Branching Out's Seeds and Sprouts

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
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On May 6th I posted photos of the ground work for our new tomato patch. This week was the next step as we roughed in a 4' wide strip of Bio360 black film, as we had to have that in place when the posts and cattle panel went in. (As a side note, I left the black film loose on the top of the soil for several days, and was dismayed to see that the heat and sun had made it all stick together in a black wrinkly mess. Fortunately I was able to gently pull it fairly flat again, but I had to make a note to myself to not allow it to become bunched up ever again-- not even for one day). I also attached strong twine to the top of the cattle panel, to twine around the tomato stems as they grow.

A few days later favourable planting weather arrived, so I was able to move on to the fun part-- tomato planting day. I added a scoop of dry organic fertilizer to each of the twenty seven 2 gallon container 'place holders' for each planting hole, and mixed it in a bit. Then I lifted out all of the 2 gallon pots and watered each planting hole deeply 3 or 4 times; the holes were very well-defined after sitting for a month, so prepping the holes well in advance is a technique I will definitely use again. One by one I tore a hole in the Bio360 black film to correspond with the pre-dug hole in the ground, placed the end of the strong twine through the hole, sat a tomato plant on top of the string planting it as deep as I could, and dumped out the contents of one 2 gallon container to firmly back fill around the plant. The bottom of each bucket was absolutely full of red wigglers, so lots of good soil biology going in with the tomato seedlings. I watered one more time at the end as it was a very warm afternoon. Today we finally received an inch of rain after a month-long drought, so the plant roots will be starting out well-hydrated.

There are still a few more seedlings to go in, and then this newly created patch will be at full capacity. At that point I will make sure the Bio360 is tucked in and buried with compost around all of the edges, so it doesn't blow around when it gets windy. I will also sow some alyssum seeds here and there, and tuck in some cerinthe seedlings in order to attract beneficial insects to the patch. Cerinthe will be going in my squash patch too as from what I understand bees can really assist in pollinating squash, and Higgledy Garden says 'bees go wonky for the conk' for Cerinthe.
 

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Branching Out

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Last October I sprinkled seeds of Pandora, a Shirley Poppy, on a dry slope near a patch of junipers. I think I made a mistake and pulled out a few of them this spring, thinking they were weeds; the ones that remained grew into large plants, and are now putting on quite a show.
 

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Branching Out

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I started many of my peppers fairly late due to a shortage of space indoors, which felt like a mistake. However now the forecast for the next two weeks is for warm days of about 21C(70F) with very cool nights averaging a chilly 13C(55F), which would not be very comfortable for peppers. I will keep these trays in my white caterpillar tunnel for a few weeks, and by then we should have some solid summer temperatures both day and night. Heirloomgal, I recall you saying that peppers seem to like straight-sided pots and I am finding that to be true. These pots are small, but they are almost as tall as a one gallon container and the peppers do really well staying in them for a very long time.

One variety, the Criolla Sella, seems very droopy compared to the rest; they are growing horizontally instead of upright. It seems like they have adventitious roots, because the base of the stem is all covered with white bumps and the plant keeps trying to contact them with the soil.
 

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Branching Out

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On May 18th I noted how delighted I was with growing Poached Egg Plant for the first time, and now just over 3 weeks later the plants have finished and are lying flat as pancakes on the ground. They look terrible, and on closer inspection there are both mature brown and immature green seeds shattering all over the place. I have a feeling this might become one of those plants that will grow in the cracks in the pavement. For now I removed the plants, gathered some seed, and will monitor their spread.
 

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Branching Out

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In an effort to find a productive and tasty shelling pea I grew out quite a number of different kinds this year, with 4 in the ground and half a dozen in containers. Initially the containers looked really promising, however some recent hot weather seems to have halted flowering so there are almost no peas at all on the container grown varieties.

There are two varieties in the ground that are just loaded right now, Citadel and Alaska. Alaska is over 5' tall, and has such a narrow harvest window that the peas become starchy and off-tasting once the pod is really full and bulgy-- so they need to be picked a little less than fully plump. (Apparently they are a good dry soup pea as well). Citadel peas only grow about 18" tall and are as close to self-supporting as you could ask for. Once they reached about a foot high I propped them up a bit with supports, and they are setting a really nice crop of firm, dark green uniform pods filled with really tasty peas. I think I planted all 30 seeds that were in the pack, for a 2' long double row. Citadel is definitely a variety I will grow again. In the photo freshly picked Citadel pods are on the left, and Alaska on the right.
 

