Home

Tomato, Tomato Regardless of How You Say it – They Both Taste Yummy

3 Comments

I should be rewarded with my first ripe tomatoes in less than two weeks and they will not be the commercial hothouse or worse varieties. There is just something special about YOUR tomatoes, picked at the peak of ripeness, sliced and savored! Granted, my first ones will be of the cherry variety so probably not sliced but nonetheless, savored.

Cherry type, Sweet Million - just love those clusters

Cherry type, Sweet Million – just love those clusters

Years ago I worked at a produce warehouse loading and unloading trucks at night while trying obtain a degree during the daylight hours. It was a bit of a challenge. I did learn quite a bit about produce! Some lessons were painful, i.e., thoroughly was your hands after handling Seranno or Jalapeno peppers! Apples had to be my favorite – the apple room was kept quite cold, a real blessing in the hot weather and because I was the tall guy, I stayed in the room to stack the boxes. The hand trucks carried boxes stacked 5 high, I had the job of adding 3 more boxes after the lads dropped them off. Crisp cool air and the wonderful scent of apples.

Here were other rooms at the warehouse that were not as pleasant. Tomatoes were shipped to us as “breakers”, meaning the shoulder of the tomatoes were just beginning to show color. The rest of the tomato was green and extremely firm! The tomato boxes are designed for air circulation for a reason. We stacked boxes in the tomato room “loosely” – each stack stood independently a few inches apart from the others. Once the room was full we shut and sealed the door, turned up the warmth, humidity and added ethylene gas. From Wikpedia –

“ Commercial ripening rooms use “catalytic generators” to make ethylene gas from a liquid supply of ethanol. Typically, a gassing level of 500 to 2,000 ppm is used, for 24 to 48 hours. Care must be taken to control carbon dioxide levels in ripening rooms when gassing, as high temperature ripening (68F) has been seen to produce CO2 levels of 10% in 24 hours.” http://ne-postharvest.com/ripening.htm#controlledatmosphereripening

It was a similar process in the banana room and once the fruit had been gassed and gasses evacuated, well mostly evacuated, then we moved them out and loaded the local delivery trucks. I would guess that we walked over 15 miles during an 8 hour shift, excepting the Friday night shift, which was typically 14 hours and more. The Saturday local runs were huge!

I have a diverse mix of tomatoes this year, two types of Cherry, Celebrity, Mortgage Lifter (standard and a grafted variety, Brandywine Red and Pink –both grafted varieties, Patio varieties – determinate, most of what I grow are the indeterminate types, Cherokee,  Juliet and a volunteer of some sort. The volunteer is starting to set fruit and it appears to be a smaller cluster variety. I had great luck with a volunteer plant last year….it was prolific!!!!

Celebrity Variety - 4-5 inch size and does well when it is hot.

Celebrity Variety – 4-5 inch size and does well when it is hot.

The newest tomato on the patio plant.

The newest tomato on the patio plant.

DSC_3072

One of the Patio varieties.

Other garden notes, the barrel and in ground potatoes are kicking butt! I have not had such vigorous and tall growth in my limited potato growing experience. The pole beans are reaching skyward on the arches made from the Crepe Myrtle cuttings, Snap Peas are in their last week of production, asparagus is coming up, I have Chard and more Chard…. I will use some Chard in a smoothie today and may even try some of the kale in a smoothie.

Some of my Swiss Chard

Some of my Swiss Chard

The Yukon Gold Potatoes as of the middle of April. They are much bigger now!

The Yukon Gold Potatoes as of the middle of April. They are much bigger now!

The blackberry vines have a heavy set going on and I hope I get to harvest before the birds find them. I also have my Pineberry – a white strawberry with red seeds and my Alpine strawberries producing. Hopefully I can propagate the Pineberries to make a bigger planting for next year and the Alpine berries…..so tasty but so tiny…fun, tasty but mostly ornamental!  I had to stop typing and step outside to sample the Pineberries and the Alpine berries. Very yummy. It is tough to gauge the ripeness of the Pineberries. The color change is minimal, my best gauge is the firmness and it appears that when ripe they pull off of the stem easily. I have lots of Pineberry runners showing up so hopefully I have a bigger patch next year.

