Monthly Archives: February 2011

Garden Planning: Vertical Garden

One of the more interesting gardens this year will be our Vertical Garden. We are planning to use the cattle panel trellis system for an entire bed (6 trellises) to grow a variety of vining vegetables.

As you can see, we have selected 12 different varieties to try. We have some varieties that might look familiar – Suhyo Cross Cucumber and the Red Noodle Bean were both in the Asian Garden last year. We’ve also added another popular slicing cucumber and a pickling type cucumber.

We have 2 winter squashes and a more vining type straightneck summer squash. We’ve also got two types of cantaloupe on the trellis – one personal size and one larger size. We’re also trying a normal pole bean, partly because I’ve heard from several quarters that pole beans don’t do well here. We’ll find out!

We also have a trailing nasturtium and malabar spinach to add some diversity and color to the garden.

Most of these vining crops don’t naturally climb on a trellis, so I expect we’ll have to use some clips to help them start climbing.

Friday PhotoEssay

I wandered around the garden earlier this week to see what there was to see after the snow and cold. I’m so impressed with the vitality of our plant under the circumstances!

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been posting the temperatures under the row covers, and that’s for a very good reason. The row covers were frozen to the ground, so I couldn’t get at the thermometers! So the readings right now are the highest and lowest temperatures that have been experienced since the last time I took readings. (I have to be honest – I don’t even remember when that was!)

This is the outdoor thermometer. The max temperature was 75 degrees and the minimum was about -10 degrees. I don’t know if the garden really didn’t get any colder than -10 or if the thermometer was under a blanket of snow which would have insulated it somewhat.

The thermometer under the plastic row cover gave a reading of 100 degrees maximum and 20 degrees minimum. We’ll talk about that more in a minute.

First, let’s look at the plants that were growing outdoors, completely uncovered and unprotected (except by that nice blanket of snow). The larkspur is looking great! I think it has been growing, because it is bigger than I remember it being before the snow. We are planning to transplant it to another spot in the garden sometime soon.

The outdoor spinach is looking fine as well, and to my surprise, the lettuce is also still alive! I was kind of expecting most of the lettuce to be dead and gone. A lot of it is, but the beautiful ‘Red Cross’ Butterhead lettuce (that we chose for heat tolerance!!) still has some life to it in the very center of the plants.

It isn’t exactly what you would consider “harvestable,” but the fact that it is still alive is rather impressive. It will probably grow a little bit more before it bolts this spring. Maybe enough to harvest a couple leaves, but probably not. It was just a fun experiment, and it does show how much potential there is for growing lettuces in the winter if they are given more than no protection.

The next thing I looked at was the garden under the plastic row cover. This bed did sustain some damage from the recent winter storm!

As you can see, a couple of the PVC hoops got a bit flattened. I’m not sure if it was the weight of the snow itself or the weight of the melting snow/water that did it. I kind of suspect it was the water in the end that caused the damage. I pulled the plastic up here before I took the picture, but there was a lot of water sitting in the plastic. The plastic wasn’t tight enough for the water to just run off, so it pooled crushed the hoops.

I’ve decided to take the plastic off this garden completely for a couple of different reasons. This is one of them:

I think the conditions under the plastic tunnel have been too humid and too warm for parts of the winter, resulting in the growth of this beautiful fungus seen above on some dead kale leaves. The plants under the plastic don’t look nearly as good as those under the fabric row cover, and most of them are supposed to be more cold hardy!

The leeks and onions aren’t looking terrible, but they have some diseased leaves too.

Meanwhile, under the fabric covered hoops, things are looking pretty good. There are some dead leaves here and there, but I think some of this lettuce and spinach could still be eaten!

The moral of this story is that you should only use plastic for row covers if you are going to be able to vent the plastic on warmer, sunnier days.

More Garden Planning: Grafted Tomato Demonstration

Since I’ve been showing off my grafted tomatoes, I guess I’d better share what the Master Gardeners are going to be doing in the Demonstration Garden for tomatoes this year!

We are going to be planting a whole bed to heirloom tomatoes to see if the tomato grafting improves the yield and resistance to nematodes in our garden. We’ll be planting the tomatoes 24″ apart and we’ll use the stake & weave system rather than cages.

We’ll have 6 grafted heirloom plants and 6 non-grafted heirloom plants. There will be 3 varieties, with 2 plants of each in both the grafted and the non-grafted part of the demonstration. We chose 3 different heirlooms, with one of the main factors in the variety selection being how many days to harvest. We wanted varieties that were earlier maturing in case we have another summer like this past summer!

There’s an Apple Tree in My Office, Dear Liza, Dear Liza….

Actually, there are 2 apple trees in my office. They are the columnar apple trees that have been in containers out in the garden.

I have to admit…they kind of look like Charlie Brown apple trees…

Any guesses as to why I have the apple trees in my office? I might have a free grafted tomato plant to the first person who guesses correctly! (Then it’s your problem to get it through until May! Ha!)

Two Days After Grafting

We took a peak under the plastic this afternoon after the Demonstration Garden meeting. We had to get together and share all the plans for the garden. It was exciting!

They are looking good! One of them is still looking a little bit droopy, but the rest of them look a lot better than I expected them to look.

(I have to admit, I’m going to be a tiny bit disappointed if they all survive…What will I do with 7 tomato plants in February?!?)