Sunday, May 31, 2009

Another Look at How Fast Cherry Tomato Plants Grow

In my previous blog entry, I showed how fast Cherry Tomatoes grow over a 2 week period in my large Raised Bed.

In this blog entry, I am going to show you how fast Cherry Tomato plants grow from seedling to giant plants in less than 3 months (11 weeks to be exact)!

The picture below 4 Cherry Tomato plants (2 Sweet Baby Girls, 1 Sugar Snack, and 1 Super Sweet 100) growing in my other Raised bed.

These Cherry Tomato plants were started from seed on 1/18/09.  

I transplanted the seedlings into the Raised Bed on 3/15/09.

I modded the Tomato Cages that I used to support the plants on 4/11/09.  That was a smart thing to do, as today the Cherry Tomato plants are almost 8 feet tall!

The plants would have completely overwelmed the 54" Tomato Cages that I had bought from Home Depot two years ago!  Last year, I used the unmodified 54" Tomato Cages and they were totally inadequate.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why No Strawberry Flowers?

The Albion Strawberry plants that I had transplanted as bare root plants 3 months ago are growing very well (see picture to the right).

I started picking my first Albion Strawberries 4 weeks ago and over the course of the next several weeks, I was able to pick strawberries every day. The Strawberries are delicious, by the way!

However, all of the Strawberries have been picked and there is no more fruit left on the plants. In fact, there have not been any new Strawberry flowers for well over a month.

Albion Strawberry plants are of the day neutral variety, so they should be continously producing flowers as long as the weather is below 85 degrees F.

We have had very mild weather in Southern California this past month, so temperature is not the reason why there are no flowers. The Albion Strawberry plants are still developing new leaves and are producing plenty of runners, which I have to prune every several days, so the plants are getting plenty of nitrogen.

I believe the culprit is the lack of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the essential element required for plants to produce flowers.

Strawberry plants have very shallow roots and I believe the plants have depleted the phosphorus that was contained in the top level of the potting mix that I used.

So last week, i decided to add a phosphorus rich fertilizer to the Strawberry plants. I used a combination of Liquid Bloom (0-5-5) and Fish Emulsions (5-1-1-), in a ratio of 2 oz each per gallon of water.

I applied 6 oz of the resulting liquid fertilizer to each Strawberry plant.

Sure enough, I saw Strawberry flowers today!!!

I am going to apply this combination of fertilizer in another 2 to 3 weeks.

This is a picture of the first Strawberry flower that the Albion Strawberry plants have produced in the past month.

For an update on flowers on my strawberry plants see this blog entry.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Diseased Cherry Tomato Plant

One of My Cherry Tomato Plants is diseased.

It is the Sun Sugar Cherry Tomato plant that is at the edge of the Raised Bed in the picture to the right.

The leaves have curled and some of the leaves at the bottom have shriveled and turned brown.

I have 12 other Cherry Tomato plants growing in my garden and I did not want the disease to spread to my other plants, so I decided to remove the plant from the garden.

The Sun Sugar Cherry Tomato plant was so huge that it filled an entire trash can!!!

I had a very hard time pulling the Cherry Tomato plant out of the Raised Bed. There were very many roots!

You can see some of the roots that I had to cut in the picture to the right.

Since it is only May, I wanted to replace the Sun Sugar Cherry Tomato plant with another Cherry Tomato plant.

I wanted to speed up the process so instead of trying to grow from seeds, I decided to clone a Cherry Tomato plant by taking a cutting from another Cherry Tomato plant.

See this blog entry to find out how it turned out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Okinawan Sweet Potato Update

My Purple Okinawan Sweet Potatoes have taken root!!!

The picture to the right shows the Sweet Potato cuttings 3 weeks after I transplanted them.

The plants have grown several inches and many new leaves have developed.

Of the 23 Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings that I transplanted, 20 of them have survived.

The picture to the right shows the same 4 Sweet Potato plants right after transplant.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

First Cherry Tomatoes

I picked my first batch of Cherry Tomatoes today.

I had picked one or two Cherry Tomatoes prior to today, but this was the first time that I have enough for a snack.

These Cherry Tomatoes come from just 2 of the 13 Cherry Tomato plants I have in the garden. Half of Cherry Tomatoes are Sun Gold and the other half are Sun Cherry Extra Sweet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Fast Do Cherry Tomato Plants Grow?