A ripe Pineberry. At this stage it is almost overripe. The best stage is just a blush of pink and the seeds are red.

A ripe Pineberry. At this stage it is almost overripe. The best stage is just a blush of pink and the seeds are red. The flavor is similar to a pineapple with a hint of strawberry.

One of the many blackberry clusters.

One of the many blackberry clusters.

My commercial vermicomposting bins are working very well. I have added the third box on the top, two more to go before I harvest the bottom box. The design of the bins has a liquid collecting pan and spigot. I pulled about a quart of worm poop water off the bottom yesterday. I mixed a pint with two gallons of water and fed some of my potted plants and the strawberry towers. Everything seems to be happy in the garden right now! The summer, or at least a real summer heat has not appeared yet. May is tomorrow and the heat wave can start at any time!

TTFN

Bishop

Carrots out the Wazoo – Now What?

4 Comments

On the heels of last nights awesome rainstorm across the Houston area, close to 2 inches overnight, I decided it was time to pull up the carrots. Some have just exploded with growth. See photo below.

Exploded/split carrot....they taste OK but my wife refuses to let me cook them.

Exploded/split carrot….they taste OK but my wife refuses to let me cook them.

I am in the process of prepping for cucumbers and squash plantings in the next week. The sugar snap and snow peas are still producing but the heat that disables them is just around the corner. My early planting of Yukon Gold potatoes is off to an amazing start. I am using a barrel, a big tub and of course – some planted in the back bed.

Yukon Gold Plants needing to be hilled up a little deeper!

Yukon Gold Plants needing to be hilled up a little deeper!

The Brussels Sprouts are still forming, I hope well enough to harvest before the heat sets in! Good looking plants, not sure what to expect as this is my first attempt at growing them. I found a good recipe and cooking advice over on – http://promenadeplantings.com/2013/04/11/brussels-sprout-cheddar-and-apple-salad/

The freezer is full of strawberries waiting to made into wonderful jam. As they fade in the garden I am loving the evidence of a potentially great blackberry harvest! I enjoy them fresh but he low sugar jam I make helps extend the enjoyment into the fall or if lucky….till 2014 arrives.

I added more strawberry scraps to the top level of my worm bins. I am now on level five and the migration up towards the top bin is underway. They seem to be a little chubbier than usual…..could it be the abundance of strawberries in their diet? – Quite possibly – they have been binge eating strawberries for many weeks now! I still recycle….lots of scraps going into my compost bins.

I need some variety in recipes for Swiss Chard – at the moment it is an abundant ornamental in the garden. I can only eat so much fresh in with salads or wilted like spinach….Help!

Carrots and more Carrots

Carrots and more Carrots

A look down the garden path toward the back beds. The poles in the foreground arch up over the entrance and soon will be covered in 3 varieties of pole beans.

A look down the garden path toward the back beds. The poles in the foreground arch up over the entrance and soon will be covered in 3 varieties of pole beans.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Strawberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, Dewberries and More Strawberries

4 Comments

This has been a banner year in my strawberry patch and it appears to be heading in the right direction for all of my berries. I have made three batches of strawberry jam, have 2/3 of a bag of the frozen ugly berries (I freeze the ugly berries and try to share the pretty ones with my family), snack on them while puttering in the garden and still have some to give away. The very warm and humid Houston growing environment is a real challenge. The moist air and damp ground will rot a berry quickly. One of my regular tasks and one that my wife is good at helping with is to flip the berry up onto the plant leaves keeping them off the ground!

My composting worms are being spoiled with the wonderful spoils. All of the bad berries, berry parts trimmed off the ugly berries and those that went beyond ripe go to the worm bin. If you didn’t already know, worms eat their body weight in scraps every day. What a life, eating your body weight in super sweet, soft and juicy strawberries every single day. This has been going on for a month now and will probably extend for another month. I hope they don’t revolt when their diet changes!

