Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Tag Archives: tomatoes

Making Up For Lost Blogging Time

We’ve been away from the blog for a while because things have been so busy with our house and gardens. Since buying our home last year, we’ve been focusing our efforts on the house and yard, and our garden at Amy’s place. We are no longer utilizing our former satellite gardens at Sunset Hills, Iowa Ave., Sallie’s side yard, and Lafayette Square. So here’s finally an update on the garden at Amy’s!

We got a later start than we would’ve liked this year due to a cool, rainy spring. Once it dried a bit, we were able to get our two plots re-tilled and planted quickly. In the future we’d love to rely less on tilling (or combine it with the use of a cover crop) but it was absolutely necessary this time to remove the grass and weeds that had already taken root. The irrigation system is still in place, but it’s been mild enough that we haven’t turned it on yet.

We’ve rotated our crops a bit from last year to promote soil fertility and reduce pests and disease. In the east plot, pictured below, we seeded beets, carrots, bush beans, and Peaches and Cream sweet corn, and transplanted some volunteer black seeded simpson lettuce, and broccoli and cabbage from Bowood Farm. There are also quite a few volunteer tomato, borage, celosia, marigold, and cleome plants from last year.

May

May 4th- lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage transplanted

Late May

May 25th- beets and carrots germinating in middle rows

June

June 1st- left to right: lettuce, broccoli, beets, carrots & herbs, purple cabbage

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July 1st

July

July 1st- sweet corn in the back, broccoli, beets, carrots, and cabbage in front.

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We just ate the first of the sweet corn yesterday and it was delicious!

In the bigger, western plot at Amy’s we transplanted five rows of tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, basil, a few of our wild gourd plants (second generation this year!), lacinato kale, sweet potato slips, and nasturtium. We seeded salad greens, bush beans, radishes, beets, spinach, and tronchuda kale. We got some really great harvests out of the spinach and radish row before they went to seed. We’ve since replanted the rows with more carrots and salad greens.

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May- Tomatoes, basil, and peppers transplanted on Mothers’ Day

Newly transplanted tomato

Newly transplanted tomato

June 1st

June 1st

June 1st- trellising the tomatoes with Amy

June 1st- trellising the tomatoes with Amy, sweet corn growing in foreground

We’re using the large tomato cages we made last year from cattle fencing for our tomatoes at the Sunset Hills garden. We didn’t have enough for all the tomato plants this year, so we’re also using the Florida weave method. We drove in stakes between every two or three tomato plants, then used tomato twine to wrap around the stakes along each row to support the plants from both sides. This method works best if you keep up with adding another line of twine as the plants grow.

Peppers in July

July 1st. Left to right: radishes going to seed, bush beans and wild gourd, hot peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes

July 4th. Tomato plants.

July 4th.

July 10th. Lacinato kale and nasturtium, two rows seeded with carrots, beets and wild gourd, peppers, tomatoes

July 10th. Lacinato kale and nasturtium, two rows seeded with carrots, beets and wild gourd, peppers, tomatoes.

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Sunset Hills Update

2013_07_27_164We planted our Sunset Hills tomato plot in late April this year, earlier than any other tomatoes we planted. With the cold, wet spring we had, they’ve actually fared worse than their counterparts planted in May at Amy’s place and Iowa Ave. We’ve learned our lesson- planting too early, even if it’s after the traditional planting date (April 15th in our region), doesn’t necessarily get you a head start.

2013_07_27_167The good news is that our major harvests will be staggered- we’ll get a flush of ripening here when some of our other plants will be slowing down.

2013_07_27_171There are plenty of green tomatoes. I fertilized with a high-phosphorous organic fertilizer over the weekend, so we should see more production from that, too.

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At the Market

The Cherokee Street International Farmers’ Market is in full swing!

Today we sold cucumbers, zucchini, jalapenos, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, green beans, purple carrots, garlic, sprouts, cut flowers, and herbs.

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The market runs every Friday from 4-7pm at 2647 Cherokee Street (in front of the stencil wall next to I Scream Cakes). Come see us next week!

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Iowa Ave. Garden Update

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Sunflowers grow here every year- thanks, Dave!

This is our third season working on the Iowa Ave. garden, and it’s going well. Originally designed with raised beds, we’ve since tilled up larger sections to get more planting space and try to deal with the ever-invasive grass.