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flowerbug

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it just might be that the container peas got too hot and perhaps too dry as both conditions will make them give up. when in the ground they have a better chance at least of keeping their roots a cooler temperature.

the varieties of peas i'm working with now will get fairly tall but the main interest for me are the big pods and the fact that they will grow into August and pretty hot temperatures. unfortunately i've got a packet of mixed seeds and so some culling needs to happen for these but eventually i hope to have enough to share around. oh, and i have to make sure to harvest the seeds before the pods get too ripe because the chipmunks will raid them.
 

Branching Out

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it just might be that the container peas got too hot and perhaps too dry as both conditions will make them give up. when in the ground they have a better chance at least of keeping their roots a cooler temperature.

the varieties of peas i'm working with now will get fairly tall but the main interest for me are the big pods and the fact that they will grow into August and pretty hot temperatures. unfortunately i've got a packet of mixed seeds and so some culling needs to happen for these but eventually i hope to have enough to share around. oh, and i have to make sure to harvest the seeds before the pods get too ripe because the chipmunks will raid them.
You nailed it flowerbug-- on closer inspection I noticed that the three containers that had the most heat and sun had halted production, and the two placed adjacent to them but in a bit more shade were in fact still producing. I think the heat had indeed torched the soil. I also found it interesting that the container peas grew straight upwards until they were ready to make pods, and then the top growth kind of drooped to the north leaving all of the roots at the south side of the container exposed to the sun. This is of course my fault for not offering them better vertical support, or mulch for their roots. If I tweak things just a bit next spring will be bigger and better I am certain.

And I had one other row of Bolero peas that I had sown in the ground on March 18th and that I had more or less given up on. I seeded my second attempt at sweet corn all around them the other day, and then wow-- yesterday when I checked on them they were absolutely loaded with large full pods of excellent tasting peas. Short vines at just 12" or so; the mature height is 30" so maybe their plan is to continue growing. I will prop them up and try to save all of the seeds from this batch so I can do them justice next year, or perhaps in July for an autumn crop (and I am so glad that I didn't rip them out when the corn went in).

Which got me to thinking that next spring early dwarf peas relay planted with sweet corn could be a winning combination. I may plant rows of short peas in March using row cover to try to have them finish right around the time the sweet corn goes in. Then I could sow the corn in between the rows of peas for the extra nitrogen, and the pea vines would keep the row cover aloft to trap extra heat for the corn-- and also for the pea pods to mature and dry down.
 

Branching Out

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Yesterday was quite cool here so I was gardening wearing a turtle neck and a thick fleece hoodie. This made for comfortable work after the many weeks of hot weather that we have had. I find that the heat just sucks the energy out of me (and the seedlings too), and can make it difficult to accomplish much.

Today my husband and I made the rounds of two gardens and pounded tomato stakes in for any of the seedlings that were not yet prepped to grow vertically up strong twine. He bought a cordless drill and drilled a hole through the top of each stake so I could thread my string through it, for twining around the tomato stalks. It worked really well! Some of the tall stakes had spent the whole winter still sitting in the ground from last summer, and others were scattered all over the place. One of my goals for the fall is to pull and clean all of the stakes when we pull the tomato plants, so the wood can all be stored in one spot, under cover and out of the elements.

I also planted out the last of the sorghum that I had started in soil blocks, and was finding myself wishing that I had started more of it. Planting out starts is taking up a lot of my time, so not easy to squeeze in seed starting. Rain is in the forecast for next week though, so it may afford me the opportunity to focus on seed starting again soon.
 

flowerbug

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i'm a heathen when it comes down to peas and supports, i just plant the seeds and hope they will prop each other up (and some varieties will do this if block planted). as one example the green soup pea i grow has so many tendrils that they will grab ahold of each other and hold each other up.
 

Branching Out

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The Red Riding Hood dwarf tomato plants are getting really big and are covered with flowers. I would like them to fruit as early as possible, to limit opportunities for cross-pollination with the many other varieties that I am growing this year. Now we are in a cool weather pattern for the next week, so I covered them with a big sheet of row cover for extra warmth, and to temper the wind. I have a few bean patches as well as my sweet corn under row cover too, and they really seem to like it.
 

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