Saturday, February 28, 2009

First Cherry Tomato Flower

The Cherry Tomato seedlings that I planted in the Raised Beds are thriving.

Today is the last day of February and already, I see flowers opening up on all 4 of the plants.  The picture to the right is of the Sun Sugar Cherry Tomato.

The weather has been warm in the evenings, with overnight lows in the high 50 degree F range.  I am hopeful that fruit will set and I will have Cherry Tomatoes to eat in a couple of months!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grow Light Turned Off

I turned off my Grow Light this week.  It was on for 52 days.

I was able to germinate 15 Winter Melon Seedlings, 1 Kabocha Seedling and 15 Cherry Tomato Seedlings.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cherry Tomato Seedlings in the Ground!

Today, I planted my first set of Cherry Tomato Seedlings.  This is about a week ahead of my original plan of March 1.

The seedlings are about a foot tall.  I have one each of Sun Gold, Sun Sugar, Sun Cherry Extra Sweet and Sugar Snack.  

This set of Cherry Tomato Seedlings is from the group that germinated the week of January 17, so they are about 40 days old.  They spent the first 2 weeks under Grow Lights and the rest of the time out in the Sun.

The picture to the right shows the bottom of the seedling after I had popped it out of the container.  See the roots starting to circle around underneath and around the bottom.  This tells me that it is the right time to plant the seedling in the ground.  

If I wait much longer, the plant will start to get root bound and nutrients will not be able to pass through to nourish the plant.

Whenever I plant Cherry Tomato seedlings, I always put a cup of Fish Bone Meal into the hole that the seedling is going into.  

This is similar to the old story of how  the Native American Indians taught the Pilgrims to bury a dead fish when planting corn.

Fish Bone Meal is very high in phosphorus. Phosphorus is essential for Tomato plants to bloom and produce fruit.  

However, Phosphrorus moves less than one-eighth of an inch in soil.  So, by putting Fish Bone Meal directly into the planting hole, I do not have to worry about the roots finding enough Phosphorus in the soil.

Below is a picture of the seedlings in the Raised Beds.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Texas Tomato Cages

I bought a new set of Tomato Cages from Texas Tomato Cages.

In the past, I have used 54" Tomato Cages that I bought at my local Home Depot.

Unfortunately, my Cherry Tomatos plants grow very tall and easily outgrow the Cages in a few months.

Since I have a retaining wall behind my raised bed and my neighboor has tall trees behind the wall, the Cherry Tomato plants only get light from one direction. This causes the plants to grow in one direction (toward the sun).

Last Year, I had to jury-rig supports to keep the plants from toppling over. You can see the plants tilting toward the sun in the picture above.

Eventually, the whole thing can tumbling down in August and I had to prematurely end my tomato growing season.

I looked around at various places and settled on the Texas Tomato Cages.

There were 3 primary reasons for choosing these Tomato Cages.

First, the Tomato Cages were sturdy, made from 1/4 inch steel. This way they would be strong enough to avoid being toppled over.

Second, the Cages came in a diameter of 24", big enough to allow my Cherry Tomato plants to grow without excessive pruning.

Finally, and most importantly, I could buy extensions that would make the Tomato Cages 8 feet tall. My Home Depot cages topped off at 54".

The Texas Tomato Cages came in 2 large boxes. One box contained 6 tomato cages (each 6' tall) and the other box contained 6 extensions (each 2' tall). One next thing about the these Tomato Cages is that they fold flat for easy storage (and shipping).

The picture to the right shows the Texas Tomato Cage compared to my old Home Depot Tomato Cage. It is a little hard too see, but the Home Depot is about halfway down the Texas Tomato Cage and coned shaped. You can see that the top of the Home Depot Tomato Cage is bent. This was a result of the damage down when the Cherry Tomato plants toppled over.

The picture below shows the Texas Tomato Cages in the Raised Bed.

Links to my blog entries showing how the Texas Tomato Cages in action:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Winter Melon Seedlings

I gave all of my previous Winter Melon Seedlings (total of 4) to my Mother.

This was one of the reasons why I use so many APS-6 units to germinate a new batch of Winter Melon seedlings.

Today, I transplanted the seedlings into 6 inch round containers.  Below is a picture of them lined up in a row.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seed Starting Round 3 Scorecard

Well the APS-6 units made a big difference in Winter Melon and Kabocha seed germination!  The APS-6 cells are twice as deep as the APS-24 cells, and it looks like the bigger seeds need the extra depth. 

Out of 24 cells (4 APS-6 units), I got 14 seeds to germinate (58%).  However, 1 APS-6 unit did not germinate any seeds.  It could have been that Algae got to this APS-6 unit before seeds could germinate, or it could have been that I somehow forgot to put any seeds in this unit.  Discounting the seeds in this APS-6 unit, I got 14 out of 18 cells to germinate for a germination rate of 78%.

Next year, I will only use the APS-24 units for Cherry Tomato seeds and use the APS-6 units for the Winter Melon and pumpkin seeds.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Building a Raised Bed Part 1

I wanted to add another Raised Bed to my garden before the season starts.

I was not happy with the look of the Plastic Raised Bed that I bought from Gardener's Supply Company.

The area that I want to put the raised bed is small (2 feet x 4 feet), so using Cement Garden Blocks would take too much room. So, that left wood as the medium for building the Raised Bed.

I did some research on the Internet and Cedar looked like the preferred wood to use. It is naturally water resistant and would last many years.

I thought about going to my local Big Box hardware store and buying Cedar 2 x 4s. However, I don't have a tools to properly cut the wood and from what I read, creating corners that line up and stay lined up over time is difficult.

