Friday, May 21, 2010

What I'm Growing This Year

Every new season I am eager to try new varieties of tomato, as well as the ones I've been happy with in the past. Since nothing -- not even tried and true varieties -- grew for me last year, I'm not counting their failure against this year. So once again I'm growing one each of these: Cherokee Purple, Principe Borghese, Yellow Pear, and Anna Russian. I'm going to give Brandywine another chance, even though I've had trouble with it two years in a row and it's so far not looking as healthy as the other plants this year.

Note: For the first time this year I am going to keep a photo record of each important plant about every two weeks. This will help me not only record progress, but should give me a basis of comparison at each stage of growth with the last so I can catch problems early and begin to deal withe them. The Brandywine has only been in the ground for about ten days. I am watching it carefully and trying to understand why it is not seeming to thrive as the other tomatoes are. 

Tomato varieties I'm trying for the first time this year are Royal Hillbilly, Amana Orange, Japanese Black Truffle, Oxheart, Tigerella, Zapotee Pink Ribbed, Moskvich Red, Taxi Yellow, Korkik Red, Ace 55 Red, Roma Rio Grande, and New Big Dwarf Pink. The ones I'm growing in containers include Taxi Yellow, Korlik Red (which is an early cluster tomato, Anna Russian (which did well in a container in a previous year), Ace 55 Rd, Roma Rio Grande (I've grown other Romas in containers successfully), and New Big Dwarf Pink. The rest of the tomatoes are in the raised beds. 

Traditionally, tomatoes grown in the raised beds have not produced as much as those in the containers. I'm blaming the soil, since I've normally used a potting soil in the containers, but a mixture of soil, compost, steer manure, and sand in the raised beds. Although I've not emptied and replaced all the soil in the raised beds this year, I am adding plenty of Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting soil to each raised bed and mixing it with whatever is there. The one that has the least room for amendments is the middle and most shallow of the raised beds. I have not put any tomatoes in that bed this year. 

I am also trying to make the most of companion planting in the raised beds. Here's what's in them. First, the oldest raised bed, and the deepest. It contains these tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Royal Hillbilly, Amana Orange, Japanese Black Truffle, Oxheart, and Brandywine. At the near end of this bed you will see a stone between the two tomato plants marking where I've planted some borage, which should be sprouting soon. This bed also contains two Simspon lettuce (not yet in bed when picture was taken), two French marigolds, and two Italian sweet basil plants. 

In the middle bed, which I believe has the worst soil mix, is a clump of chives that is left over from previous years, four Yellow Summer Squash, one Melrose sweet pepper, one Italian Sweet Basit, two marigolds, two Simspon lettuce, two rows of seeds for French Breakfast Radishes, and two very tiny Calendula transplants from the herb garden. 

We added a new bed this year, though it was mostly filled last summer after the planting had been done. I noticed the man we hired did not mix the soil well as he was instructed and most of the potting soil was on top with almost a one-to-two-inch layer of sand underneath. I mixed as best I could as I went along. This bed now contains one Burpless Cucumber, one Principe Borghese tomato, one Lemon Cucumber, one Tigerella tomato, one Zapotee Pink Ribbed Tomato, one Moskvich Red, and one Yellow Pear tomato. Companions include two marigolds, one basil, and two of the tiny Calendula transplants. 

Although the potting soil is supposed to feed the plants for two months, on the advice of nurserymen, I also added a shake or two of Natural and Organic Dynamite Mater Magic in the hole of each tomato and a a tablespoon or two of Whitney Farms Tomato and Vegetable Food (Organic) to the hole of each squash, cucumber or pepper plant in the raised beds and more if in the pots. 

Weather has been mild since I planted. Lowest night tempertures were in the high 30s, but averaging in the 40's, whereas lowest day temperatures were in the high fifties, but averaging in the 70's, hitting low 80s on a couple of days. Today is in the mid seventies. I'm hoping for a great season this year. If I get it, I'll need this mug. You can get yours by clicking on it.
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