Indeterminate & Determinate Tomatoes

tomatoIf you have taken a look at the market garden lately, you might have noticed that Mark and I have constructed a tall stake-and-wire trellising system for many of our tomatoes.  This system will allow us to guide our indeterminate tomatoes up an 8ft piece of twine as they grow.  We will prune the ‘suckers’ from these plants to promote upward growth. Our determinate type tomatoes, will be supported by a shorter basket-weaving trellising system that will be less noticeable from the road.

We are constructing two different trellising systems because some tomato varieties(indeterminate) grow very tall up a central stem and other varieties ‘self-top’ at more manageable heights(determinate).  Here’s how I remember what indeterminate and determinate means–the height of determinate tomatoes is determined (usually under 6 ft) while the height of indeterminate tomatoes is not (they will grow until the central stem is pruned).

Home gardeners can use tomato cages to successfully support both indeterminate and determinate tomato varieties.  Although pruning is not necessary, indeterminate tomatoes may need to be pruned so that these free-wheeling tomatoes don’t take over your garden.  In contrast, determinate tomatoes should not be pruned.  Removing the suckers from determinate varieties will reduce your crop yield.  I prune only the bottom-most leaves and suckers from my determinate tomatoes because I don’t want foliage touching the ground.

Indeterminate and determinate tomato varieties also have different patterns of fruit production.  Determinate tomatoes produce a crop all at once.  This is great for gardeners who want to preserve their crop by canning–you can pick all at once and put everything up.  Roma, a popular canning tomato, is a determinate variety.  Indeterminate tomatoes keep producing fruit throughout the growing season.  This is great for growers who want slicing tomatoes.  It’s nice to have a few tomatoes ripening at any given time.   (Note:  All tomatoes tend to stop setting fruit when temperatures climb consistently into the mid 90’s.  This happens sooner than we’d like in Central Texas.)

 

Organic Lawn Fertilizer

Although I’m not opposed to the judicious use of chemical fertilizer, I am a much bigger proponent of organic fertilizers.  When you put organic fertilizer on your lawn you are feeding your soil not just your grass.  And soil health is crucial to any type of gardening.

Organic fertilizers use natural ingredients like compost, bone meal, feather meal, molasses, corn gluten meal, and  potash among other ingredients to create a mixture that contains a blend of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K).  Just as important as the NPK blend are the extra micronutrients and beneficial bacteria organic fertilizers impart to your soil.  Unlike chemical fertilizers that deliver the NPK on inert ingredients, organic fertilizers use beneficial material like compost for the foundation of their products.  Plus the organic materials have staying power, providing long-term benefits for your plants.  It is a win-win situation for your lawn.

Benefits of organic lawn fertilizer:

  1. Beneficial bacteria and micronutrients are added to your soil.
  2. Increased bioavailability of nutrients to your plants.
  3. Organic matter stays in the soil for a longer time than chemical ingredients.
  4. Very difficult to ‘burn’ plants when using organic fertilizer.
  5. Environmentally friendly by decreasing nitrogen and phosphorous ‘run off’.

ladybug fert

One of our most popular organic fertilizers is the Ladybug Brand 8-2-4.  It’s a great all purpose fertilizer to have on hand because it can be used on the lawn as well as in the flower bed or vegetable garden.  Gaddy’s carries it in 6# or 25# bags.

As some of you might have noticed, we’re in the middle of rearranging the store at Gaddy’s.  To make shopping the organic gardening products easier, I’ve put them all in one spot.  Come by and check out our new line of Jobe’s organic products.  Jobe’s has a fabulous line of organic soils as well as organic fertilizer spikes.

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Salsa at the Store

salsa.jpgI’m very excited to introduce our newest product line at the Feed store, Beba’s Pfresh Salsa.  As you might have guessed from the name, this is a local Pflugerville brand.  And it is absolutely fabulous!  I am a green salsa connoisseur and can’t get enough of Beba’s.  Learn more about Beba’s here https://bebapfreshsalsa.com/.

The Brown Bag is Back

If the unseasonably warm weather has you thinking about fertilizing your yard, our spring shipment of Gaddy’s Brown Bag Fertilizer is here.  If you’re new to Pflugerville you may not have heard about our Brown Bag Fertilizer, so let me tell you a little bit about it.  Over 25 years ago, my in-laws, Frank and Lynn, were searching for a fertilizer that would work well for the alkaline clay soil in our area.  They wanted a slow-release nitrogen formula with added sulfur, iron and micronutrients.  Unfortunately the only products they found that fit the bill also had a steep price tag.  Not ones to be deterred, Frank and Lynn decided to have their own fertilizer made.  And because all the money goes into the product and not the packaging, the fertilizer comes in a plain brown bag with an analysis tag.  We, and our customers, refer to it as our Brown Bag Special.