I looked on the Internet for prefabricated Cedar Raised Beds that I could just assemble. The best deal that I could find was from Natural They had a nice sale when I bought the Raised Bed Kit in December and since they are located in Oregon, the shipping wasn't too bad.

Even though Cedar is water resistant, the wood will turn a dull gray if left untreated in just a few months. One of the reasons I chose wood was because of how it looks, so I had to find a way to treat the wood. Since, I will be using this Raised Bed to grow Cherry Tomatoes, I wanted to treat the wood with something safe and non toxic. I don't want any harmful chemicals to leach into the soil. Unfortunately, that eliminated all of the wood finishes and stains at the local Big Box store.

I looked at the Internet and there were several natural finishes available. I chose to use Bioshield Aqua Resin. I bought a 0.75 liter of Cedar Stain. Hopefully it will last several years before I have to restain.

The Raised Bed kit arrived in early January, but the Cedar stain was out of stock, so I had to wait until February before I could assemble the Raised Bed.

For part 2 see this blog entry.

Building a Raised Bed Part 2

For part 1, see this Blog Entry.

The Raised Bed Kit I bought from Natural is 2 feet x 4 feet x 11 inches tall. The kt consists of 8 pieces of wood (4 long pieces and 4 shorter pieces). Each piece of wood is 5.5 inches tall, so two tiers are needed to make the 11 inches height.

The picture to the left shows the untreated pieces of wood. I put old newspapers under the wood so that the stain would not get on my driveway.

I chose a sunny day (~75 degrees F) to apply the stain, so that the wood would dry faster. I wanted to be able to coat several layers of stain on all sides of the wood in a single day.

The picture to the right shows the pieces of wood after I had applied one coat of stain.

The picture below shows how the corners of the kit come together. There is a wedge that is cut
off of each piece of lumber and a hole was drilled through. The long piece of lumber will fit together with a short piece at a right angle. The holes line up and you slide a metal rod through the hole to lock the wood in place.
The best thin about this system is that I can take the pieces of wood apart by sliding the rod out of the hole. No nails. No glue. This makes taking the Raised Bed apart a snap. The only real work is to get rid of the soil inside the Raised Bed. So if I find the stain wearing off, I can easily restain it.

I prepared the site of the Raised Bed by laying several pages of newspaper on the ground. This prevents weeds from the ground growing into the Raised Bed. The newspaper will decompose in a couple of months.

The picture to the left shows the Raised Bed after I had put in the first level of wood. See the metal rods sticking out at each corner. To add in the next level, all I need to do is to slide the wood into the rods. If later on, I need to add more levels, all I need to do is to replace the rods with ones that are a longer length.

The picture to the right shows the fully assembled raised bed. It took me a whole day to apply the stain, but most of it was waiting for the stain to dry. I ended up using the entire 0.75 liter can of Bioshield Aqua Resin.

The picture to the left shows the Raised Bed the next morning after I put in the soil. You can see the drip irrigation lines that I setup to water the Raised bed.

All in all, I am quite pleased with how the Raised Bed looks and how easy it was to assemble. It certainly looks better than the plastic one that I got before. Of course, this Raised bed is several times more expensive!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Raised Beds

I use Raised Beds extensively in my vegetable garden.  Last year, I used 2 raised beds and several containers.  I found that the plants were healthier and more productive in the Raised Beds than in the containers.  This year, I have going to use Raised Beds exclusively.

The picture on the right shows my largest Raised Bed in terms of cubic feet.  I built this Raised Bed out of cement garden blocks.  It is shaped like an inverted T and takes up a 10 feet x 5 feet area.  I created a T shaped so that I can have access to back of the plants.  There are 2 feet x 3 feet wedges on each side of the bottom of the T.  The Raised Bed has a depth of 1 feet and holds a 44 cubic feet of soil.

Last year, I made the mistake of putting 13 cherry tomato plants in this Raised Ged.  This was way too many plants.  The plants ended up competing with each other for sunlight.  It became a tangled mess as plants were threading through each other for sun. Plus, actually picking the tomatoes was difficult, as I had to hunt for the fruit.

The picture to the left shows what the Raised Ged looked like in June of last year.  It looked much worse in August. I actually had to pull plants out in order to create space for the other plants.

This year, I plan to only put 5 cherry tomatoes in this Raised Bed.  I think this will provide me with more tomatoes than I got last year in the same area.

The other Raised Ged that I used last year was fairly shallow. It is L shaped with a base of 5 feet, a length of 18 feet, and a depth of 4 feet.

In the picture to the left, you can see the trellis system I built out of steel rods to support the Winter Melon vines.  I tied the rods together using nylon rope.

The picture below is from last year and shows the Winter Melon vines growing in the trellis network.  The trellis worked very well, as the rods were strong enough to support the weight of the fruit.  

I plan to extend the trellis network to cover more of my garden.

I have added two near raised beds this Winter.
  The circular raised bed  to the right is 3 feet in diameter. I plan to grow sweet potatoes in this raised bed.

My fourth raised bed is a prefabricated plastic raised bed that I bought from Gardener's Supply Company. Below is a picture of the raised bed.  I am not too happy with the way it looks.  I may take it apart after the growing season and replace it with something else.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lilies Sprouting

Today, I noticed that some of my lilies are sprouting.  I grow several varieties of Asiatic Lilies in various parts of my garden.

The main Lily stem is in the center back of the picture to the right.  The six smaller stems come from the stem bulblets from last year's Lily stem.  I'll probably have to seperate some of these Lilies next Fall.

This particular area of the garden gets the most sunlight.  In addition, the soil depth of this area is very shallow.  I believe both of these reasons contribute to the early sprouting.

I'll probably have some flowers by the end of March. Last year, my first Lily flower appeared on April 1 in this same area.