Spring has Sprung at Plum Fabulous Foods! After pulling most of our winter crops out and thoroughly cleaning up the garden, we put in over 250 baby plants this past weekend. Varieties include:
Early Girl, Celebrity, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Roma and Brandywine tomatoes
Blue Lake and Contender Bush Beans
Hales Jumbo and Hearts of Gold cantaloupe
Black Diamond and Crimson Sweet watermelon
Yellow Crookneck, Zucchini and Patty Pan summer squash
Table King Bush Acorn, Waltham Butternut, and Spagetthi winter squash
Texas Hill Country Red and Clemson Spineless Okra
Straight Eight Cucumbers
Black Beauty Eggplant
Purple Beauty, Orange King, California Wonder, and Jimmy Nardello peppers.
All of these transplants had been growing inside under shop lights since January. The only plants not planted from transplants were the bush beans, which were planted by seed (which we had soaked overnight). Each planting was also given a generous sprinkling of Azomite, our homemade compost and Medina Organic Growin’ Green fertilizer (a wonderful dehydrated chicken manure that is a slow release organic fertilizer).
We installed our hardware – the support systems that hold the plants up. To start, peppers were staked with alternating tomato cages. The peppers were planted in a 3′ x 12′ bed with a 1′ spacing. I staked every other pepper plant because I didn’t have enough cages and because this has worked just fine in the past. For the determinant tomato varieties, some were staked with our 4′ tall homemade field-wire tomato cages and some were planted next to 4′ tall cattle panels. For the indeterminant tomatoes, I built 6′ trellis frames and strung nylon string at 1′ spacing to form a grid pattern. As the plants grow, I will weave them around the netting to support them. The cantaloupe and cucumbers were also planted next to cattle panels for support. I have never grown cucumbers on the ground and I very rarely allow the cantaloupe to touch the ground either. The plants seem to do so much better with good air flow, not to mention the added benefit of keeping ants out of my melons. We also covered all the plants with protective tulle netting. This is meant to keep the pests out, as well as provide the new transplants with a little shade and protection from the wind and rain on the forecast for this week.
It’s always tricky deciding where to put my tall crops, like the 6′ tomato trellises. Usually you don’t want to shade the other plants, and you have to keep in mind things like crop rotation. I will spend a day in January making a plan for where everything needs to go. This helps me decide how many seeds to plant for transplants, and also makes the big spring planting day go much smoother. This year, I alternated my big tomato trellises with my strawberry beds. I usually have to cover my strawberries in June so the Texas sun doesn’t burn them up. I’m going on my 3rd year for one strawberry bed, the 2nd year for another and I just planted a 3rd bed. I imagine they will just keep going if I can baby them through the heat. We’ll see if my tall tomato trellises will provide some extra shade this year. It’s always fun to experiment each year with different ideas and “garden theories.” Two years ago, we harvested our all time high of 1200+ pounds for the year. Last year, with all the extra spring rain that flooded several crops, we only yielded 1000 lbs. I have a goal this year for 1500 lbs. That will mean really paying attention to planting dates, close spacing on the plants, diligent feedings with organic fertilizers and keeping an eye on pests. We managed to get our whole potato crop into 14 cattle feed buckets lying on the perimeter of the garden. This freed up space for 100 more spring plants where the potatoes would normally be.
We still need to get our corn in the ground and I think it’s time we did peanuts again. We’re waiting on our last bed of broccoli and cabbage to be ready to pull to put the corn in. We’ll try the peanuts in some extra cattle feed buckets we have since they like good drainage.
Fingers are crossed and we’re praying for rain!