Newly tilled this year is the back section, which now boasts a dozen healthy tomato plants, lots of peppers, and a variety of herbs.

Newly tilled this year is the back section, which now boasts a dozen healthy tomato plants, lots of peppers, and a variety of herbs.

Tomatoes are ripening!

Ripening tomatoes

Basil

Basil

Parsley and nasturtium

Parsley and nasturtium

Popcorn is thriving in the tilled middle section of the garden.

Popcorn is thriving in the tilled middle section of the garden.

Also in the middle section, three varieties of beans, including bolita and black bean varieties good for dried beans.

Also in the middle section, three varieties of beans, including bolita and black beans.

We saved seeds from an unknown variety last year. Long and skinny with small striped beans, they're great as green beans when young. We're hoping they'll be good for dried beans.

We saved seeds from an unknown variety last year. Long and skinny with small striped beans, they’re great as green beans when young. We’re hoping they’ll be good for dried beans, too.

The teepee trellis sits in the southwest corner of the lot, which we dug out by hand. It's planted with more pole beans.

The teepee trellis sits in the southwest corner of the lot, which we dug out by hand. It’s planted with more pole beans.

Pole beans growing

Pole beans growing up the bamboo

The view from inside. Yes, there are beans all the way at the top, very much out of reach without a ladder!

The view from inside. Yes, there are beans all the way at the top, very much out of reach without a ladder!

Hops growing in the very corner

Hops growing in the corner

The raised beds have eggplant, edamame, cucumbers, carrots, garlic, beets, flowers, and lots of plants going to seed. Soon we’ll be replanting for fall!

As for the raised beds, here's some ginger in a new bed this year.

We have two new beds this year. This one was planted with ginger.

Horseradish in the other new bed, along with some mustard going to seed.

Horseradish in the other new bed, along with some mustard going to seed.

I do most of the harvesting on Fridays in preparation for the Cherokee Street International Farmers’ Market but we harvested some goodies today, too.

Lemon, Japanese, and pickling cucumbers

Lemon, Japanese, and pickling cucumbers

Mid-week tomato and bean harvest

Tomato and bean harvest

I also started to dig up some of Dave’s hardneck garlic we’d transplanted into one of the beds earlier in the spring. Temperatures are predicted to be much lower tomorrow and Thursday, so we’ll be back at it some more!

July at Amy’s

It’s July and all the gardens are in full swing! Here’s what’s going on at Amy’s place:

We got up on the garage roof to take some aerial photos today. This is the west side of the large garden.

We got up on the garage roof to take some aerial photos today. This is the west side of the large plot, which includes our spicy salad mix, cabbage and cauliflower, cucumbers, butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, banana squash, pumpkins, and melons.

The tomato/pepper plot to the east.

The tomato/pepper plot to the east.

We're trellising our tomatoes using the Florida weave this year- our first time using this method.  Using stakes every 2-3 plants, you wrap tomato twine around the plants as they grow. I like it so far, but you have to keep up with it!

We’re trellising our tomatoes using the Florida weave system this year- our first time using this method. Using stakes every 2-3 plants, you wrap tomato twine around the plants as they grow. I like it so far, but you have to keep up with it! This photo was taken 2 weeks ago; you wouldn’t believe the growth since then!

Speaking of tomatoes, here's our first ripe batch of Genovese tomatoes, one of our favorite heirlooms. They usually grow singly, but it sure is fun when they grow in big bunches like this one!

Speaking of tomatoes, our Genoveses are starting to ripen. They usually grow singly, but it sure is fun when they grow in big bunches like this one!

Our jalapeno pepper plants are producing prolifically this year! We picked over 100 peppers last week for the market.

Our jalapeno pepper plants are producing prolifically this year! We picked over 100 peppers last week for the market.

Bell peppers are getting there, too.

Bell peppers are getting there, too.

This is our wild gourd plant, propagated from seed from one of the dried gourds we found over the winter. Super excited for our namesake gourds!

This is our wild gourd plant, propagated from seed from one of the dried gourds we found over the winter. Super excited for our namesake gourds!

This is Eric's favorite flower, cleome. We like to interplant lots of flowers in our garden plots. Not only are they beautiful and make great cut flowers for bouquets, but they attract beneficial pollinators, too!

