TONITE: BIG FREEZE WARNING for Santa Fe!!!

One day it’s 78° for a high this week-warm and windy and tonite it will be very cold and windy with the temperature dropping to 24°. Of course this will wipe out the fruit tree blossoms (for me the apple blossoms are just starting) and there goes another fruit crop for this year. This will be the second year in a row that we may not get apples. Waaa! And forget about the apricot trees. I haven’t seen a crop in 7 years. You know what you call an apricot tree? A nice shade tree-as we usually get a freeze that wipes out their blossoms.

So cover up any plants that you may have put out early with winter weight row cover or 2 of the mid-weight row covers for the next two nights even if they are cold hardy crops. The plants are actually affected by the wind chill, just like us. Then it warms up in the 40’s on Sunday and Monday except for next Tuesday when the night-time temp will drop again to 30° and then warms up again at nite to above freezing temperatures. And so it goes with the ‘shoulder season’ where the weather doesn’t know if it’s still winter or spring and the winds are ferocious. But what we need most is precipitation. I’ll take it in any form.

Root Trainers-unique propagating trays

Fava beans in Root Trainer

I started using ‘Deep Root trainers’ last year for my fava beans and other bean crops that need deep cells or for plants that don’t want the roots disturbed when planting. The cool thing about them is that the cells are 5 inches deep and shaped like a clamshell, with two sides that open up like a book.  There are 8 sections total that fit snugly in a tray to hold them upright that comes with the kit. They are great as they have grooves that keep the roots growing straight instead of circling in the cell and strangling the plant. They also air prune when they hit the bottom of the cell.  No need to transplant into another pot, just plant them out in the garden. You just put seed starting soil in each cell, pat it down and put the seeds in. The only drawback is the plastic clamshells are very fragile and must be handled super carefully to keep from cracking but knowing that, I am careful and have them for three years so far. You can get them through Amazon. Get the 5″ deep ones, NOT the 3″ ones.

Pictured above are fava beans in their cells, 6 are already planted in the ground. Just carefully open the clamshell and slide them out into your hole in the ground with no root disturbance for those sensitive plants that hate to be transplanted.

Craupadine beets started in Root Trainer

I also used root trainers with a hard to germinate french variety of beet called ‘Craupadine’. It is probably the oldest beet in existence. I have not had much luck with germination when planting these seeds directly in the ground so I decided to try them in the rootrrainers this year and have much better germination although still spotty. I thought being a root vegetable, they probably would not like to have that main root disturbed. I think they will do well. I won’t wait till the plants are too big.  I am planting them outside after the first true leaves (cotyledon leaves) come out. So far 27 have germinated which is more than I have ever grown at one time.  They are ready for transplant above. I am so excited as these are the sweetest beets I’ve ever eaten. The french farmer markets cook them over a smokey fire in foil and serve them still warm.

Dwarf Tomatoes started!

Dwarf tomatoes in foreground and on right side in background. The two taller ones in background are Lucky Cross tomatoes which are regular size indeterminate tomatoes

 

Since I’m involved in growing dwarf tomatoes for Craig Lehouiller in his project, I decided to grow some of his varieties of open pollinated dwarf tomatoes that have been released to the public. I got the seeds from Victory Seeds. I’ve never grown dwarf tomatoes before. All the dwarf tomatoes will get between 3-4 feet tall and are stockier than regular tomato plants. They are indeterminate variety so the they will grow like all other indeterminate tomatoes only slower throughout the season and will be shorter. Indeterminate tomatoes keep producing fruit till it freezes. The actual tomatoes on dwarf tomatoes aren’t necessarily smaller just because the plants are. The days to harvest can go from 65-80 days depending on the dwarf variety. I am trying 10 released dwarfs plus 6 more unreleased in trials for Craig. So I am heavily invested in the dwarfs this year but I am growing some of my all-time favorites as well.

I noticed right away that the dwarf tomatoes pictured above are shorter and stockier even just after germination. I start all my tomatoes in shallow seed propagation trays on heat mats with a thermostat and under lights inside the house. Because of their shallowness, the soil heats up faster so germination is faster but you must water them 2x a day.  The two taller tomato plants in the background on the left side are regular indeterminate tomatoes called Lucky Cross, which is one of my favorites but notice the height difference with the dwarfs being much shorter and stockier. For earlier post on dwarf tomatoes, go here.

Major changes in the garden!

Adding new wood framing for my existing garden beds this spring

Major changes are happening in my 3000 square foot vegetable garden this spring. I have changed my low free-formed rectangle raised beds without edging into raised beds with redwood board edging to help retain the soil and compost inside each bed. The majority of the beds are made but now I must site them over my existing free-formed beds, digging out the edges of the bed so the forms can fit over the existing bed without losing any soil. Then I will level the soil out and add compost to each of the framed beds.

Sections 1 and 2 will pretty much be done and section 3 will be partially done as well. Each section is 1000 square feet. The beds are 12 feet by 4 feet and there is enough room between the beds to get a wheelbarrow through. I know some people put their beds closer together with little tiny paths between the beds but being able to get a wheelbarrow of compost through to the beds is really helpful. Then I will put wood chips on the path which help keep the paths from washing away should we ever get rain again! The wood chips will help with the erosion since I live on a hill. So I will finally have a nice tidy garden where the soil will be retained by the frames. All very exciting for an obsessed gardener!

Meanwhile, I can hardly wait till I can plant the cool season crops I have growing inside the house out into some of my other raised beds by the house. They need to get outside so I have room for my baby tomato plants just coming up inside, under lights, on heat mats. I need more room as the tomato plants can’t go outside yet-way too cold at night for them.

