Monthly Archives: February 2012

Garden Renovation: Day 1, Dirt Work

We have activity in the garden, finally! It seemed for most of the winter like we weren’t going to make any progress in time for planting, but we finally have gotten started. Always call before you dig!

The first thing to do was to get the extra soil from the raised beds removed.

Then all the extra dirt had to be removed down to the level where the drainage needs to be put in. They made a big pile in the middle to haul away. I wonder how long that will take?

Not very long, apparently. Only a couple of hours. It’s amazing what a skidsteer can do.

The end of Day 1! A clean slate, all ready for the drainage work to begin.

Garden Plans for 2012: Tomato Garden

I would say that of all the gardens we have planned for this year, the Tomato Garden is the most standard. We’re not doing anything too crazy this year, in large part because we wanted to choose varieties that we thought would be successful even if we get them planted late. We also are re-trying a number of varieties from last year that just didn’t have a chance to really show what they can do.

Since this raised bed is 32 feet long (8 feet longer than we have been used to), we realized that we didn’t have enough tomato cages to really make good use of that space. Hence the design you see above. We are planting half of the garden with tomato cages for support and the other half using the Florida Weave (aka Stake & Weave) system. We have chosen 8 tomato varieties, and we will plant one plant of each in both halves of the garden. This will give us the chance to really see the difference in how the plants are managed in the two systems. I don’t expect to see any yield or fruit quality differences, but it might show the pros and cons of using both systems with indeterminate and determinate tomatoes.

We tried to select varieties that are 75 days or less to maturity after transplanting, although we fudged a bit on a couple of them.

‘Valley Girl’ is a early tomato producing medium sized tomatoes that is supposed to set fruit under both heat and cold stress.

‘Country Taste’is an indeterminate hybrid “heirloom type” tomato that we tried last year with little luck. It’s supposed to be a larger tomato with great flavor.

‘Bellstar’is a determinate paste tomato that is early producing with high yields.

Martha Washington’ is a brand new hybrid “heirloom type” that boasts wider adaptability and productivity with an heirloom flavor. A little bit later producing.

The 4 heat set varieties, ‘BHN-189,’ ‘Solar Fire,’ ‘Super Sioux,’ and ‘SunMaster’ we grew last year, but we wanted to give them a better chance this year, hopefully planting them a little earlier and closer to “regular” tomato planting time. Of course, we’re also hoping for a summer that is less crazy hot!

Garden Plans for 2012: Mexican Garden

Another one of our theme gardens this year is the Mexican Garden. This garden is going to be a fun mix of more commonly recognized vegetables with some uncommon vegetables!

We relied heavily on Rosalind Creasy’s book, The Edible Mexican Garden, for inspiration in planning our Mexican Garden.

Starting from the left side, we of course had to put in several peppers. Since we had so many peppers last year, we didn’t want to go crazy. Still, we have 6 peppers, ranging from serrano to bell peppers. Then we have a few rows of a black bean that can be used as either a dry bean or a fresh shelling bean. With the amount of space allotted, we know that we won’t get tons of beans, but it should be enough to have fun growing them.

Of course, the herb most people associate with Mexican cooking is cilantro, because it is in salsa. Unfortunately, cilantro doesn’t like the heat here very much in the summer, so we are also growing culantro. Culantro is an herb that has a similar flavor to cilantro but much better heat tolerance. We’ll also have a Mexican Oregano plant.

Cantaloupe are also a native Mexican vegetable/fruit! We are reprising the ‘Tasty Bites’ melon from last year on a trellis, as well as giving a shot at growing jicama. Jicama is a tuber vegetable, but the plant is a huge vine. It needs a long growing season, so it will be fun to see if we get anything from it.

You might have noticed that we skipped the tomatoes in the Mexican Garden, in favor of 4 tomatillo plants. Supposedly tomatillos produce better if they have another tomatillo as a pollinator, so we decided to try a purple tomatillo (2 plants) and an large green tomatillo (2 plants).

The two zucchinis are a paler grey color, rather than a typical green or yellow on a summer squash. The ‘Ronde de Nice’ is actually a round zucchini.

All the way on the right side of the map, we have 2 plants of ‘Aztec Red’ Spinach. Don’t let the name fool you – this is not a spinach in the sense we normally use it. It is a native Mexican green called Huauzontle (or Huauzontli). It is in the same family as Lambs’ Quarter, a common weed, which is also edible. The young, tender leaves of the huauzontle are eaten, as well as the immature flower buds. This will be a fun one to experiment with on some recipes this summer!

Garden Plans for 2012: Edible Flowers

We are planning to make good use of the variety of sizes of our new raised beds by trying some different things in a small area, rather than devoting half or all of one of our old beds to them. One of the new 4′ x 4′ raised beds will have a theme of “Edible Flowers” this year.

Edible flowers are a fun subject, but the challenge that we ran into during the planning is that most of the really popular edible flowers are all cool season. In other words, since we won’t be able to plant them in March, we had to try something else. When we get to fall, we’ll be able to plant pansies, violas, nasturtiums, calendula, dianthus, snapdragons, etc. However, since we’re aiming for a planting date of mid-May, we had to focus on flowers that like warmer weather.

In the very center of the garden is an edible hibiscus, called Roselle. It is popular in southeast Asia and Mexico. The buds are used to make drinks, teas, jellies, and more.

Then we will have ‘Cardinal’ Basil, the same type we have in the “Beautiful Vegetables” garden.

On the edges will be a reblooming daylily, supplying us with edible buds. Then in the corners will be citrus marigolds and French marigolds. The citrus marigolds are sometimes called “signet” marigolds, and they have a definite citrusy scent and flavor, rather than your typical marigold odor.

Good News & Bad News

The good news is that we’ve gotten drawings for all aspects of garden renovation! We’ve also accepted a bid for the drainage and dirt work portion of the project. Hurray!

The bad news…the contractor won’t actually be able to do ANY work in the garden until it dries out. So stop hoping for rain, please.