The KC Tomato Times Edition #3

It’s June in the Garden and the Living is Easy

The wildest thing about raised bed gardening with drip irrigation is the immense amount of time and work to install them in the beginning of the season, but this results in a virtually maintenance free garden from this point in the year on.  I am actually getting a bit bored with nothing to do (NOT!)…ahhh the sweet life!

I think we’re set with the Saturday, August 22nd date for the tomato tasting so mark your calendars!  I’ve yet to come up with a good name for the event, but am open to any suggestions.  I’m thinking of either having it in the 435/Roe area at Roe Park or possibly at Lee’s Summit or Blue Springs Lake.  It will be a family event, so bring the kids and grandparents…and the tomatoes!  I’ll have a lot more details in July…stay tuned!

We’ve been enjoying salads 2-3 times a week with lettuce, radishes and green onions.  The romaine is almost ready to harvest so we’ll have some lettuce wraps and Caesar salads soon as well.

With the warm temps, the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant have all taken off!  Most of my tomato plants are now between 2 and three feet tall and growing fast.  I stopped pinching blooms last week and am now waiting for my first fruit to set.  I have a total of 55 tomato plants in the garden this year with 14 varieties represented I think.

Some things you might want to be doing in your gardens now are:

Fertilize when plants have been in the soil about a month. Use a fertilizer with a low nitrogen level.  I use a 5-10-10 or sometimes a 10-20-10 version.  Just sprinkle a little of it around your plants and scratch it into the soil with a small rake or trowel and water it in well.  You can also foliar feed your plants with fish emulsion.  This is the only time you should ever water the foliage of your plants.

As for watering…water deep and only when needed! Plants need their soil to dry out a little so they can send roots down deeper. If you water a little every day, you’ll end up with plants with very shallow and weak roots.  Plants don’t like to live in soggy soil.  If your plants look a bit wilty at the end of a hot summer day, water them the next morning.  Avoid watering in the evening if you can as this encourages slugs and snails to visit your plants at night.

Mulch those plants! Mulching does so much to help the plants and the gardener.  It retains moisture in the soil, insulates roots from hot summer heat, and discourages weed growth.  Use whatever mulch you want; straw, wood chips, grass clippings, or plastic film.  Just make sure that the mulch does not touch the plant’s stem.  Grass clippings that are allowed to touch the stem of a plant can actually generate enough heat as they decompose to kill the plant.  Put them in a nice ring around the plant with a few inches between the clipings and the base of the plant.

Weed!  Weed! Weed! I really dislike weeding…I do everything I can to avoid it, but it still has to happen.  The plastic reflective much helps a lot as it only allows weeds to grow around the edges where they are easy to get.  I use a gooseneck hoe to wack most of them.  This is the one I’ve had for years and it is by far my favorite garden tool:  http://www.gardentalk.com/hoes.htm .  Weeds steal water and nutrients from your plants and can spread fungal diseases and insects to your plants.  Pigweed is my worst enemy, but is easy to pull.  Bindweed is probably the most damaging weed I have as it grabs on to my plants and chokes them.  They are both pretty much impossible to get rid of, but can be managed with hoeing or pulling.

Watch out for bugs! Aphids and flea beetles tend to be the worst enemies out there.  Early detection is the best way to keep them from damaging your plants.  I used to use Sevin Dust, but have switched to a far more effective and organic  product the last few years called Pyola.  http://www.gardensalive.com/product.asp?pn=8101&bhcd2=1243798371  I keep a spray bottle of this in the garden at all times and as soon as I see any aphid or flea beetle damage, I treat the plants and all plants around them.  Make sure you get under the leaves where the aphids like to hide!  The reflective mulch I use has been extremely effective at preventing the aphids from hitting my plants, but when the foliage gets thick and covers the film, aphids can pop up.  Pyola to the rescue!

Fungus is no fun! Spotted wilt, fusarium wilt, blight, mildew and many others can devastate our gardens if we’re not careful.  I’m doing my best to prune all leaves and branches that touch the ground as a prevention for fungal diseases.  Watering the foliage is a huge no-no!  Wet plants will get fungus!  Water the base of the plant and preferrably in the morning.  If that fails, there are anti-fungal sprays you can use Daconil spray to kill and prevent fungus.

Take the time to enjoy! Gardening is a lot of work, but you must take a few moments each day to sit down and enjoy your garden.  Every day, I just sit on my bench at the entrance to my garden and just soak in the serenity.  Having an oasis of green in the middle of the city is wonderful mental therapy.  Don’t work, work, and work all the time or you’ll come to dread being in the garden.  Work in small increments, then take a break and enjoy the beauty.

Here’s a few more pictures from the garden, feel free to enjoy them and comment or ask any questions you might have.

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3 Comments »

  1. Eric said

    The lettuce bed looks great! I wish I would’ve planted my lettuce seeds earlier 😦 but at least I have spinach 🙂

  2. Rachael said

    Great blog! Thank you for the wonderful tips! 🙂

    Rachael

  3. James, this is pretty cool! Keep on blogging! ~ Annapet

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