The only thing holding me back is the dang wind-just horrible right. Ugly horrible and not nice for gardening with 40 mph winds. I’m not that obsessed! Hopefully it will be better in a few days and I can get the cool season crops out and the framed beds all straightened out and then I will be ready to rock n roll in the garden!

UGLY WIND!! UGH!

I hate this wind we have been having the last few days. Typical spring weather here in Santa Fe. Today winds sustained at 25-30 mph and tomorrow projected to be 40 mph! Just terrible for a gardener chomping at the bit to get out in the garden. But I refuse to go out in it (I’m not that nuts!) so I have to be content to stay inside and dream about what my garden will look like this summer. They say the spring winds wake up the trees from winter and if this is so, they should be wide awake by now.

I did start my tomato seeds 2 weeks ago and they are mostly up inside, under lights on heat mats. I keep moving forward towards the garden even though the wind wants to move me backwards. Ugly Wind-Ugh!!!

Santa Fe Garden Club Lecture

 

Today I did a 2 hour lecture on starting tomatoes from seeds for the Santa Fe Garden Club. I explained how to start the seeds, how to transplant them into bigger pots, what ingredients I use in each potting hole when planting outside and much more. Then they planted some of their own seeds. Nice class. Nice people. I am going to start my tomatoes inside on March 25.

Attached are the lecture handouts from the class for those who requested them:

STARTING TOMATO SEEDS INSIDE

2018 TOMATO INFORMATION SHEET

2018 Tomato Growing 101 Class

Not much time left before the first class!

TOMATO GROWING 101-Season Long Course—starts Mar 25-Aug 5

Do you want to learn how to grow great heirloom tomatoes organically from start to finish? Think of the money you can save by learning to grow your own heirloom tomatoes from seed. Plus you can try new varieties that are not sold in the nurseries.

These hands-on classes will emphasis learning how to grow tomatoes successfully throughout the season. Participants will learn how to grow tomatoes from their seeds, what starting mix to use, what soil to transplant in, how to handle the delicate seedlings when transplanting up, how to produce sturdy plants. Lighting systems will be discussed and your seedlings will stay under lights at my farm under my care until time to plant outside when you will take your plants home to plant outside in your garden.

All planting materials, seeds, soil, amendments and pots supplied while growing them at the farm. Class participants will get a workbook with printed material added at each class to help them be successful throughout this growing season and as a reference for years to come. Students will get hands-on experience by planting to gain confidence and will come back to learn how to prune them, make compost tea, how to identify diseases and pests and how to control them.

Participants must sign up for all classes at once. Course payable at sign up for a total of $150. Class size is limited-10 students max. This takes a commitment. No partial classes.

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To register for the class is an easy two-step process:

1. Fill out the CONTACT FORM below and hit the submit button. Then to pay:

2. TO PAY: click the PAY PAL button (below the contact form). You don’t need to have a paypal account.  They will process credit cards too.

Step 1: Fill out this CONTACT FORM:

Name(required)
(required)
Phone(required)

Step 2: TO PAY: Purchase all 6 classes for $150 here

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HERE IS A PDF OF THE SCHEDULE BELOW. PUT THIS SCHEDULE IN YOUR CALENDAR AND PRINT IT SO YOUR DON’T FORGET!

2018_TOMATO GROWING 101 CLASS SCHEDULE

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Review the class schedule:

2018 TOMATO GROWING 101 CLASS SCHEDULE

Section 1
HANDS-ON LEARNING OF HOW TO START TOMATO SEEDS/CARING OF THE YOUNG SEEDLINGS AND TRANSPLANTING UP/PREPARING SOIL IN GARDEN

Class 1 
Sunday, March 25nd—10 am to 12 noon

Learn how and why to plant tomato seeds/how to pick your varieties, what soil medium to use, learn about germination troubles and how to avoid them/hands-on planting your seeds

Class 2
Sunday, April 15th—10 am to 12 noon

Transplanting up to 4” pots/changing the type of soil, adding amendments for great the sturdiest stems, how to deal with transplant shock and learning how to maintain your plants.

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Section 2
LEARN HOW TO TRANSPLANT THE TOMATO PLANTS OUTSIDE IN THE GARDEN /LEARNING ABOUT SOIL AMENDMENTS/TAKING YOUR PLANTS HOME

Class 3
Sunday, May 6th—10 am to 12 noon

Participants will learn how to transplant their tomato plants out in the garden, how to prepare planting hole and what amendments to add when planting for better growth of tomatoes. Discussion and demo of how to use wall-of-waters (WOW) and how to set them up properly. After learning how to do all this, students will take home their plants to be planted in their own garden.

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Section 3
THEY’RE IN THE GROUND, NOW WHAT?
THE NEXT STEPS FOR TOMATO GROWING SUCCESS

Class 4
Sunday, June 3th—10 am to 12 noon

HANDS-ON: Participants will learn how and when to remove wall of waters, how to control leafhoppers, learn about tomato cages-what works and doesn’t work, saving water by mulching and using a drip system, using organic fertilizers, using row cover as protection.

Class 5
Sunday, July 15—10 am to 12 noon

Removing row cover. Trimming and pruning your tomato plants, the pros and cons of sucker control and how to remove them. Learn to make compost tea. Identifying beginning problems, which organic fungicides and insecticides to use as the season goes on if needed.

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Section 4
MAINTAINING YOUR PLANTS-PRUNING TECHNIQUES, IDENTIFYING AND CONTROLLING DISEASES AND PESTS AND HARVESTING

Class 6
Sunday, August 5th—10 am to 12 noon

Participants will continue learning how to maintain their plants, more pruning techniques, harvest techniques, and identify tomato diseases and pests and how to control them organically.