This week we're back with some additional tomato advice, Ethan, explains:
Certain plants are prone to bending or falling over so it's important to keep them supported. We use a support method called trellising, it's less time consuming and less expensive than the cages you see in home-gardens. We tie twine to posts roughly five feet apart and then weave the twine around the plants. It's quick and easy to add more twine as needed.
Sometimes tomatoes get so heavy that the plant can't support itself. Trellising tomatoes protects them from the weight of their fruit. Keeping the plants moving vertically also helps to increase airflow, and keeps them from touching one another. Increasing airflow helps to dry the plant canopy and reduce disease issues. Just like us, if one plant gets sick and touches another plant, disease can spread. This makes touching taboo. Some of the grafted tomatoes received their second level of twine which was added roughly three inches above the first level.Stay tuned for more updates from Sprouting Farm as well as photos and other news!
This week our farm manager, Ethan, shares some useful information about grafting and optimizing your tomato yield, which can be tough in the Northwest:
Grafting a plant confers desirable traits from one plant to another. One good example of this can be seen in tomatoes. Tomato plants are prone to root infections so we have to aid in resistance. Unfortunately, the plants that are more resistant to diseases often don't produce desirable fruit. Horticulturists have learned to combine the rootstock of the resistant plant to the upper portion of the desirable plant. This grafting maintains the fruit flavor and avoids loss in productivity. It's like farming magic!
Stay tuned for thoughts on caging and trellising options to keep your plants standing tall.
Time for another update! The weather over the past week has kept the plants and weed both growing quickly. Hot, dry weather requires a good irrigation system. We are still getting beds planted and adding drip irrigation lines in order to get the seeds to germinate quickly. A drip line works as its name suggests; the line drips water at a slow, steady pace. This is preferable to sprinklers, even low-flow ones, which still create puddles if left in one spot for too long. The drip tape is a slower flow line that allows the water to infiltrate the soil.
Soil infiltration can be likened to that of a sponge. Water moves into and through the soil in much the same way as it moves into a sponge. If you drip water in the middle of a sponge it will slowly move outward from that spot and saturate the whole sponge. Soil works the same way as a sponge, except that it doesn't have square edges.
We have also been working on getting black plastic mulch laid. The black plastic helps by covering the soil and thereby preventing weed germination. It also helps with water conservation. The plastic mulch is laid over the drip tape to hold in water. Another reason plastic mulch is helpful is because it heats up the soil and the immediate area. Plants like tomatoes and peppers require more heat in order to produce fruit. It can be difficult in the climate of the Pacific Northwest to get some of these plants to produce in any quantity.
With the irrigation coming together nicely and the plants going into the ground, the farm is starting to look the part. The plants have visibly changed since they were first transplanted weeks ago. Spring is a busy time on the farm and it is also on of the most exciting!Check back again next week for more thrilling updates! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for photos and updates.
The warm temperatures dried the soil enough to go over the whole field with the rotary tiller.That pulverized all the weeds and helped to break up the soil's aggregation (or - clumps), which has its pros and cons. When the aggregates are broken up they provide a light, fluffy soil for plant roots. This also destroys the soils structure, which is an important source of aeration and infiltration. That means; tilled soil can compact quickly, which limits the water and air passage. Air and water are both equally important to plant roots. Roots exchange soil oxygen with carbon dioxide in a process called respiration - humans also respirate! Hopefully you're respirating right now, so you can grasp the importance of this process for all life forms.
Following tillage we were able to apply our organic fertilizers and shape our beds, so now we're able to get plants and seeds into the ground. Lettuces and leafy greens have been packed in closely. These vegetables can be planted with relatively compact spacing because they don't grow very large. The disadvantage to this is that it takes more plants to provide a serving than with a larger plant. Things like cauliflower and broccoli will produce large heads, which can be cut into multiple servings.
Some plants have the advantage of providing multiple harvests. If the plant isn't over harvested it can continue to produce and be harvested on a regular basis. Kale, beans, peas , and some leafy greens are good examples of plants that keep on giving. Plants like cabbage do not have this advantage, once a head of cabbage is harvested, it's done. This is why we stagger our plantings to provide a more constants supply of these one-time vegetables. We'll plant fifty of these plants this week and another fifty in a week or two, and possibly every week through the summer to keep the fresh veggies coming.Follow us on Facebook - Instagram - Twitter for photos and more stories about our organic farming adventures.