This is Eric’s favorite flower, cleome. We like to interplant lots of flowers in our garden plots- not only are they beautiful and make great cut flowers for bouquets, but they attract beneficial pollinators, too.

Here's another gourd growing in our garden- pumpkins. We selected varieties good for cooking and carving.

Meanwhile, in the plot to the west, we’ve got several varieties of pumpkins growing- good for cooking and carving!

Also lots of melons! We planted watermelons and cantaloupe this year.

Also lots of melons! Mostly watermelons but also some cantaloupe.

Melon vines in foreground, banana squash taking over the background.

Melon vines in foreground, followed by pumpkin, and banana squash taking over the background.

We've got two rows of zucchini, black beauty and a gray variety from Baker Creek. So far we've harvested ~25, with more maturing every day.

We’ve got two rows of zucchini, black beauty and a gray variety from Baker Creek. So far we’ve harvested ~25, with more maturing every day.

Our row of sweet potatoes is filling out nicely.

Our row of sweet potatoes is filling out nicely. We have more planted elsewhere, too.

As well as the butternut squash row. We planted these a little later than our other squash rows.  I've spotted a few baby squash starting.

And here’s the butternut squash row. We planted these a little later than our other squash rows, and there are already a few baby squash starting.

More updates to come!

Amy’s Farmhouse

We’ve been spending a lot of time at our newest garden at Eric’s sister’s new house.  It turns out the previous owner, Wendell, had farmed the yard and sold his produce from his driveway! We’re excited to continue the farming tradition.

2013_05_12_356We got Eric’s family together on Mothers’ Day to help us plant the narrow plot (pictured above are his parents hard at work). Eric used our walk-behind tiller to carve out the space between each row, then mounded up the rows using a hoe. This also incorporated the compost, gypsum, and organic fertilizer I had added on top of the soil earlier.

2013_05_12_352For planting tomatoes, we always bury the stem as deep as possible to promote deeper root growth and stability. The timing was perfect. Usually it would’ve been a little late, but this year the weather really delayed everything. The tomatoes we’d planted earlier in Sunset Hills and our Iowa Ave. gardens are stunted compared to these.

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With Eric’s family’s help, we planted 60 tomato plants and 40 pepper plants, mulched with grass clippings around each plant, and seeded basil, calendula, and other flowers throughout.

2013_05_16_379Last week Eric and his folks installed a drip irrigation system for the tomato and pepper plot. The system connects to the exterior hose with a battery-operated timer, which we’ve set to allow water flow for two hours every other day.

2013_05_15_373We also started planting the big plot last week. Like the narrow plot, Eric used our small tiller to carve out the spaces between rows, then I used a hoe to mound each row up. We mixed in some free leaf compost and seeded the first three rows with several types of salad greens and lettuces because they are shaded by the garage for most of the afternoon.

2013_05_15_371This is the back of the garden. The squash pictured above were started from seeds I saved from a huge pink banana squash last fall. We also seeded the next row to the right with several varieties of pumpkin and the last row with watermelon and cantaloupe.

2013_05_16_374As you can see, there’s still lots of space to fill. We’ve got some some sweet potatoes sprouting inside and zucchini plants we started from seed about ready to transplant. We’ve been researching other types of squash to grow, specifically some that are pest and disease resistant.

Also on the agenda: installing drip irrigation for the big plot. We bought the rest of the supplies we need, but we’ll have to set it up in two separate zones and reconfigure the part we already installed. It’ll be worth it though, not only would watering by hand take forever, it’d also be difficult to navigate the hose without running over plants.

This is our biggest contiguous garden space, at about 1/4 acre, but we haven’t neglected our other gardens! More updates to come!

Busy Busy Busy

It’s funny how drastically different this spring season is compared to last year’s. We enjoyed such a mild winter and early spring last year, we were able to get a lot done. The only reason we waited until May 2 to plant our tomatoes last year was because we hadn’t yet acquired the land for them. This year has been so cold and wet that a lot of things have been delayed.

2013_04_28_204We finished planting our tomatoes in Sunset Hills on April 28. However, this may still have been too early; we’ve also since planted some at Iowa Ave. and they seem to be faring better.