The strawberry plants are so thick that they hide the ripening berries unless you are vigilant at combing through the leaves to find them before the bugs and rot set in! I really love how the plants fill in over time and make a beautiful and edible border to the yard. I did not keep good records on which variety is planted where….over time they run together on their own. I have Chandler which is well suited for the south, Seascape, Sweet Charlie and Sequoia….. Added Alpine Strawberries and the Pine berry, the white colored strawberry….

I have “ June Bearing” and” Everbearing”….I don’t think I have any Day-Neutral  varieties…..yes I do Seascape! The link below is one of the better strawberry info websites I have found for US growers.

http://strawberryplants.org/2010/05/strawberry-varieties/

Which berries will develop next? Two years ago I saved some wild Dewberries I found in the woods nearby. I planted them in a big pot hoping for the best. Last year the birds robbed the few berries that tried to ripen. This year, for whatever reason, the vines are loaded with blossoms! Finger crossed and I rubbed my lucky rabbit’s foot in hopes of enough dewberries for more than just a garden snack.

Next I should be able to enjoy my Blackberries. I have thornless and thorny blackberries……I said thorny! They are beginning to bud out and a few brave blossoms are popping open. Last year was a disappointing blackberry season, both for me and for the local growers. I will double down on the good luck charms hoping for the Dewberry harvest to mirror the blackberry harvest.

I am hoping for a berry, berry good spring and early summer in the berry patch. FYI, April 2nd and I munched on my first asparagus spear of the season. They are so sweet picking straight from the garden…..do not pass go, just straight into my mouth! Yum!

Gardening gift from my wife.....I am always in the learning mode!

Gardening gift from my wife…..I am always in the learning mode!

Immature Strawberry

Immature Strawberry

I smell jam cooking!!!

I smell jam cooking!!!

Blackberry blossom.....

Blackberry blossom…..

Alpine Strawberry

Alpine Strawberry

Garden Helper - shifting between the brown to green phase.

Garden Helper – shifting between the brown to green phase.

Dewberry Blossom

Dewberry Blossom

He was so hard to spot....I first spotted him jumping from branch to branch.

He was so hard to spot….I first spotted him jumping from branch to branch.

TTFN

Bishop

I Like Cobbler

2 Comments

This morning as I was catching up on some of my favorite reads in the blog world I found this – I Don’t Like Pie – by The Orange Bee – Linda – great recipes, great stories and quite a beekeeper. Thank you Linda for the inspiration.

http://theorangebee.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/i-dont-like-pie/

I like my grandmothers lattice topped cherry pie nut it has been 30 years since i last enjoyed one. I am a huge fan of Blackberries and cobbler – I think I shared this recipe a long time ago but it being summer and berry picking and consuming time I thought that I would share it again – It has been a prize winner for several folks that have provided it for local dessert contests.

Meme’s Blackberry Cobbler – it is so good!

The recipe again for those who have a deep 12″ cast iron skillet…

MEME’S BLACKBERRY COBBLER

I added an extra cup of blackberries to this recipe from Virginia Willis’ Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories From Three Generations of Southern Cooking (Ten Speed Press, $32.50).

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen 6 is better in my opinion!
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more if desired for berries
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vanilla ice cream, to serve – it really needs to be Blue Bell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a large iron skillet; place skillet in oven to melt butter.

Put blackberries in a large bowl. If they are frozen, let them soften a few minutes. Crush lightly with a potato masher. Sweeten with extra sugar if you like.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup sugar in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine milk and vanilla. Gradually pour wet ingredients into dry while whisking.

Remove skillet from oven. Add melted butter to batter. Stir to combine. Pour batter into hot skillet. With a spatula, scrape the berries into the center. Bake cobbler till it is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the cake (not the berries) emerges clean, about 1 hour.

