Thursday, May 20, 2010

Planting the Solanum Bed

Monday I deserted my relatives for a few minutes and planted out my tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos. These take a long time to plant as I actually dig a deep hole for the tomatoes and amend the bottom of each hole. I put in one cup of 5-3-3, one cup of bonemeal, one cup of powdered eggshells, and one cup of Azomite. Above you can see how I protect my tomatoes from cutworms. Those are hosta flower stems from last years flowers. I like this way of doing it as the stems just rot out over time and they are very quick to stick in. I used to use cutworm collars made out of newspaper, but were just too fiddly to get right. Occasionally the cutworms will climb the stem and cut off a branch, but not often. We get a lot of cutworms here. I even killed about 12 cutworms that I found in my onion bed. I'd never seen them in the onions before, so didn't check. They killed about a row of the plants and severely set back a few more. I mean really? Onions? Onions are supposed to help repel these things.

After I was done I still had a flat of tomatoes left. I'll plant one of each variety at the new house in the bed behind the wall, but I still haven't had a chance to do that yet. I'll probably get to it this afternoon as we are getting a warm spell and the tomatoes will just take off with the heat. The 10 day forecast has lots of mid 70Fs to lower 80Fs with nights in the 50Fs and 60s. This is very warm weather for May.

Behind every other tomato plant I put in some Ground Control marigolds that were from seed I saved last year. They grew quite well. Now I don't amend the ground below these at all. They can get rather large and unwieldy. If anything I keep them cut back during the year to control them.

I planted out 12 peppers. I only have 25 total. So the other house will get 13. I'm contemplating if this is enough or not. I can always buy more seedlings. I'm so used to growing them again that I don't think about it, but I think I will get a few six packs of nasturtiums so they will start off bigger. I have seed, but never even thought about starting them. I think some nasturtiums trailing down the wall would be pretty.

I also planted two of my four tomatillos. I keep wondering how big they will get. I told myself I would always support tomatillos from now on, but I don't want to buy supports for both houses. Last year my cages were tossed as after 19 years they had rusted through and didn't support well anymore. I might just stake them. Stakes are cheap. As you can see the tomatillos are a bit yellow. They have been growing so fast and struggling with my treatment of them. I accidentally left them inside (with the lights turned off) for two days. The poor things have been recovering, but they still aren't happy.

At the end of the bed I planted out some really tiny basil plants. I have no clue as to why they didn't grow well for me. Maybe they just needed more time. Or maybe they needed more fertilizer. I've found the fertilizer that I add to my soil blocks lasts about three weeks in the small blocks and four weeks in the larger blocks. I need to get some liquid fertilizer for next years seedlings if I keep making my own soil. The Fort V soil from the Vermont Compost Company was better soil than I made. Things grew better in it. I just wish I could buy the large bags somewhere here around where I live. The small bags cost too much and if I ship it costs too much.

But now the plants are all out in the garden. I tried to row cover as much as I could for a couple of days. It helps with transplant shock as it protects from the seedlings from the wind. Sadly I don't have a large enough row cover to protect the whole bed. I think today I'll remove the cover as the weather is supposed to be so good. I think the direct sun will help them grow fast. Grow tomatoes, grow!


  1. You must be feeling better, I hope so! I am hoping to get my tomatoes and peppers planted this weekend. I never thought to add Azomite to the planting hole, although I have broadcast it about every other year. Now that I'm switching to raised beds I may need to change my ways.

    I really like the Fort V mix, it is my favorite. I am glad to know you like it for the soil blocks as I am thinking about putting a block maker on my Christmas list. I hate filling the little pots, the block maker seems less fussy. And I can always make a few paper pots if needed.

    We got almost an inch of rain yesterday, and now we are supposed to get some warm weather up here for a few days -- I am betting we'll see a big surge in growth. Happy Days!

  2. It's interesting to read what other gardeners put into their tomato planting holes. You must save a lot of eggshells to put that much in!

    My basil plants are tiny still to. I have no idea what I did wrong.

    Also, will you pinch off that flower on your tomatillo seedling? I have quite a few buds on my peppers and chilies but am considering removing them to allow the plants to focus their energy on growing strong roots and leaves. What do you thin'

  3. Ali, I am feeling much much better now. Being able to breath is so nice.

    I usually broadcast it too, but figured I was putting the rest in the hole so did that one too. I only do this for my tomatoes though. The rest of the my plants get everything broadcast.

  4. Thomas, I eat eggs about six days a week and save all the shells. That really adds up over the year. I might need more at the new garden. I'm guessing I can get my friends to save their shells.

    For the flowers, I try to have seedlings young enough for peppers that they haven't started to bloom yet. There has been a lot of research on yields and bloom times and the bottom line is that if you plant peppers that are already blooming your yield is reduced even if you pinch off the flowers - though fruiting will be earlier. You need to plant the peppers before they bloom so the plants are in a stage where the plant is putting energy into its root system. For tomatoes I pinch off flowers, but that being said I've gotten into four week tomato transplants so they don't have flowers either.

  5. I lost all 4 or 5 of my lemon basil seedlings this year. The other varieties are holding on , but a few don't look all that happy. Has it been too cool at night for them I wonder? I wish we were having better basil luck here in MA.

    NOFA Mass does a yearly or bi-yearly bulk order in which you can purchase VCC at a discount, this is what I have done in the past. If you google it you may be able to download the order form from this winter just to get an idea.

  6. Glad you are feeling better Daphne! There is something very right with the world once the tomatoes are planted in the garden. :D It just seals the deal that the summer garden is now a reality.

    I had slow start basil last year - but this year's crop is doing really well. I think the difference is that I kept them on a heat mat longer this year. I even harvested about a 1/4 cup of fresh basil from my plants this past weekend - and they are still in pots! I need to plant them up in the large containers or the garden proper soon.

  7. This morning I took the pop bottles off some of our tomatoes, but the rest are still under the fleece... although that will be coming off soon. I just want to make sure that summer really has arrived!

  8. A task I need to get too very soon. It hit 86f here today, certainly hot for May! Funny thing my basil and for that matter all my herbs have barely grown as well. I found it odd as well. Did you ever get your plot you were thinking about?

  9. Kelly, me too. I so love basil. I did google it. If I bought a lot it would be good, but I'm not a member of NOFA so it would cost the same as shipping to join. However if I were getting a lot of other things it might be worth it.

    kitsapFG, I think that may be my issue. I moved where the plants were growing and now they are more near the floor which is cold tile. Before they were in front of the window getting heat from the sun.

    Jan, you never know, Mother Nature can be tricky and do very strange things. Last year's cold June in the northeast really comes to mind.

    Dan, no I turned down the plot at the community gardens. I have a big enough growing space a the new house and didn't want to overload myself.

  10. I had a similar experience with a cutworm chopping off one of my onions. Was surprised indeed, and that was one big cutworm...

  11. Hi! I'm a little slow, but I don't quite understand how the hosta stem arrangement protects your plants from cutworms. Could you explain please? Thanks!!

  12. If a cutworm can't get to the stem it can't cut it off. With the way I do it sometimes they can still get cut off, but it is less likely. The likelihood is the cutworm will run into the hosta stem while trying to wrap around the plants stem. Three works better than two and four works better than three. I've found two works OK for me most years. This year I could have used more as the cutworms were much more numerous than before.