Friday, May 22, 2015

Let The Planting Begin

The Victoria Day long weekend gave me a few extra days to assemble, organize and begin planting my experimental, 'Container Vegetable Garden' for 2015.

Inverted tomato cage/plastic cloche for larger plants
I put cardboard on the ground first; 1.) to prevent grass from growing around the pots, making lawn care easier with minimal weed eating and 2.) hopefully make it less inviting for slugs to move in. I placed a large saucer under each pot to capture excess water. I had 10 large pots for tomatoes, cucumbers etc. around the yard from the past few years. However, their soil was less than ideal; heavy, compressed, full of roots and some rocks. I dumped each pot of 'used' soil into the wheel barrow, broke it up and picked out all unwanted materials. Then added composted manure, Sunshine Mix potting soil (to lighten the mixture) and my 'Balanced Fertilizer Mix' (see recipe in my February 26, 2015 post, 'Spring Has Sprung?') These soil 'ingredients' were mixed in the wheel barrow then moved back into each pot in preparation for planting. 

I found 'tomato cages' absolutely useless, until a few years ago.... I needed to shade a 4'x14' brassica bed, the plants were wilting in the heat. I needed sturdy supports to; elevate burlap off of the plants, provide air circulation at soil level and stay in place in the wind. Voila, inverted tomato cages around each brassica, held to the ground with 2-3 tent-type pegs for each inverted cage. I now use the same method around the plants in pots. The frame supports numerous different covers and holds the plastic or burlap etc. away from the plant but stays put in the wind. Push the top ring of the tomato cage into the soil and weigh down with a few rocks or use tent-type pegs. Thread the plastic or burlap through the upward pointing spikes to hold in place if the wind picks up.
Inverted tomato cages support mesh trays or burlap for shade

In the top photo above; a long, clear, plastic bag over the inverted tomato cage becomes a cloche for larger plants at night. A hole is opened in the top to release excess heat and condensation will run down the inside to provide a small amount of moisture to the soil. New broccoli transplants are sheltered from the afternoon sun with a cardboard sheet supported between the tomato cage and a stake (burlap could also be used for shade but one side should be kept open for air circulation in this small space).

The outside tomatoes will be fine with our warmer temperatures but in the past I have found that if covered with a cloche at night for the first while, they seem to perk up faster and keep up with the greenhouse tomato plants. The cloche is removed in the daytime or they will overheat. If the sun is too intense, I shade them with burlap or the black plant trays that look like mesh. The inverted tomato cage provides a safe, secure, structure to hold the shade material at a distance from the plant.
Uncover plants in the daytime
In the day time, the plastic bag is rolled up to give the tomato air circulation. Once the temperatures are warm enough at night and the tomato is larger, the plastic and inverted tomato cage are removed. A wooden stake is placed beside plants when first transplanted into the large pot so as not to disturb the root system. When the inverted tomato cage is removed, wooden or bamboo stakes become the support system.

Till next week... Happy Gardening and Bon Appetit!

www.gourmetbysallyrae.com
Photos and 'grunt work' by Sally Rae

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