Serve warm with ice cream — and prepare for a walk down memory lane.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Worm Castings Harvested & More Yard Chores

5 Comments

If you have read my past posts you know that I measure summer yard work by how many T-shirts I soak through! Yesterday was a 4 T-shirt day and the work is still not complete. It will be at least a two T-shirt day today….need to finish that last chore so Ben and I can take the kayaks down to Galveston and harvest a few Redfish, Speckled Trout or Flounder!!!

The worms had being toiling away in my Rubbermaid bin eating up the kitchen scraps and providing lots of good food for the garden. As I was harvesting I noticed something that the worms wouldn’t eat…..the skins off of my tomatoes. Six or eight weeks ago I made salsa, tomato sauce and gazpacho. I peeled the skin off of the tomatoes after dipping them in boiling water for 30 seconds or so and then dipping them in cold water. The skins just slide off. That old phrase, “waste not want not” is always part of my “green” credo so the skins, cores and bad spots cut out of the tomatoes went into the bin…..Everything was eaten save the skins. I learned something. I went with the fast harvest practice and a pretty good number passed through the 1/4 inch screen but they will do fine in the garden. Compost worms work near the surface and they should be happy living in the compost I recently spread. The process is outlined in the pictures below.

Soaking strips of newspaper to be added as bedding as I transfer those that toil in the dark into their new home.

The new home waiting for the transfer. Newspaper strips are wrung out so they are not too wet!

That great garden supplement – worm castings….screen box in the background

I pulled weeds, cut back the canes on the rest of the blackberries, cut some flowers for Kathy…..yes I do grow a few flowers. My son Joe had cut John’s lawn and brought back a couple of sacks of grass clippings for my compost pile that I dumped on top of the watermelon rinds and remnants of the fresh pineapple we cored the night before. I sweated some more….made up some organic fertilizer to help the veggies along and then we, Ben, Sierra and I jumped into the next project.

Station 5 on my sprinkler system has needed repair for a long time….I had some young blood to help with the digging so in we dove. First we had to find the valve boxes. I knew approximate locations so it was soon done. Then to decide which valve wa number 5…… Now that was done. We uncovered it and found that it was an inexpensive valve, the diaphragm was horribly mangled so off to Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware I went…. no luck on parts so off to the internet…. part located but with shipping I can replace the valve with a new one….with parts that are readily available.

I order to replace the valve we need to enlarge the hole in order to cut the pipe……no screwed fittings – all glued! Problem two. As the hole was enlarge the signal wires got in the way of the axe…..oh yes an axe – lots of roots and the shovel…… now we have to do some splicing…..got that done.

I installed the sprinkler system in our yard back in Bakersfield California. I worked in the oil patch and was a fan of having the valves arranged in a manifold, with union couplings so if one needed to be removed for replacement I didn’t have to cut pipe. The other benefit is that all if the wiring was run to one spot, location known and protected…. I ran it in a pvc sleeve. The drawback is more PVC to run but that is dirt cheap. My current yard – no map for the valve locations…they are scattered and the wires run willy-nilly!!!!

Ok – glue one side in and move the piping just a little and the pvc behind the valve breaks off – I am on shirt # 4 and I am not changing again. We probe a little and discover that where the next cuts will need to be made there is another PVC line snuggled up against it……Let’s drink a good pale ale Ben and plan to finish in the morning…..Good choice a thunderstorm rolls in, fills the hole with water knocks the power ou as my wife was doing ravioli on the electric stove…….No problem, I am an ex-camper. I brought out my single burner stove and finished the meal off outside…..Hope the power comes back on soon as I am beginning to soak another T-shirt  – need my AC!

This hole keeps getting bigger and more complicated! Ben, Sierra and me…the old sweaty guy.

Ben and his rescue dog, Sierra checking on the progess.

Today will be a better day!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

Farmer Kathy

5 Comments

In my line of work – the work that pays the bills – I am sometimes forced into that “make hay while the sun shines” mode….I am in the midst of one of those modes.  About 7 straight weeks of United Airlines seats and connections – I am still longing for Continental Airlines service because it disappeared at the merger – hotel beds, cardboard tomatoes,  Avis rental cars and an occasional bit tongue when dealing with my clients.

