Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Notes to self and routine maintenance

Even when there's nothing to pick, every day I check the garden to see if there's anything that requires some attention, immediate or not.  And I also make mental notes of things I want to do different next season, or want to try.  Sometimes I put the notes in writing, but usually I count on remembering them when the time comes next year.

Case in point:  the determinate paste tomatoes.  This is the first year I've grown determinate tomatoes.  After reading some info on them, I decided that they should be grown in the old 2 foot diameter, 4 foot tall cages, and 2 plants would go in a cage.  I knew they were shorter and bushier than an indeterminate tomato plant, but I had no idea how thick the foliage would get.  I've been trying to thin out the foliage to open the plants up, and remove unwanted suckers (yes they do sucker).  But it's a challenge.  Next year I will put in one tomato plant per cage.
This is the cage with Roma VF tomatoes.  The bottom is fairly open, but the upper part of the cage is a mass of foliage.  This tomato has a tendency to drop its tomatoes before they are ripe, and any time I go in there with shears I knock down a tomato or two.

This cage has Plum Regal tomatoes, and they are equally lush.  Early on I slid bamboo stakes crossways through the cage to help support the plants, and noticed that the lowermost stake was bowed under the weight of tomatoes and foliage.  Well yesterday the stake snapped under the weight and the plant dropped several inches.  I managed to carefully get a new stake under the stem, but there's a lot of weight there.  Too much of a good thing I guess.   I'm keeping my fingers crossed until some of these tomatoes can be picked.  Next year I need to find a stronger support.

The strategy for cover cropping continues to evolve.  This year I'm seeding cowpeas as a summer cover crop.  In years past I used buckwheat but it self-seeds rapidly and becomes a weed.  My preference is toward legume cover crops since they can fix nitrogen in the soil.  I was also hoping that the cowpeas like the field peas would be a good forage for the rabbits, but the bunnies won't touch the cowpeas.

I seeded inoculated cowpeas in the brassica bed once the cole crops were out, along with a zucchini which is a little overwhelmed by the cowpeas.

The cowpeas are growing like crazy and have some white nodules on their roots, where the bacteria are doing their work of fixing atmospheric nitrogen.  Cowpeas are closely related to black-eyed peas, but much smaller.  So I began thinking, why not plant a shell bean as a cover crop?  It will do the same nitrogen enrichment as the cowpeas, but at the end of the summer, actually give me something usable.  This bears looking into.

Then there's the squash.  This year they get some size and then die.  Now it's even worse.  The largest plant is showing the signs of bacterial wilt.  About 6 or 7 years ago, bacterial wilt started in the cucumbers and eventually killed all of the squash.  It hasn't come back until now.  The plants will wilt at the end of the day, then perk up again in the morning.  This can go on for a week before they finally succumb.  Today another plant is showing wilt.  I'm not holding out much hope for squash this year.

The Bodacious sweet corn is finished, so the stalks were cut down, chopped up and put in the compost bin.  That gives the Silver Queen a little more light.  It seems to me like corn produces a lot of biomass for what you get out of it, although it does so very quickly.

A still-healthy Butternut squash vine was trained into the newly open area left by the corn.

The Vertina pickling cucumbers appear to be nearly finished.  It's amazing that I was able to pick nearly 3 pounds of cucumbers after this shot was taken.  I don't expect many more though.


Phuong said...

Your tomatoes seem really prolific this year, but it's too bad about your squashes. Are squash bugs spreading the viral disease?

gardenvariety-hoosier said...

Phuong, I've seen very few squash bugs so far. Bacterial wilt is usually associated with cucumber beetles, but I haven't seen any of them either.

Margaret said...

Oh, that's too bad about the squash - at least a 7 year cycle isn't too bad. And I'm envious of your disease free tomato plants! I do have a suggestion for the tomato cross-support - one of my most useful garden "tools" - rebar!

Eight Gate Farm NH said...

Wow, your early corn is finished and mine has barely started sending up tassels. I grow a lot of determinate tomatoes, and I think 2 per cage is too much. I would have guessed squash vine borers were the cause of your problem, but you know best. How do you get rid of wilt?

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