How fast do Cherry Tomato plants grow?

Very Fast!

The picture above shows seven Cherry Tomato plants growing in my Raised Bed.  The picture below shows the same seven Cherry Tomato plants two weeks ago.

The plants were started from seed in January and transplanted into the Raised Beds 9 to 12 weeks ago.

The tallest Sun Gold has reached a height of 8 feet and is now at the top of the 8 feet tall Texas Tomato Cages.

Cherry Tomato plants love Southern California!

For a look at how fast Cherry Tomato plants grow from seedling to mature plants see this blog entry.

Climbing Kabocha and Winter Melon

My Kabocha plant has climbed onto the new Trellis that I built last week.

These two Winter Melon plants have not grown as fast as the Kabocha.  

Still, the plants have climbed to a height of 5 feet.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Avonlea and Yellow Electric Lilies Blooming

This is my second year growing Lilies.

Last year I bought I bunch of Lily bulbs from both the Lily Garden and from Home Depot.

The Lilies bloomed last year, but I have noticed that Lilies definitely benefit from being in the ground for a second year.

The picture to the right shows a Yellow Electric Lily from the Lily Garden.  

There are over 25 Flower buds on this Lily.  The bottom layer of Lily flowers form a beautiful bouquet.

However last year, this same Lily only produced 3 flower buds (see picture to the right). 

It wasn't as if I planted the Lily bulbs in the ground too late.  I bougth the bulbs in October and put them in the ground right away.

I think it is because the bulb got much bigger as a result of being in the sun for an entire year.

This Lily is Avonlea, also from the Lily Garden

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Trellis and Vertical Gardening

I like to grow Winter Melon and Kabocha plants.  Unfortunately, these types of plants are vines that like to sprawl over as much area as possible.

My lot size is relatively large for Southern California, but the area is still fairly limited in terms of growing space for my Garden.

In order to increase the growing area for the Winter Melon and Kabocha plants, I use trellises.  

I grow the Winter Melon and Kabocha plants against the retaining wall that seperates my lot from my neighbor's lot.  I can then lean the trellis against the retaining wall.

One benefit of using a trellis is that it keeps the fruit from laying on the ground.  This prevents critters from taking a bite of the fruit. 

This is especially true when the fruit is young and immature.  The skin of a young Winter Melon fruit is quite fragile and I have lost many fruit to being eaten by animals.  As the fruits get bigger, the skin gets tougher and animals are no longer a problem

I have built the trellises from steel garden stakes that I buy from the local Nursery. 

 I have tried prefabricated trellises, but they are too expensive, too small, and too fragile.

The picture on above shows my trellises against the retaining wall.

The picture to the the right shows my Kaboocha plant climbing up the trellis.  

The black trellis is made of metal and was purchased a while ago before I started making my own trellis.

Building a Trellis

Today, I  added to my Trellis system for  growing Winter Melons and Kabocha plants.

My current Trellis system ends right before the back of my Garage.  There is a 6 feet separation between the Garage and the retaining wall (see picture to the right).  

 I have tried letting the Kabocha and Winter Melons vines continue to grow into this area.  But this area gets so little sunshine due to the shade provided by the Garage that vines grow too slowly and don't produce much fruit.

This year, I am putting a trellis to wall off this shaded area.
I use steel garden stakes to create the trellis.  

I had several 7' and 8' long stakes that I had used last year to support my Cherry Tomato plants.

This year, I am using 8' tall Texas Tomato Cages and no longer need the stakes.

I lined 8 stakes on the ground, each 1 foot apart from the next stake (see picture to the right)

For the cross section, I use 6' long steel garden stakes.

I use 1/8" braided nylon rope to tie the stakes togehter.

I use nylon rope because it is strong, secure and easy to remove if I need to break down the trellis.

I tied 6' stakes to the top and to the bottom of the 7' and 8' long stakes.

I then moved the frame structure to the opening right in front of the shaded area (see picture to the right)

I then continued to tie 6' stakes to the frame.  Each 6' stake is about 1' apart from the next 6' stake.

The picture to the right shows the finished product.

I used 5 gallon containers filled with soil to support the trellis and prevent it from falling down.

You can see from the picture that the Kabocha plant is very close to the new trellis.  

Next week, the Kabocha will start probably start climbing onto the new trellis.