2013_05_06_314Along with tomatoes in the back section of our Iowa Ave. garden we also transplanted some pepper plants last week. Because of the invasive grass, we planted the peppers in holes we cut through burlap coffee bags and lined all the paths between plants with burlap and straw.

2013_05_07_321Here’s the whole back section, complete with burlap and straw. Between the peppers and tomatoes we planted parsley, nasturtium, thyme, and other herbs.

2013_05_07_319We also started a new tomato container garden in the section by the west fence where we were growing nothing but tall grass and weeds. To keep the grass out, we laid out a tarp and plastic sheeting before placing the pots and topping with wood chips. This method worked well for us in a different section last year.

2013_05_06_2992013_05_06_312Besides dealing with the terrible grass, we’ve also found evidence of pest damage to some of our newly-sprouted bean plants (above is an Italian pole bean seedling). It happens every year, the beans and peppers are the first to be eaten. We’ve used Dawn dish soap in the past but  this year I got some Dr. Bronner’s castile soap- more natural. Mixed with water, I’ve been spraying the tops and bottoms of the leaves and stems of all of our bean plants, and the damage has been limited.

2013_04_30_210Some of the popcorn we planted sprouted, but not all of it. We want to make sure it grows close together enough for sufficient pollination, so we reseeded some of the areas where germination was low.

2013_05_07_323We have two new raised beds at Iowa Ave.  (as seen in our garden outline) this year.  I planted horseradish, mustard, and kale in one, and Eric planted ginger (pictured above) in the other. We grew ginger last year in our side yard after sprouting it in shallow pots first. This year we direct seeded- the smaller pieces are our ginger from last year, the bigger pieces are organic ginger from Local Harvest.

2013_05_01_221The other thing keeping us busy this spring is setting up a new garden space at Eric’s sister’s new house. She found a house in the city with a 1/4 acre lot, and she’s letting us farm it (thanks Amy!). We tilled up this section of her yard literally the same day she closed on the house, May 1.

2013_05_01_233We called on our Sunset Hills gardening buddy, Tom, to till the area. It was just too much space for our little walk-behind tiller.

2013_05_01_239After several hours, Tom had mowed the overgrown grass and tilled up these two big sections for us. Unfortunately we were losing daylight, so he was only able to pass over each area once with the tiller.

2013_05_08_330To really remove all the grass, we needed it tilled again. Of course it rained for the next four days straight, so it took a week before Tom was able to come out to finish the job. As he tilled we worked to pull out grass clumps, and we returned yesterday to continue pulling them out.

2013_05_08_333Here’s a view from the other side of the yard. In this big section we’ll grow sweet potatoes, squash (summer and winter), pumpkins, melons, and whatever else we can fit.

Today I applied some fertilizer and crushed gypsum to the longer, thinner section where we’ll plant tomatoes, then covered with a layer of free compost. Eric is planning to return tomorrow with our little tiller to work the compost in and space out our mounded rows, then plant tomatoes and peppers! We’re also hoping to install a drip irrigation system to help with watering.

The weather has really forced us to be super productive in the short periods of time between rain. The forecast for this coming week looks pretty clear, thankfully. Lots of work ahead of us!

Babying the Tomato Plants

It’s cold and rainy again, calling for lows tonight in the mid 30s and gusts of wind as strong as 20 mph! So we’re doing our best to protect our tomato plants, both in ground and in pots.

2013_04_23_154This morning I went out to Sunset Hills to protect our newly-planted tomatoes. It gets colder out there in the county than it does in the city. Thankfully, Eric’s mom was willing to help me in the rain! We wrapped plastic sheeting around all of the tomato cages and secured it with staples, clothespins, and wire.

2013_04_23_151I don’t think we’ll get any frost but we wanted to be extra safe. Along with the straw, the plastic should be a good wind break and provide more insulation. We’ll just have to remove the plastic on Thursday before it gets too warm!

2013_04_23_157Here at home, Eric helped me build a windbreak for the potted tomato plants. Most of our plants are safe and sound inside our half hoop house but many are outside hardening off. This tarp attached to wooden stakes driven deep in the ground should protect these babies from strong gusts of wind. 

On a side note, we’re now selling our tomato plants! All organic, many heirloom varieties including Arkansas Traveler, Costuloto Genovese (our favorite), a bush Beefsteak variety, all colors of cherry tomatoes, and several others. In 3″ or 4″ pots, $3 each. Let us know if you’d like any!