The Brown Bag is a 2o-5-10 blend of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.  It immediately releases a 15-5-10 ratio which is recommended for lawns, then the extra 5% nitrogen is slowly released, helping your grass stay green longer.  The micronutrient package contains sulphur, iron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.  One bag covers 6,000-8,000 sq feet.  An average size yard is 4,500-5,000 square feet, so you may even have a bit left over for the next application.

 

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Get a free spreader rental with any purchase of fertilizer at Gaddy’s

 

If you are using a chemical fertilizer it is important to use it properly to maximize the benefit to your yard.   First thing, don’t fertilize too early.  A lawn doesn’t need to be fertilized until it is actively growing in the spring.  A good rule of thumb is to fertilizer after you have had to mow your grass at least one time.  Your grass can’t really use the fertilizer until it is awake and actively growing.  How would you like to eat a huge Thanksgiving meal at 5:30am?  Let your lawn wake up and get moving before you feed it.

Fertilize again in the summer only if your yard is green, growing, watered, and healthy.  Adding fertilizer to a lawn that is struggling due to summer heat or stress can add to the problem instead of help.  Also during summertime avoid fertilizing in the heat of the day to minimize the chance of burning your yard.  And always water the fertilizer in well after application.  If any fertilizer gets on your sidewalk or driveway, wash or sweep it up to prevent staining.

Many gardeners apply fertilizer in the fall to winterize the yard.  Time this feeding to your grass’ needs.  Wait for the weather to cool down and for your yard to recover a bit from summer heat stress.  As with the first feeding of the year, fertilize in the fall when your grass is actively growing.  Use the fall growing season to get your yard fed and healthy before it goes dormant over the winter.

There are also plenty of organic methods available at Gaddy’s to keep your yard fed and healthy.  Organics tend to be a bit more pricy, but they help keep your soil healthy as well as provide many longer lasting benefits to your yard’s ecosystem.  One of the best things you can do for your yard is to spread some organic matter, like compost, over the grass in early spring.  More on organic fertilizers in another post.

Tempting Fate

Well, if we get a freeze you can blame it on me.  I decided to tempt fate and plant our tomatoes early.  More patient gardeners than I may have waited until March 15, when chances of a frost are minimal, but I just couldn’t resist trying to get a jump on the growing seatomato-1son.

Our daughter, Becky, seeded this group of tomatoes into tiny cells on January 15, then I repotted them into 4″ pots early this month. See post.   I took the pots from under the grow light and set them outside for the last few days to let the tomatoes get used to the weather.  This is called ‘hardening off.’

To plant tomatoes, add a bunch of organic matter to your soil.  Most Pflugerville soil is black clay and doesn’t drain very well.  Adding compost and sand, as well as planting in a raised bed or row will help your tomatoes get a good start.  Dig a hole deeper than is necessary for your tomato.  Tomatoes are one of the few plants that can be planted deeper than the soil line.

Carefully remove the pot from your plant.  You can see how well this tomato has rooted out in the pot.  That is a sign that this plant is ready to be planted into a bigger container or in the ground.

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Fill in the hole and gently tamp down the dirt.  Give your plants a good long soak.  Planting on a cloudy day or early in the day can help prevent your tomatoes from wilting.  Plant tomatoes 2-3 feet apart.  Normally I would go ahead and put my tomato cages around my plants at this time because it’s easy to do while the plants are small, but since I’m planting early I’m leaving them cage-free in case I need to put a pot or other cover over them to protect them from the cold.

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What do the numbers on fertilizer bags mean?

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent the percentage of three elements commonly found in fertilizer–nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).  Nitrogen is used for leaf growth and helps plants stay green.  Because of this many lawn fertilizers have a higher percentage of nitrogen, like in a  15-5-10 fertilizer.  Phosphorous, represented by the second number, helps plants form new roots, fruits and flowers.  Many ‘super bloom’ type fertilizers have a high phosphorous number like a 9-58-8.

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Potassium, represented as the third number on a bag of fertilizer, promotes overall plant health.  Soluble potash is a source of potassium.

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A common garden fertilizer is a 13-13-13 blend.  There are equal amounts of N, P and K in this fertilizer blend.  So what’s the difference between a 13-13-13 and a 10-10-10?  They both have equal ratios of N,P and K in them but the amounts of N, P and K compared to the inert ingredients in the bag is different.  The N-P-K numbers also represent the percentage of each ingredient by weight.  A 13-13-13 bag has 13% N, 13% P, and 13% K.  In a bag of 13-13-13, 61% of the weight would be due to the carrier ingredients, often clay.  In a bag of 10-10-10, 70% of the weight would be due to carrier ingredients.

15-5-10

Organic fertilizers will also have a N-P-K number.  The numbers are usually lower than on a bag of chemical fertilizer, but the carrier products are often times beneficial materials for your yard such as compost.  Plus many products such as the Ladybug garden fertilizer shown below, have added organic micronutrients and beneficial mycorrhizal fungi.

