How much space does a tomato plant need? What is an “Indeterminate” or a “Determinate” tomato? (Hint–get the “indeterminate” species and look for “VW” or “VF” which means it is bred to resist disease). Who knew tomatoes need calcium and eggshells are a great source? (Dry them out and grind them of course!). What is a sucker? Did you know that you should keep the bottom 3 or 4 suckers on, as they will create a branch with tomatoes? See more here
If you’ve been a gardener at Greene Acres the last two years, you know how obsessed I can be with growing peas. If you’re new to Greene Acres, it won’t be long now before you see the obsession.
It is spring….no matter what the weather is really like. And all of you should be thinking seriously about the first things you’re going to plant in your plots. Peas come to mind immediately. They’re easy to grow and can be sowed in your plot right now…..as long as the soil is workable.***
While the calendar says time to plant peas, sometimes the weather is still cold and damp. Those kind of conditions can reduce germination. At our last educational presentation, March 14, I showed everyone a neat trick to increase germination of your peas. Take a damp paper towel, line up a row of pea seeds, fold the towel, put it in a plastic bag, and keep it warm on your kitchen counter for 2 days. Check the seeds after 2 days and if the white root is coming out, take those seeds and plant them right in your plot. If the roots haven’t sprouted keep checking…it may take another couple of days.
Planting peas, when it seems there’s nothing else to do in our plots, does a great job of curing our behavioral issues and frustrations from this winter. And once those little plants come up and begin flowering, life will again be good! Why not try at least one row of peas in your plot? I can almost guarantee that none of you will be able to resist eating some of them while you’re working in your plot later this spring.
***Remember the test for seeing if the soil is workable: grab a handful, poke with your thumb. If some soil breaks off, you can work the soil. If it doesn’t, then the soil is too wet and you will do damage if you try to plant anything.
After Greene Acres Community Garden’s last Board Meeting, Bob Witsaman from Royal Victorian Gardens (in North Royalton) spent some time telling us how important the soil in our plots is. Here is some take-away information from his presentation:
- “Don’t treat your soil like dirt.” Where have we heard that before! It’s really important for plant health to not only have the right chemical make-up, but all the microorganisms, fungi, and invertebrates in the soil that get those chemicals useable for plants. Good soil needs to be composed of several ingredients so that it has good tilth, holds moisture, and allows drainage.
- Most soils need organic material. Leaf compost is like gold. However, know where your compost is coming from and what the raw materials are that went into making it.
- You can overdo compost. Two to three inches is all that’s needed. In some of our newer plots, too much compost was added and we need to add more topsoil, or start over with a blend of topsoil, sand, compost.
- Bob recommended gypsum as a calcium amendment (to control tomato blossom end rot) since it won’t adversely affect pH. However, he knows the soil tests at Greene Acres show we have plenty of calcium in our soil.
- Be careful buying potting soil. Any good potting soil is neutral.
- Grow cover crops to add nitrogen back to the soil.
- With respect to rototilling, Bob cautioned it should only be done when the soil is dry.
- There’s no reason to rototill if your soil is good and you use fall cover crops.
- Bob recommended using black plastic to warm up the soil and/or greenhouse covers to extend the season (both fall and spring).
- Don’t use coffee grounds directly into the garden bed nor fireplace ashes. Put them on the compost pile first.
- Seed starting is a great way to get varieties we want, but be sure not to start too early and use a good seed starting mix.
- Royal Victorian Gardens carries a line of soil amendments and organic fertilizers: Dr. Earth and Fox Farm are the brands Bob carries. There are multiple products for different uses.
If any of our gardeners took away other gems of wisdom, please let us know. Let’s get a good soil discussion started before we begin planting!