I am fortunate to have” Farmer Kathy” at home while I am away. Now, she does not necessarily have my level of passion for the garden but she seems to love me enough to take on most of the farmer duties. She waters, she pulls weeds – in this task she may exceed my attention to detail, thanks Hun – she gladly harvests the goodies….this morning( June 6th)  she told me about all of the blackberries she picked, many eaten on the spot – I was hoping some would make it to the freezer for my jam making efforts. She noted that the strawberry harvest is slowing down but the Sequoia plants in a bed near the back door are setting fruit! The tomatoes…. the slicing ones are overwhelming our needs and will need to be shared! Many of the cherry tomatoes succumb to the same fate many of the blackberries encounter…..immediate onsite consumption…..I can’t say as I blame her……..Farmer Bishop behaves in pretty much the same way.

A view of my garden taken about three weeks ago – just a reminder of what I am missing!

Coming up soon is a period of 8 0r 10 days when the Decker farmers will be on Holiday….Hopefully we can draft Lizzie and her young son Caleb who live just down thw street to swing by to harvest a little and apply a bit of water as needed. Daughter Lisa lives nearby and loves sliced cucumbers tossed with seasoned rice wine vinegar and sea salt…..I will see if I can trade some of her time for cucumbers!

I wanted to install a webcam so I could watch my lovelies out in the garden on my trips away but have run out of time…I may not have been able to convince the CFO, also known as Farmer Kathy, also known as my wife – that the camera is a necessary expenditure. Hmmmmm, I have been known to buy some things without consultation in the past and slept on the couch as my wounds healed….. Could it be worth it is the question I need to ask????????

TTFN

Bishop

 

Ahhhhhh – Back Home & Back in the Garden

1 Comment

I have just walked through the garden this warm and muggy Saturday morning. I picked a few spears of asparagus, a handful of blackberries –they  have been washed and sequestered in the freezer bag for jam-  and a handful of strawberries. I will let Kathy pick through the pretty ones for her snacks and the ugly ones will go into the neighboring freezer bag for strawberry jam. I wonder if the big jam and jelly manufacturers also use the ugly berries as I do? The ugly ones taste just as good and once cooked down their beauty is really from the inside……Naturally grown, no chemicals and caressed by loving hands.

Tomatoes are getting big! In some cases tipping the plants sideways. The Oxheart, I love the shape, are being grown in my garden for the first time and seem to be producing well. I have been dying to try one…I have a good sized one that is a uniform color of pink. A little reading the web shows a variety of possible colors when ripe of which pink in one. I will give it a squeeze today or tomorrow and use that as a gauge on its ripeness.

Yesterday was one of those days that epitomizes the value of “home”. I had returned form my trip to Louisiana Thursday night. My son Ben, 22, is home from LSU for a couple of weeks, Joe, 17, was off from soccer training that night so it was feeling very nice at the house/home. I usually rise early, a little late this Friday morning, about 6:15, you have to sleep in once in awhile!  Joe is a self riser and was down around 6:30 to make his coffee, grab a bite to eat and converse in his usual morning grunts. As is my normal morning habit I was heading out the door to bicycle down to my hangout at our local Starbucks® when I spotted a sticky note from Ben on the back door glass. – “Dad, if you are going down to Starbucks®, please wake me up so I can go with you.” Ahhhhh – that warms a father’s heart. I needed to finish a business proposal so asked Ben if it would be OK if while we sat I could bang out the email? It was agreed and off we went. A couple of my old cronies were there and were introduced to Ben, the Baristas called me a liar…..not in a mean way but when I ordered a Venti Caramel Frappacino it didn’t register and they they thought that maybe I was pulling their legs…..there may be a history of that behavior by some customers!!!!!!

