My tomatoes want out…

Spring is straining to break out, but the nights are still cool, it dropped below freezing a couple nights this week.

The plants that I started are screaming to go outside, but Friday night the temperatures are predicted to drop to around freezing. But after Saturday the temperature prediction for the next 10 days are favorable, my tomatoes may finaly get their way. I have been gradually hardening them off this week, carrying them back inside each night. I think they are ready, we’ll see.

Tomatoes want out
Tomatoes want out…now!

The lettuce in my raised beds is looking good, we have already been pulling leaves to eat. As home office continues, its a pleasure to go outside and pick some lunch.

Raised Beds
Lettuce and swiss chard, with some sweet corn starts in the foreground.

Our church was able to reopen last weekend, but with limited participants, mandatory masks, and a disinfections station at the door. I was tasked with building the stand:

Sanitation Stand
Sanitation Stand

Garden Plans for 2020

We had an extremely early spring in our part of Germany this year, I was able to start working the gardens in January. I planted garlic on the 18th of January, and set out onions on February 29th. They are both doing very well.

Onion and garlic beds on April 22, 2020

In February my company began implementing policies to combat the COVID-19 virus, first travel restrictions, than beginning in the middle of March, home office for all employees that are able too. I am fortunate that I can do my job just as well at home as in the office. Working at home has its advantages, I save at least 1-1/2 hours a day travel time, and when the weather is nice, I can spend my lunch time outside.

As I write the government continues to ure people to stay at home, restaurants are closed, other than grocery shopping there is little to do. So now when I am not working, I go for a walk or a run, and have been spending a lot of time in the garden.

The 160 square meter E-Garden is ready for planting, in fact the potatoes and peas are already out.

Peas and Potatoes in E-Garden

The 18 square meter L-Garden is also very far ahead. I was able to set up broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants at the end of March. The endive survived the mild winter, we are still eating it.

Cauliflower, cabbage, endive and broccoli in the L-Garden

I am also taking advantage of working at home and have started my own tomato, cucumber, squash and numerous other plants in my yard garden and in almost every window in the house. Normally I am not home in the morning to open the growing beds outside and the shades in the house, now I can do it on my coffee break. This should save quite a bit of money in the long run.

Corn and lettuce plants in the Yard Garden

My home office will probably continue for at least the next few months. And the dangers related to the COVID-19 virus remain, so I guess this year vacation will be in the garden. It should be a very bountiful year, if the weather cooperates.

E-Garden August 2019

The plants in the mini-bed garden did very well, and there was very little labor involved. In the beginning there were a few weeds around the plants, but eventually the plants blocked out any weed growth.

min-bed Garden August 19, 2019
mini-bed Garden

Update and the Battle of the Cutworms

Hard to believe it’s the first of August already, the garden season is advancing quickly. Our summer here in the land of the Huguenots remains very hot and dry, like much of Europe. Fortunately, the gardens that I use have deep wells, so the daily watering has not caused them to dry up.

The past few weeks have been stifling hot, with temperatures often reaching 36-37 °C (97-99 °F). This has been good for some garden crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, but disastrous for others, like onions, broccoli and cauliflower. Our zucchini is doing well in the E-Garden, where it is partly shaded during the hottest part of the day, but poorly in the L-Garden where it sits in the scorching sun all day.

I left our early potatoes in the ground a little longer, hoping they would grow longer. This proved to be a mistake, when I dug them up last weekend I found dozens if cutworms munching away at our crop. I estimate we lost at least half of our early potatoes from the little buggers. I showed no mercy when I found one, squishing them to death as I dug.

Public Enemy #1 – The Cutworm

I am now considering digging my main storage potatoes before they fall prey to the hungry beasts. It would be nice if I could have chickens in the garden, they love to eat cutworms.

The L-Garden in June

The L-Garden has mixed results. The zucchini is off to a good start, we have been eating some this week. Growing next to the squash is rat tail radishes, the first time I have tried to grow this.

Rat tail radishes and zucchini.

The onions seem to be growing extremely slowly, I’m not sure if it is the heat or that they don’t like the soil. I need to check the PH in these beds.

Onions and more squash.

The tomatoes under my makeshift roof are doing very well, the first tomatoes should start ripening soon. I actually need to thin them out a little bit so they get more air.

Tomatoes.

The cucumbers are also producing, the plant on the right was planted a few weeks before the others.

The first cucumbers.

It is hard to see in the following picture, but the row of tomato plants along the back wall are looking very poorly, this section is shaded most of the day. I am considering moving them into the E-Garden.

An overview.

The small kitchen garden on the side of our house (not shown) is bursting with Rucola and Lollo salad, a variety of herbs, and soon cocktail tomatoes and spinach.

May Pictures

End of May, Bird Nets Installed

End of May, Potatoes are Growing Well

I also have a “wild” potato patch, from not cleaning out all of the potatoes from last year. These are early potatoes, so I decided to leave them and plant my pumpkins in between, we’ll see what happens.

End of May – Wild Potatoes from Last Year

I also cut the buckwheat and added a row of raspberry shoots. The rest of the area will be used for squash, pumpkins and maybe honeydew melons.

End of May – Buckwheat Patch

Starting Seeds in Toilet Paper Rolls

Here is a short update of my seed starting experiment in toilet paper rolls. I 6 rolls with peas and 6 rolls with kohlrabi. I also planted 3 of each in some biodegradable pots that I found at our garden center.

The results after approximately 3 weeks:

  • 6 out of 6 kohlrabi seeds have sprouted in the rolls.
  • 3 out of 3 kohlrabi seeds have sprouted in the pots.
  • 4 out of 6 pea seeds have sprouted in the rolls.
  • 2 out of 3 pea seeds have sprouted in the pots.

The toilet paper rolls have survived multiple watering, I am overall satisfied with the results.

Garden Planning

Garden planning was place on hold the past couple weeks as my wife and I have battled the flu. With Spring in sight Winter is not giving up easily, we had a week with the coldest temperatures of the year, at night dropping to -12 °C. Not cold at all for many parts of the world, but for us cold enough.

The cold hit whatever was left in the garden pretty hard, the kale, Pak Choi and leeks were looking pretty sad on Sunday afternoon. My lettuce and swiss chard that I had under plastic in my raised beds survived well, but I think it may be time to pull the rest. But this isn’t bad, in a few weeks I can set out my kohlrabi and pea plants, and some early lettuce.

I have been working on a plan for a Minibed Gardening bed in our E-Garden. In a nutshell, this involves laying a layer of 6-mil plastic on the beds, framing 30“x 30” sections with a wood frame, and cutting out the plastic within these frames for growing beds. According to the author of this method, Herrick Kimball, this method has its advantages, including low maintenance and high moisture retention. Refer to the author’s web site for more information http://minibedsonplastic.blogspot.de/

Like any “garden method”, it has to be adapted to your local area. Mr. Kimball lives in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York, probably zone 4-5. I live in zone 7b, so may have to adapt a bit. I also need to adjust the building materials, wood sizes and dimensions are a bit different in Germany, but this is not a problem.

Yesterday (Saturday) I picked up the plastic for the Minibed garden. After researching what is available in our area, I settled on 5-mil plastic which is sold as the basis for garden ponds. This UV-resistant plastic is not cheap, but fairly robust. The standard width at our local building supply store is 4 meters wide, which will cover approximately 3 beds in the garden. A 30″x30″ section is approximately 76×76 cm (we are metric in Germany), so I decided to round it off to 80×80 cm. My current beds are approximately 90 cm wide, so this should fit well.