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Family of 4 Garden Update

At this point, I’m predicting that the Family of 4 Garden this year is going to out-produce the garden from last year, at least dollar-wise. I could be wrong, but there’s a lot of the season left, and we’ve barely started the summer vegetable season!

We harvested about 1/2 to 2/3 of the ‘Yellow Sun’ carrots. They weren’t all as big as they could have been, but I’m not sure they are going to grow much more for the time being. We left the smallest ones in the garden to see if they will grow some more with most of their competition gone! We also pulled out the row of ‘Chioggia’ beets. They had lost most of their tops due to disease and competition from the taller carrots shading them out. We also pulled some of the larger ‘Red Ace’ beets. There were a few more tomatoes and peppers also adding to our coffers.

This Week’s Harvest:

2.5 bunches of carrots @ $2.00/bunch = $5.00

2 bunches of beets @ $3.00/bunch = $6.00

1 bunch of Swiss chard @ $2.99/bunch = $2.99

7 oz. of tomatoes @ $2.00/pound = $0.88

2 jalapeno peppers (approx 3 oz) @ $2.50/lb = $0.47

Weekly Total: $15.33

Yearly Total: $109.33

Watering Tomatoes Less

This is probably an ironic topic to be discussing, since we seem to be getting regularly deluged with far more rain than we really need, but I recently read an article in a trade magazine about correlating tomato flavor to the amount of water the plant receives.

Researchers did a study where they watered tomatoes at 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of evapotranspiration (ET). (Evapotranspiration is a fancy way of saying that they measured how much water was lost from the plants during each day. Just think how much that could be on a hot, windy, Kansas day!) So suppose that the plants lost 10 oz of water (I’m just making this up.). Some of the plants then received 0 oz of water, 2.5 oz, 5 oz, 7.5 oz, and 10 oz of water. This was done consistently from 1 week after transplanting until the end of the season in a cool coastal area and after flowering in a hotter, dryer location (like Kansas).

Some interesting things they observed from this study:

  1. Taste test panels preferred the flavor of fruit grown in the 0, 25, and 50% plots. Lab tests showed that these tomatoes were higher in sugars, soluble solids, and lycopene.
  2. Fruit color was good in all trials.
  3. Skin toughness was only reported in well-watered tomato fruit.
  4. Total yield was not significantly different between the trials.
  5. Marketable yields were lower in the most water stressed plots.
  6. The 0, 25, and 50% plots  had fewer large and extra-large fruit, more insect and disease damaged fruit, more blossom end rot (duh!), and more sunburn.

So, tomatoes receiving less water are tastier and the lost yield isn’t significant in most cases. Interesting, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, I have to try something like this now, with my penchant for science projects. I don’t have a way to measure evapotranspiration, but we do have a garden on our grounds that is intended to be low-water. The garden is our “EarthKind” soils demonstration. The soil is heavy clay that has been amended with 3″ of expanded shale and 3″ of compost, and then mulched on top. This preparation is supposed to improve drainage in heavy clay soils and also prevent the need for frequent watering. (If that makes any sense, whatsoever.) Anyway, I planted 5 tomato plants out in our EarthKind Soils demo area (I think a Solar Fire, Brandymaster, Sweet Cluster, …and I forget the rest.) It will be interesting to see how much trouble we have with Blossom End Rot and also if they taste better than our sometimes-overwatered plants in the Demo Garden!

When should I pull my Tomato plants?

First LightWe are getting to the point in the season when most of the summer vegetables are starting to show decline.

Tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant – diseases, insects, weather have all taken their toll by now. If your garden is anything like the demonstration garden, some plants look okay, some plants look bad but are still producing, and some plants are nearly dead.

How do you know when enough is enough? When should you put your plants (and maybe yourself?) out of the misery? As with many gardening questions, this is a case-by-case scenario.

If you plant is still looking good and producing, why pull it out? If the plant Sue picking tomatoesisn’t looking great, like most of our tomatoes, but is still producing like crazy, it is up to you. If you are sick and tired of tomatoes, maybe pulling it out is okay. Don’t forget that you can take that produce to the Kansas Food Bank for our Plant-A-Row for the Hungry program!

If your plants aren’t producing much anymore, then it is probably time for them to go. What’s the point of a vegetable that isn’t giving you something tasty to eat?

If you do choose to pull your summer vegetables, there is still time to plant some lettuce and spinach!

Fall Arrives in the Family of 4 Garden

The changing weather is definitely making a difference in the garden. The flea beetles are back with a vengeance, and the spider mites are slowing down a bit (although that might be wishful thinking). The cooler weather is also slowing down the harvest a little bit.

Last Week’s Harvest:

3 lbs tomatoes @ $2.00/lb = $6.00
1 lb peppers @ $1.59/lb = $1.59
8 bunches Swiss Chard @ $2.00/bunch = $16.00

Weekly Total: $23.59
Year to Date: $216.40

Today’s harvest:

1 lb tomatoes @ $2/lb = $2.00

1.5 lbs peppers @ $1.59/lb = $2.39

2 yellow bell peppers @ $2.00 each = $4.00

4 bunches Swiss Chard @ $2.00 each = $8.00

Weekly Total = $16.39

Yearly Total = $232.79

We also pulled out the sickly squash and planted spinach seeds. I’m tired enough of  tomatoes and peppers that some nice, crisp spinach sounds awesome right now!

Dusted Sprouts

The Brussels sprouts are covered with cabbageworms again, so we dusted them with Dipel (Bacillus thuringiensis) once again. If you look closely, you can see that there are actually some pretty good sized Brussels sprouts growing on the stalk near the top of that plant. Maybe we will harvest some soon!

And the Harvest Continues…

Tomato PickerI think our Tuesday harvests are starting to wind down (slightly!). I don’t think we have quite as many roma tomatoes today as normal, and the cherry tomatoes are clearly on their downward spiral, as they have been for a couple weeks.

The eggplant; however, are still going strong! The plants are definitely producing more eggplant than I care to eat.

Here’s the stats from the Family of 4 Garden today:

2 lbs assorted peppers @$1.59/lb = $3.18Early Sunsation Pepper

2.5 lbs tomatoes @ $2/lb = $5.00

2 bunches Swiss Chard @ $2/bunch = $4.00

1 green/yellow bell pepper = $1.00

Weekly Total = $13.18

Yearly Total = $192.81