Monday, 30 May 2011
Tomato and Pepper Hot Bed
Kelly worked very hard recently to prepare a better planting bed to grow our peppers and tomatoes. His work will pay off well in better moisture and heat retention and less weeds which will all contribute to increased yield. We had these timbers on hand so there was no expense involved, just time in plowing the area where the wood would sit and then setting, levelling and securing the timbers. He did a great job and I am so thankful to have a husband who is so capable and knowledgeable. He can do anything! *swoon*
The soil was amended with kitchen compostables through the late fall and winter, so that was mostly decomposed. I added some peat and a bit of blood meal and gave everything a good turning over before planting. The soil looks and feels fantastic! Good soil texture and much improved water retention will hopefully make this bed even more productive than last year.
The plants you see in the middle of the bed are spinach, beets, kale and cilantro that were seeded in the cold frames. The frames resided in this bed until last week but were removed to make way for the pepper and tomato "hot bed". I planted peppers (Jalapeno and sweet) at one end (the lower part of the picture) and tomatoes at the other (the top of the photo). The rest of my tomatoes are in the main garden as an experiment of sorts. Last year, I was surprised to see that the tomatoes I had growing in the cooler, more open main garden did really well - as well as the ones planted in the hot bed (dare I say better?). Hmmm... must have been the soil condition. Hopefully, we have taken care of that with our recent work on the hot bed and I'm curious to see if they take off as expected this year. The combination of reflective heat, protection from wind and good soil *should* net a bigger harvest.
Last year, we lost nearly all of our tomatoes to an early frost. I had been diligently watching the weather forecast, and with no frost predicted one late summer/early fall night, I didn't cover my tomatoes. I woke to the gut wrenching discovery of all our tomatoes frozen on the vine and learned the hard way that temperatures out here in the country can run as much as 8-10 degrees cooler than in the city. THAT was a hard pill to swallow. Fortunately, a fellow gardener with a glut of tomatoes was kind enough to donate 2 large boxes of just picked tomatoes when she heard of our plight. I was so touched by her generosity and kindness.
This year, I'm armed with knowledge and steely determination (what gardener doesn't have that?). I will protect those plants like babies and hope that those efforts pay off. Certainly, this improved planting bed will help and I hope that I can fill my pantry and freezer with delicious homemade tomato sauce :)
This is one of many Pink Brandywines planted in this bed. I've also planted Taxi Yellow and Tiger Stripe. The plants look a little nitrogen deficient, so I'm probably going to have to add a little more blood meal to the soil. When there is partially composted matter in the soil apparently nitrogen is in short supply as it is used up during the decomposition process. When the composting process is complete, the nitrogen level rises. These yellowish leaves tell me that I need to add a little more nitrogen, and as I don't use chemical fertilizers, my choice of nitrogen will be to add blood meal. Hopefully, now that we have some decent composting systems set up, I'll be able to compost all of our organic waste fully before adding it to the garden beds, eliminating the cause of the low nitrogen in the first place.
On the house front, we are making progress getting the siding up at the rear of the garage. It's looking really good! Pics will follow soon :)