Edit: We only sell locally in the St. Louis area. We are not able to ship plants at this time. Thanks for understanding!

How We Spent Earth Day Weekend

This weekend was dedicated to the gardens.

2013_04_19_110It all started Friday night, when the forecast called for a chance of frost overnight. A few days earlier a surprise frost nipped a few of our tomato and pepper plants, so we didn’t want to take any chances. Thus began the great plant shuffle of 2013- all of the pepper plants and the tomato plants that hadn’t hardened off yet (they were in the half-hoop house) were brought inside. As you can see above, we had hundreds of plants inside, covering literally every available surface in our apartment. The plants we’d had outside hardening off were put in the hoop house. Then, about 12 hours later on Saturday morning we put them all back where they started.

Most of the rest of Saturday was spent at our Sunset Hills garden working on our tomato patch.

2013_04_20_119We’re using a similar method as last year, utilizing burlap in between the rows and all plants to keep weeds down and moisture levels high. It’s been a cool, rainy spring here in St. Louis so we only planted about 1/3 of our tomatoes for the year, the rest to be planted later.  Most of Saturday was spent building trellises.

2013_04_20_121Last year we staked each tomato plant separately and tied them as they grew, which was a royal pain. The plants sprawled in all directions and we lost a lot of tomatoes that ended up growing on the ground. So this year we constructed individual 5′ tall wire mesh cages for each plant (about 50).

2013_04_20_126Though we didn’t plant all the tomatoes, we plotted out the rows and fertilized the spaces for each plant. We interplanted some borage, basil, marigold, and calendula seeds today and finished off with straw on top.

After a full day’s work at Sunset Hills we shot over to Iowa Avenue while we still had daylight.

2013_04_12_067Our bamboo teepee trellis stands 8′ tall and will support our favorite flat Italian pole beans. We’re going to tie string horizontally around the bamboo but leave an opening in front so we can walk into the middle to harvest the beans.

2013_04_20_129After several brainstorming sessions, we figured that purchasing nylon netting was the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to trellis our new bean section this year. We planted a row of mystery beans (unidentified, collected last year), black beans, bolita beans, and burgundy bush beans, with carrots and salad greens along each row. The paths in between were lined with burlap and straw to keep the weeds down (the evil grass was already starting to regrow- UGH!).

2013_04_20_137On the other side of the beans we planted popcorn in rows. We haven’t grown corn before, we’re hoping we planted them closely enough to allow for good pollination. We plan to interplant seeds from a wild gourd that Eric found along the Meramec River.

We have a lot to do still, but the forecast predicts lows in the 30s again this week, so we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ll probably go and wrap plastic around the bottoms of the tomato cages in Sunset Hills to help protect the plants over the cold nights. As soon as the weather breaks, we’ll be planting another big wave of tomatoes, all our peppers, and the rest of our veggies. Can’t wait!

Up-Potting: It Never Ends!

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We’ve been up-potting tomato, pepper, and other herbs and veggie plants for several weeks, after starting over 800 from seed. From grow lights in the basement, the plants are transplanted into larger pots (4″ diameter) and placed in our greenhouse as an intermediate step before hardening off. We had a pretty hefty stash of plastic pots saved from previous years and managed to scrounge lots of pots from several other sources, but we finally ran out. So we bought some Solo cups from the dollar store and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.

2013_04_14_102It’s been pretty cold here in St. Louis (especially compared to last year), so we’re glad we have the hoop house to help store them- temperatures inside have soared over 100°F, so we keep it vented.

 

2013_04_13_083We built this make-shift shelving unit from wooden crates and boards (all free). 

2013_04_13_079 We’ve designated the left side of the hoop house for the potted plants, and the right side has salad greens, cilantro, and kale, which we seeded last fall.

2013_04_14_103Here are some tomato plants hardening off outside of the hoop house.

We’re planning to plant about 100 tomato plants and sell the rest at the Cherokee Street International Farmers’ Market, which starts May 3rd! Varieties include our favorite yellow cherry and other cherry varieties, Arkansas traveler, Costuloto Genovese, black giant, a bush variety we’ve saved seeds from for years, and several other heirloom varieties.