I’ve been out of town during a lot of April, so I didn’t get my garden in as early as I normally would (usually the week after Easter). But, given the crazy weather – from frost to tornadoes and torrential rains – maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Annette, my ex wife who lives in North Carolina, planted early and got hit by the frost.
Here’s a little garden update.
As you can see, the wild white clover is running amok in the back yard; but I’m not concerned about it. In fact, I’ve been happy for the bees! (Next, I’ll add supers to the hives on the right.) Sadly, I’ve had to mow the clover in the front yard, so the house will look nice from the street (don’t want anybody to complain!). But the backyard looks like a little nature preserve, somewhat. 🙂
Earlier, I had planted red clover in the plot. You can see how it has started to take root. If you were standing there, you would also see bare spots where pooling from heavy rains pushed some of the seeds together. I came back over it today, seeding the bare spots. I didn’t use the seeder; but sowed by hand.
This is not meant to be a pretty garden. The major goal of this garden is to put nitrogen in the soil so I can plant greens in fall; adding tomato plants is a lagniappe.
Also, notice the mulch paper. I prefer paper over plastic, as plastic is not good for the environment and has to be removed and thrown away. In the past, when I was farming and had big fields, I used WeedGuardPlus, which can be bought in long rolls for open fields. It’s 100 percent biodegradable. I recommend it because I’ve used it and I know it works; I’m not paid anything to endorse it. (Read more: https://www.weedguardplus.com)
This time, because I’m only using a few feet in a small garden, I’m using another paper mulch: Planters Planter. It does the same thing; it’s available from http://www.groworganic.com
With either product, at the end of the season, just till it under and it will biodegrade. I also on this garden put bricks to hold it down, just because I had a lot of them. Normally, you would cover the edges with soil. I put this down a few weeks ago when I put down compost and planted the clover. When it was put down, it was darker; but the sun has lightened it.
Today, we’ll focus on growing tomatoes.
The process is simple. Tear a hole in the mulch; dig a trench about 4 inches deep and eight inches long; dip your plant in starter or planting mix; and cover it up about two-thirds of its length. Viola! Planted. Now for the details.
First, you need to create a planting mix. I’ve written about this before, so I’ll quote:
“The general rule is that if a product or ingredient is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), then it’s OK for certified organic use. Root Tone product, for example, is not listed on the OMRI site, nor is its active ingredient: idole-3 butyric acid, or indolebutyric acid; neither is the other most popular ingredient on the market: napthalacetic acid. Both are synthetics.
However, there are a number of organic root stimulators that are approved; including products such as Hygrozyme and Biorhizotonic. For more, see:
http://www.omri.org/simple-opl-search/results/root — or look up the name of the product. OMRI does not list synthetic products.
“Farmers themselves often have their own “secret” natural concoctions that may include fish oil, blood meal or other natural fertilizers. (We use a mixture of water, kelp meal and fish emulsion.) Just use your finger or a trowel to poke a hole in the soil, dip the roots of each start in the mixture and plop it in, gently patting the soil around it.”
This time, I didn’t have much time, so I used Earth Juice, which is essentially the same mix I usually use, but premixed and store-bought. Note: If you’re vegan, and object to using any animal products in your garden, you can use Vegan Mix fertilizer, see: http://www.groworganic.com/vegan-mix-3-2-2-6-lb-box.html
It’s possible to have an entirely vegan, organic garden: the only animal life is the pollination by the bees, aeration of the soil by earth worms, and whatever birds come to visit. (Notice in the photos, I also have a plastic owl; that’s to keep birds from pecking my tomatoes!)
If you have lots of compost from leftovers from your vegan meals, you’re simply transferring fertility from wherever those plants were grown to your backyard. Those plants will provide the trace elements your garden will need. If you are having problems with insects or blights, there are organic (and if you look hard enough, frequently vegan) solutions on the NCAT/ATTRA database: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/biorationals/
It’s a free, quick way to diagnose problems in the organic garden.
Plant your started tomato plant using a small trench. We have heavy soils, so going down, rather than across, would drown the roots. You can plant your plant 5 or 6 inches deep if it’s well drained; otherwise, dig a small trench about four inches deep and 8 inches long, or 2/3rds of the plant’s length and lay it in the trench.
Because we had prepped the soil earlier with lots of compost, the garden was full of earthworms. You couldn’t dig a trowel full without revealing one. This wouldn’t happen if we were using harsh synthetic chemicals or manufactured fertilizers.
Water the plants thoroughly; don’t be alarmed if they are rather wilty to begin with; they’ll pop back up. Be prepared to replace a plant or two; sometimes they can’t withstand the shock of transplant, or an animal or bugs might get them. Keep them watered, but not muddy. The soil needs to drain, but don’t let them dry out either. And you should do fine.
Most of all, relax! Enjoy! This is your little Garden of Eden. What a wonderful way to start the day!
Then, you enjoy your hammock ….
And your kitty cat!
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.