Once we returned Joe was off at class, Ben was “fixin” to cut the grass and Kathy wandered out to the garden with me. She proudly talked about her efforts over the past week “keeping” the garden while I was gone. I was able to see firsthand how well things were doing rather than through the vicarious text message news feed. We puttered about a bit, I cut some asparagus spears and she expressed some surprise….”where did you find those? I just picked yesterday!”…. She was surprised because these were  quite tall and thick….I just grinned…

Later she came into the house with a monstrously large pickling cucumber. The week before I had brought a large one in and she said, “I was wondering if you would find that one…I hid it to see if you could.”  As she was showing me the large one she said, “This was the one I had hid from you on the vine….the one you brought in was one I didn’t see!” Big smile from both of us and to the both of us……warm and real.  That seems to be common with my cucumber plantings. I plant pretty dense and when the production amps up it is a bit like hide and seek with the cucumbers.

Such a nice morning in the garden. Family, green, green growings and a pace of life that just makes you sit back and say “Ahhhhhh!”

TTFN

Bishop

Growing Tomatoes, Beans and Other Things

5 Comments

I am learning all the time……my recent lessons include “patience” and “trust”. The little back yard farm is a classroom of life’s little lessons. So – off to school!

Patience is a virtue – we have all heard that old and well-worn cliché but……..it is so true. I love to see my garden grow and most importantly watch it  produce, produce( isn’t the English langauge funny this way – same spelling but oh so different meaning) with the quality and taste absent from the supermarket produce….there’s that word again. So. my lesson on patience – I planted an heirloom variety of tomato this year that gets great reviews from many home growers, Mortgage Lifter. My friends, Jane and John here in Kingwood mention it frequently. The plant grew beautifully, tall, strong and lots of blossoms. The blossoms would bloom, then wither, die and fall off. Oh I searched the web for an answer – not much luck as  the symptoms did not show up on my adjacent tomato plants, in fact with the exception of the Beefmaster variety, everything is loaded with young and growing tomatoes. 10 days ago I was ready to rip that plant out of the ground and start over….. slow down Bishop, show some patience, let things develop at their own pace and by golly the plant stepped forward and showed me one developing tomato last Sunday – Mother’s Day! I was leaving for a consulting job off in Midland Texas….gotta pay for my hobbies – and I decided to give it another week. Well on my return, guess what – the one was looking good and several more are developing nicely – see photo below. I just did a little web search and may add morning and late evening “shaking” to my tomato cages to aid in fruit set. The Beefmaster….it too has a few tomatoes on it when I checked it this morning so it also earned a reprieve…

Mortgage Lifter – Looking good! And companions too!

Beans – they are doing well. I like the looks of the purple pole beans as they mature. They emerge from  the beautiful purple blossoms green! then as they gain size and length the slowly morph into that deep purple color. Unfortunately they lose that wonderful color while being cooked….oh well! at least for a bit…I can enjoy the color.

Well on its way to purple….they are fun to watch as they mature.

I have been gathering green beans from both my accidental plantings of bush beans and from my conscious efforts to grow bush beans…I have added more of the pole beans but they are a few weeks away from producing. I took a hanging bucket that hosted an upside down tomato plant last year and planted bush beans on the top side. They are doing very very well. Makes me wonder if “container growing” for bush beans might be a good option. My biggest complaint  – and it is not a big one – is that they grow low to the ground and I am up there at about 6’3″ off the ground….a long ways from those tasty pods. I am still limber and healthy enough at 61 to pick those ground hugging varieties but this hanging basket will make it easier to harvest the produce and actually looks pretty good to boot. There are some purple bush varieties many actually pass as an ornamental as well as a source for a side dish. Gotta give it a try.

Nice green basket – the flowers will be white – kind of boring so maybe I will try some of the purple ones too….a bit more aesthetically pleasing???

Cucumbers…asparagus…..strawberries…..blackberries…..peppers….. all are kicking in now. I checked a very dark purple/black blackberry for ripeness this morning and it fell off into my hand…….I was listening closely and I heard a plaintive cry……please, please don’t let me go to waste……so I didn’t – oh it was so good….can’t wait…wait a second, wasn’t I talking about patience….I better wait!

So close to being ready…..back off and wait!