Yellow Lily Blooming

My Lilies are continuing to bloom.

This is a Yellow Lily that I have growing in a container. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pruning Cherry Tomato Plants

Today, I had to prune my Cherry Tomato plants.  

The plants had "escaped" the Texas Tomato Cages and were sprawling
 everywhere.  Without the support of the Texas Tomato Cages, I know that eventually the stems would collapse from the weight of the Cherry Tomatoes and fall to the ground.  

This would create an even bigger mess.

The picture on the right shows a Sun Sugar Cherry Tomato plant spreading past the Texas Tomato Cage and hanging over the side of the Raised Bed.

This picture shows a close-up of  the same Sun Sugar plant.  You can see the stem almost touching the ground.

The picture on the right shows how far out the stems of the Cherry Tomato plant stick out from the Texas Tomato Cage.  This stem would have definitely collapse if I did not prune it off.

I soaked the pruning shears in a mixture of Listerine and water for an hour to sterilize it.  After every cut, I dipped the shears into the liquid mixture so that I do not transfer any disease from one Cherry Tomato plant to another.

When I was done pruning the Sun Sugar Cherry Tomato plant, I found a couple of ripe Cherry Tomatoes.  They were hidden by all of the foilage .  

There are a lot of green Cherry Tomatoes, but these are my first ripe Cherry Tomatoes this season.  

This is the earliest that I have ever had Cherry Tomatoes.  Last year I did not have any ripe Cherry Tomatoes until late June.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Calla Lily Blooming

One of my Calla Lilies is blooming.

I had bought a bunch of bulbs last year from Home Depot and planted them in my Garden.   

They bloomed about this time last year too.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cherry Tomato Update

The picture above shows the 7 Cherry Tomato Plants in my two large Raised Beds.  The 5 Cherry Tomato plants on the left are in one Raised Bed and the 2 plants on the right are in another Raised Bed.
One interesting observation is how much taller the Sun Sugar and Sun Gold Cherry Tomato plants are than the other plants.  The Sun Sugar and Sun Sugar Chery Tomato plants that were put in the ground on 2/21/09 are almost twice the size of the Sun Cherry and Sugar Snack Cherry Tomato plants that were put in the ground at the same time.

Also, you can see the difference between the plants that were planted on 2/21/09 and the ones that were planted 3 weeks later on 3/14/09.  The 2/21/09 Cherry Tomato plants are much more fuller and taller.

The picture below shows a close up of the Sun Gold planted on 2/19/09.  See the amount of flower blossums on the plant.  

First Strawberries

My first Albion Strawberries are ripening. The fruit is a bit smaller than I expected. Hopefully, the Strawberries will get bigger as the plants mature.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Purple Okinawan Sweet Potato

Okinawan Sweet Potatoes are a type of sweet potato that is characterized by a vibrant purple flesh.  They are very rich in the antioxidant anthocyanins which gives its flesh a purple color.

The Okinawan Sweet Potatoes are very popular in Hawaii.  They are available in local Asian Markets here in Southern California, but are fairly expensive.

I have tried growing slips from Okinawan Sweet Potatoes that I have bought from the market, but without success.  

I think this is because the store bought Okinawan Sweet Potatoes have been irradiated so that they do not bring pests into California.

Planting Purple Okinawan Sweet Potato Cuttings

I bought my Purple Okinawan Sweet Potato Cuttings from Mericlone Labs .

They are an organic provider of Sweet Potatoes and based in California, so the shipping time is short.

I ordered 22 cuttings and they came in a ziplock bag.

I followed the instructions that came with the cuttings and placed the cuttings into water like a "flower bouquet" for a couple of days to rehydrate them.

I planted the cuttings in a raised bed close to the Winter Melon plants. I seperated the cuttings about a foot apart.

Hopefully, some of the cuttings will take root.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Kabocha Flower Update

The Kabocha flower that I blogged about two weeks ago did not develop.  

You can see the round yellow object at the left of the picture on the right.   This object was the base of the female flower.  It will probably drop off in a few days. 

However,  all is not lost.  There was another female flower that blossomed a couple days after the first flower.  As you can see in the picture, this flower is growing into a nice little pumpkin.  I need to wait a few more days before I declare success, but it looks very promising.

The picture below shows the Kabocha plant as it looks today. It is several feet long and has doubled in size from what it was 2 weeks ago.