Every year I plan out the garden design on a scale drawing of the beds. And every year the design is changed when it's time to plant. This year is no exception. The trickiest bed is the large 250 square foot 'squash' bed, which has about half the total garden space. This year it gets winter squash, tomatoes, and sweet corn. No potatoes or sweet potatoes this year because I'm tired of giving the voles another buffet.
The large bed strategy goes something like this: Seed a cover crop of field peas in March. As the peas grow they will 'fix' nitrogen in the soil as well as provide forage for the rabbits. In mid-May, clear out small circles every 4-5 feet and sow a few squash seeds. As the season moves into summer, the peas succumb to the heat, clearing the way for the squash.
Sounds like a great plan, except for one problem. Much of the compost that was spread on top of the seeds was not finished compost, and it contained untold numbers of a weed whose identity is unknown to me. It's crowding out the field peas in places and will take over if it is not dug under:
Of course the parts of the bed that will be planted in tomatoes and sweet corn have to be turned under anyway, but I was hoping to leave the rest of the bed under field peas as long as possible, since it's such good rabbit food. The west end of the bed where the peas are not infested with weeds is also the area where I planned to put sweet corn. So I've changed plans and will dig up the south side of the bed for the corn patch, where the weeds are at their worst, even though the corn will shade the squash somewhat. I'll clear out spots in the rest of the bed for squash, but will leave the cover crop in place for another week before digging it under.
The north end of the bed will get three cages of paste tomatoes. Two Plum Regal plants were ready to go in a cage, the remaining seedlings need a few more days in the pots. That's Lavendar Touch eggplant between the two cages. This is the first time I've grown determinate tomatoes. From what I've read, they tend to set fruit all at once, perfect for canning sauces.
Pole beans were planted along the east side of the bed. I set up a 9 foot trellis and planted half the row in Fortex, and the other half in Musica, a new one for me.
With the previous year's problems with leaf blight, it's a new strategy for tomatoes this year. The paste tomatoes that are determinate will grow in the old 2 foot wide cages with two plants per cage, as was shown above. For the indeterminate tomatoes, I bought a roll of 5 foot remesh and made 18 inch diameter cages - thin and tall. Each cage will get one plant. I'm hoping this method will improve air circulation around each tomato plant.
Yesterday I installed 5 cages in a 12 foot bed. The cages are suspended about 10 inches above the ground on the hooks of the fence posts. That will give the plants lots of vertical space to grow in. Today I plan to transplant the tomatoes and peppers into the bed, but this is what it looks like now.
I began preparing this bed a few days ago, when I turned it under with a shovel. Several cups of 8-8-8 fertilizer were spread over the bed, and two wheelbarrow loads of compost were spread on top. Then it was tilled over with the mini-cultivator to dig in the amendments and break up any weed roots.
I noticed that of the two bags of fertilizer on hand, one had a substantial amount of calcium (9%), and the other had none. Interesting. The fertilizer with calcium was used here, in hopes of preventing blossom end rot.