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Garden Site Preparation

Do you have a sunny spot in your back yard that you’ve always thought would make a nice garden but didn’t know where to begin?  The first thing you’ll need to do is to get rid of as much of the grass or weeds as you can in your future garden.  Here is a simple and organic way to kill grass and weeds in a garden-sized area.  All you need is some black plastic or a tarp and some weights to keep it in place.

Simply lay the tarp or plastic over the area you want cleared, and weigh it down with bricks, or large rocks or garden stakes.  Then wait.  And wait.  Eventually the lack of sunlight will kill everything now growing under the plastic.  This is how Mark and I have been prepping soil that will eventually be planted for the store’s market garden.  In the picture above you can see a couple of areas where we used large pieces of black plastic weighed down with buckets of sand.  The smaller white and yellow patches are a couple of old advertising banners now used to block the sun.  We used this method successfully to clear the area that now is home to some young pea seedlings.

Once the weather gets hot another way to kill weeds or grass is to cover the area with clear plastic and basically let the sun ‘bake’ the weeds and weed seeds.  But if you did this in mid February, clear plastic would probably act as a nice greenhouse for your weeds.

Asparagus

Mark and I planted two long rows of asparagus in the market garden yesterday.  Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable for Pflugerville because it actually enjoys the slightly alkaline soil in our area.  However asparagus appreciates looser soil than our black clay so be sure to amend your soil with plenty of organic matter and maybe some sand when you prepare asparagus beds.

We planted our asparagus at the edge of our garden.  Asparagus goes well at a well-drained edge of your yard or garden because the bed will be there for a long long time.  It will probably take two or three years for the asparagus we planted yesterday to be producing at full capacity.

Asparagus is propagated by planting 1 or 2 year old roots, called crowns, into 4-12 inch deep trenches.  Gently separate the roots so the center of the crown will lie in the center of your trench like an octopus.  (See picture below.)  The trenches can be gradually filled as the plant grows, or filled in all at once if your soil is loose enough for the plants to break through easily.

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I recommend choosing a male variety of asparagus like the Jersy Knight that we planted.  Male varieties are hearty and good producers, plus they do not produce berries and seeds like the female plants.  (‘Washington’ varieties are generally female.)

Keep the new asparagus bed well watered and weeded throughout the spring, summer and autumn.  In the winter, after the first freeze, cut the ferns off at ground level and remove them from the bed.  Ferns left in the garden over winter provide good shelter for asparagus beetles which could wreak havoc on the plants in the spring.

It’s best not to harvest and asparagus for the first two years after planting.  The idea is that all the plants energy should go back into the plant’s root system, providing for a better harvest in subsequent years.  However, I have picked just a few spears on the second year  and didn’t have any long term problems based on my impatience.

Asparagus is usually the first think ready to pick in our home garden in the early spring.  When you are finally able to start harvesting your asparagus, snap the spears off with your hand at ground level.  The sprouts should be about 4 to 10 inches in height.  Don’t let the spears get too big or they will be tough and fibrous.  When the weather gets warmer and the spear heads start opening up, stop picking and wait for next year.  Asparagus is best when eaten fresh, but will save in the fridge for up to three weeks.

 

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Asparagus crowns remind me of something Prof. Sprout might be planting at Hogwarts.  BTW an old feed bag makes a great knee pad when planting.

 

 

 

Show Your Poultry Pride

chick-boots

I, myself, am just a couple chickens shy of becoming a crazy chicken lady, so these boots are right up my alley.  They’re great for garden work or egg-gathering or simply running around town.  They’re available at Gaddy’s in sizes 6 to 10 (note:  they run a little small).  Can’t wait to try mine out.

Also, we just received our first shipment of Socksmith socks at Gaddy’s.  I’ve been a Socksmith fan for a couple of years now.  They’re the only crew sock I’ll wear when I’m working 12-hour shifts as a nurse because the tops don’t cut into my calves.  Even better, they come in the most adorable patterns.  I ordered every farm or garden theme sock Socksmith makes.  To make these socks even more irresistible, I’ve priced them at just $5.99 each (suggested retail is $8.00).  Really, I’m just hoping we sell through the socks quickly enough so I can order even MORE cute socks.

Fruit & Nut Trees Have Arrived!

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Rodney spent all morning setting up the fruit and pecan trees, as well as roses, blueberries and blackberries.  We have been working with the same grower, located outside of Tyler, Texas, for over 25 years.  We are always satisfied with the quality of their trees and I think you will be too.  Although the weather is a little crisp, it’s a great time to plant fruits or pecan trees.

Here’s a list of what we now have in stock.  Click on the link for an easy to read .pdf file. 2017-fruit-tree-list