, one side is raised, the other level with the path). This time I'm edging with some logs I had gleaned from the woods over the last couple of weeks. Since they had already been cut to size, all I had to do was put them in place and wedge them in with some small rocks.

Now I have my work cut out for me. I was tired enough that I didn't want to start double digging today. To make the double digging less strenuous than last time, I'll put in a couple of hours a day until it is done. I'm hoping to have it done before I leave on my trip in a week and a half. I probably should have started earlier, as I still might have to put in a long day to finish.


  1. Wow, Daphne, I am SO impressed! A ton of work, yes, but just look at your beautiful soil!!! The folks who owned our homw before us put in a double allee of Norway maples thinking they were sugar maples. You can imagine my gratitude this time every year as I pull the bazillion seedlings out of pretty much everything. As for those roots... brrrrr!!!!!

  2. What beautiful soil! Is it worth it to try short carrots in the 7" soil? Enjoy, R.

  3. I see you had a back breaking day. It will prove to be worth all your toil in the end.

  4. What a difference a couple of zones make. What are you, zone 6? Here in Zone 9a my tomatoes are 2 feet tall and setting fruit! Of course by July my garden will be dead......and yours hitting it's sweet spot.

  5. It takes a lot of work to rework a bed. I just did a little bitty spot and it took hours. I feel for you doing an area that size.

  6. It is loooking great Daphne! I sure your tomatoes will thrives in there...I would if I were a tomato :-) Thanks for a nice and informative post.

    Have a lovely weekend/ Tyra

  7. I hope you have a nice big bath tub to soak in after your double digging sessions! It is so satisfying to get a job like that done though.

  8. Daphne, you could always build a box and double-decker an area for carrots if you want to grow the longer ones.

    I hate landscape cloth too. I just finished removing it from my back flower (flowerless) bed. I must say, the soil that has developed over the top of it over the years was rich. I'm thinking of moving some of it into my tomato bed.

  9. our friend Ben, oh how sad to end up with Norway maples when you are expecting sugar maples. I would love mine if they were sugar maples. Norway maples are so evil.

    Rachel, I could grow short carrots, but this year I want to try to grow some of those log beautiful ones. I've been amending my heavy clay soil for almost two decades, I'm thinking it is good enough now for carrots to grow. I hope.

    Keewee, I hope it works. At the very least the tomatoes will love it.

    Dennis, oh yes. I'm so jealous of all the southern gardeners right now. But come summer I'll be glad that I'm not living in Florida. I wilt in the heat, just like my plants.

    Cheryl, it takes me about two hours for every three feet. It seems so slow, but luckily doesn't have to be done very often.

    Tyra, I hope so. Tomatoes are hard here. We are so humid in the summer, the mildews love to grow.

    Michelle, I think with just two hours a day of work, I'll be fine. I probably won't even hurt the next day (I hope). More than that and I'll really feel it.

    Annie's Granny, I could, but then I'd have to get soil and drag it in here. And I keep telling myself that all the work is good for me.

  10. Oh, god, norway maples, how I hate you!!! All I do these days is pull up tiny seedlings that are EVERYWHERE. I went to dig today about 50 feet from the stupid maple and its fibrous roots were everywhere! You're right, they do resemble the crooked hand of Baba Yaga!!!! Stupid trees. I fantasize about slashing my street tree just above the soil level so it'll die. But I've heard that as the roots decompose, your yard caves in!!! I'm cursed!

    I've just about given up on digging gardens at all - about the only thing I dig is potatoes. Now I just chop things down to the ground and mulch like crazy. Digging is too much work!!!!

    But it does look beautiful, what you did! I'm glad that you're taking such good care of your yard...

  11. My back hurts just from reading all of that! What a great looking bed. You can definitely tell you have been working on that soil for some time. It looks great!

  12. Sounds like a work out. Your soil looks very nice and black. I keep putting off digging out my news beds. Not much fun digging out 3 yards worth of soil and adding 3 yards worth back...

  13. You have my permission to cut down the Norway Maple. Our front yard was never more glorious or sun-filled than when we took that major step. It took a while for my wife to convince me but now a perennial garden sits where the former Norway Maple held sway.

  14. MacGardens, though a huge part of me wants do it, I'm holding off. I used to think it wasn't my tree, but the towns. But the recent survey by the town places it squarely in my lot. If I had known a decade ago, it would have come down then, but I'm looking for houses to move right now and I'm not about to go through the work and expense of removing a tree just before selling a house. I'll double dig my beds in the hopes of carrots, but I won't cut down the tree.