I have getting some very nice Anaheim and Ancho peppers over the last few weeks. I roasted some on the grill last week and used them in a salad. So tasty. My Serrano peppers are a month or more away from producing. I had been looking at the nurseries for the last month and finally found some at the big box store – Lowes. I like buying at the local nursery but a man has got to do what a man has got to do.

A nice 6 or 7 inch long Anaheim pepper….I will be patient and give it a few more days!

Oh….I mentioned trust at the beginning of the post – well – I have been gone for  5 days and 11 hours, approximately….. in the past I have worried about my little plot while gone but I have become more comfortable in the last couple of years with trusting my wife to give the attention I want/need/like –  for my back yard farm…. I sent a text message early in the week as a reminder but I learned that she was tending to my babies in the back with nearly the same care I would give….Some of her efforts, I am sure, are driven by the benefits of the harvestasty goodies and maybe, just maybe driven by the love we share….. Should I run a poll on what y’all think the driving factor is?   I don’t think so…the Valentines day poll was a bit painful –  ;0  –

TTFN

Bishop

Did you all see the announcement – The 16th century home of Winnie the Pooh is on the market. Near the   ” 500-acre wood” –  is up for sale…just $ 3 plus million – USD – I wonder if I could put a big ktchen garden in on the property?

Garden Shots

1 Comment

I took the camera into the garden the last few days….I am always impressed by the perfection in nature….

Bishop

TTFN

Strawberry Towers Phase One

Leave a comment

I have decided to try going vertical with my soon to arrive strawberries.  I have seen a number of different approaches to going vertical and decided to build a two tower set-up as my first test. I chose 3″ PVC drain pipe – it is light weight, cheaper than the heavy wall PVC and easy to work with. The picture below shows the two tower set-up after they were put together and filled. The base of the structure is filled with pea gravel for stability. I drilled 24 –  1 1/4″ holes in each tower, none on the back side. I inserted a butcher paper tube inside prior to filling with potting soil. The blue masking tape is used to keep the tubes in place as I filled the pipe and to help keep the soil in place. When planting a small hole will be made through the paper and the bare root plant will be placed into the hole. I have subsequently added a 3X4 swage on top as an added reservoir for water and liquid nutients.

The Twin Strawberry Towers

I also drilled a weep hole a few inches above the “Tee” at the base of the tower. Wetting the soil by pouring water from the top was going very slowly. So when I returned from my inner injection appointment this afternoon I swung by Lowes and picked up a couple of 3X4 swages and placed them on top to increase the volume of water I can pour. Seems to be working much better. Have not yet filled the towers with enough water to  reach the weep holes. It may take a lot of water as the pore space in the base could be considerable.

During the construction of the  test towers it dawned on me that this could develop into a viable hydroponic set-up. The PVC piping used for the base could be used to provide the return run of the nutient run-off. Rather than using potting soil, a hydroponic perlite type of material could be used. While doing a little research into the hydroponic stuff I seem to run across lots of sites that are linked to growing that funny seven leafed plant that is in the news quite often. Wow – 55 gallon drums of nutient chemical will set you back about 3 grand….Must be good money in growing that other stuff……

The week of November 7th is the promised date for my strawberry plants to arrive. I have to work all week so planting will be deferred a bit. The plants should hold well in the produce drawer until the weekend.

Shown next is the close-up of the 1/8″ weep hole and another angle of the base and towers set up next to my compost bins and in front of my blackberry bed.  If the experiment works it could lead to a small commercial patch. I think you could increase plantings by a factor of 5 or 6 in the same square footage of space and really simplify the harvest. I have seen the strawberry harvest in California and it is back breaking, stoop labor. This could be a win all around. Intitial investment might be a little higher but in the long term could be much cheaper.

FYI – The towers are not glued in place to aid in dumping and replacing the growing medium. In the future I may consider 4″ or even 6″ PVC drain pipe.

Towers next to compost bins

1/8 " Weep hole

TTFN Folks

Bishop

Older Entries Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: