Tomato Problems

Solanum lycopersicum, commonly called the tomato is an edible delight in the nightshade family (Solanaceae). They originated in Central and South America. Although botanically a fruit, tomatoes have a lower sugar content than most fruits and are considered a culinary vegetable.

Although not terribly difficult to grow in most of the United States they do have some problems due to their sensitivity to how often they are watered, how they are watered and how much water they get.

This year my tomatoes are doing well. All but one of the plants has good foliage growth. All have good blossoms and are setting fruit. I have some cherry tomatoes that are picked and eaten.

I attribute the success mostly to the weather. Until this coming week when we are to have triple digit heat the weather has been mostly in the 80sF and some days in the high 70s. The plants seem to thrive in those temperatures.

In the video below from www.growveg.com, Ben Vanheems teaches us about how to care for tomatoes and avoid their common problems.

 

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

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Castles and Spuds

IMG_0310Here is another photo of the blueberry castle all finished. The last post had a photo taken before it was done.

Also I’ve attached a photo of my wee potato box. My brother gave me two potatoes from his kitchen that had sprouted. One is a sweet potato and one is a russet. I planted the sprouted eyes in one of the garden boxes. Today I created a small box so I could build up the soil around the sprouts. As they grow up I have another bottomless box that will go on top to deepen the growing area. Maybe I will get a couple spuds!

IMG_0308I cut the grass and watered today. It is hot today (89F) and muggy. It was so muggy I retreated indoors. I hate the heat and hate muggy heat all the more. I could never live in a humid climate.

We are usually spared excessive humidity here but when it comes it saps all my energy.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Blueberry Castle

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Lawn & Blueberries

We have six blueberry plants in our back yard. Two are early bearing, two are mid-season and two are late bearing. We are not the only ones however who love the blueberries. We have many birds, especially scrub jays, who love the blueberries. Thus I must cover the berries with bird netting to save some for us to eat.

The first couple of years I put up PVC pipe hoops over the berry plants and draped the netting over that. That worked but was less than satisfactory. It did not look very nice and the hoops did not always remain vertical. The biggest problem was that it was hard for me to get to the blue berries.

Last weekend I replaced the hoops with the wooden structure shown in the photo on this page. It will allow for more growth of the plants, it makes it easier for me to roll up the netting to get to the berries and I hope it looks better overall. And, I got to do some wood working which I very much enjoy.

The photo of the “castle’ below is before I removed the hoops – they are gone now.

IMG_0305The blue berries have done well this year and we have had a good crop. This is their third season and they have prospered. I will actually have to prune them some this fall.

Inspiration at Butchart Gardens

Last week we visited Victoria, British Columbia. During our visit we got to spend half a day at the Butchart Gardens. For a garden lover like myself this place is fantastic. For me it was the second visit, I’d been there over 20 years ago. For my wife it was her first visit.

In 1904 the Butcharts developed a quarry and cement factory at Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island. They also built their beautiful home there. The quarry was rich in the limestone essential to making cement. They exported to the rest of Canada and to the US.

As the limestone was exhausted the Butcharts began to transform a barren and stark quarry – a giant hollowed out area – into beautiful gardens. They hauled in tons of soil by horse and cart from a nearby farm.

Between 1906 and 1929 they created a beautiful Japanese Garden. A sunken garden, Italian Garden, a Rose Garden and more followed until the entire quarry was transformed into a chorus of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

On his 21st birthday their grandson, Ian, was given the garden and he spent the rest of his life developing it and opening it to the public. The garden remains in the family having been passed down through the generations.

It took us over two hours to see the entire garden, walking slowly along perfectly maintained paths, across bridges and by water fountains and other fixtures. For me the showcase of the gardens are the immaculate lawns and the extensive beds of flowers and bushes. They plant over a million bedding plants each year. Nearly a million people a year visit from around the world.

I’ve included only one photo here of his amazing garden. To see much more go to their site here.

The Butchart gardens are in inspiration to any gardener. They show the potential. On returning home I dived into improvements in our gardens inspired by what I saw.

Our gardens surrounding our home have been a labor of love for 15 years and will continue to be so. The inspiration gained from viewing the Butchart Gardens only give me more energy to develop our gardens further.

If you ever get the chance to see these gardens in British Columbia I hope you take it. They are a ferry ride from Seattle, Vancouver BC or Port Angeles, Washington. It is well worth the trip.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

The Garden in June

The weather has turned hot very quickly since summer has officially begun. We are seeing highs in the 90sF.

The past week has been a busy time for planting in the garden. I’ve added herbs to the herb garden area and to some containers. The green house is now empty for the first time since early spring. It is too hot in there now for things to do well.

The large garden box (D) is empty except for some marigolds planted around the edge. That box will remain fallow this year. It has never been fallow so needs a season of rest.

The law looks better than it ever has. I have learned that despite advice from the water conservation interests in this heat one must water the lawn at least every other day to keep it green and lush. It is a small lawn so I do not feel so badly about the water usage.

I hand water the vegetables, containers and herbs. I usually water containers daily in this heat and vegetables can usually do fine with water every other day or every third day.

Everything is doing well. The latest basil plants from the green house are a bit pale but are already deepening in color with more direct sun in the box.

We have been eating the Boston lettuce, it is still tender and very flavorful. You just cannot get that flavor from store bought produce.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Tis’ a Wet Spring

It has been a cooler and wetter spring this year than normal. The average temperature for today in Albany is 72F. the high was 60F. This has been typical this spring.

Upside

There have been advantages to this cool weather. I can still pull the wild onions that litter my perennial beds out by hand. The mostly come out whole. By this time of year they usually snap off because the ground is too dry. Other weeds also pull out more easily except of course dandelions which manage to cling to the soil no matter what the condition.

I did have to water the lawn and veggies for the first week or of June so but for the past four days the rain has done that for me. Rain provides a better soaking than irrigation does and there is something about rain water that promotes growth better than city water. In part it may be the chlorine and fluoride that come with city water.

My cool loving lettuce loves this weather. No threat of bolting in this cool cloudy weather.

Downside

Weeds also love this weather. Weed seeds that might not sprout at this point are and growing weeds are thriving. I continue to battle them (pull them) but cannot keep up with the entire yard.

My sun loving plants, especially the tomatoes, do not love this weather. Their growth is slowed and setting fruit is not happening as yet.

There are fewer insects around, especially bees, which means less pollination. On the other hand the water sitting about in puddles and containers will produce more mosquitoes.

It is likely that later this month or for sure in July the heat will return and things will return more to normal. That is my expectation anyway. I am not complaining. Cool or hot each condition has its advantages and disadvantages. For now anyway the garden looks happy and all is well.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

No-till Gardening

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Box B

Normally every spring I till up my garden beds. I’ve read in various books over the years that this is a good thing to do as it mixes levels of soil to bring nutrients to the surface, aerates the soil to improve drainage and bring air to the area where roots need it.

I’ve also read about the advantages of not tilling the ground, so called no-till gardening. Various sources also call this lasagna gardening because it involves creating layers of mulch, compost, organic matter, etc. and then to plant on these layers. All methods of gardening have their advantages and disadvantages and one site discusses some disadvantages of lasagna gardening.

In his book, Weedless Gardening, Lee Reich advocates a form of no-till gardening. He does not advocate true lasagna style gardening which involves multiple layers created at once. Reich’s reasoning is that in nature the ground is not tilled. Mother nature naturally layers thin applications of organic matter on the ground each fall as leaves and plants dies and fall down. They rot into the ground adding all the benefits of organic matter without disturbing soil structure.

Reich writes that there is much less work involved with no-till gardening. There is no backbreaking labor in the fall or spring to turn over the soil and then till it. He suggests you just add a couple inches of high quality compost to the top of the soil each year and let nature do its work.

He cautions that you prevent soil compaction by avoiding walking on planting beds. Walking and wheel barrows are confined to pathways between the beds.

In addition to better soil structure he suggests that there are fewer weeds because weed seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate each year from tilling.

I decided to give this method a try this year. I could not fully use it on my garden boxes because I rebuilt them and had to add about 4-6 inches of soil and compost to build them up. I then raked this in well along with organic fertilizer. I did not till the boxes so to some extent I followed this method. I am also using his method in flower beds and beds that contain shrubs.

Next year I will follow the method to the vegetable beds. I will just add a couple inches of compost and see how things go.

I must admit it is a lot less work and if Reich’s theory is sound it may create healthier soil that is more natural in its structure. When you consider the ample flora that nature supports using this method it seems to make sense.

This is one of the things I love about gardening. Learning new approaches and trying them out.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy