5 VEGETABLE GARDENING TRICKS TO TRY.

I don’t know why not a single one of you stopped me from renting another community plot when I said I was getting an extra one this year.  I now have two 40′ x 20′ garden plots to take care of along with my backyard, front yard vegetable garden and a persnickety half dead succulent in a pot.

For real. What’s wrong with you people?  It’s too much.  Why wouldn’t you say anything?  I also have to plant the vegetable garden I forced my niece to grow last year and my mother’s raised planter.  I’m not sure, but it’s like you aren’t even paying attention.  Seriously.  Why would you do this to me?  Bunch of snarklefarts you are.

At the time of writing this post I’ve managed to plant ONE of my community plots, get my strawberries and asparagus in my second plot and cancelled on planting my niece and mother’s gardens 4 times.  Oh, and my front yard I haven’t even touched yet, so, so much for turning it into the French Countryside Potager garden I envisioned.  At this point it looks like the kind of house you stayed away from as a kid because the person who lived there obviously ate kids. On the upside I think my succulent is almost dead enough to throw out.

There isn’t a lot of growing going on in my main community plot yet but I do have 5 tricks I’m going to use this year that I thought you might like to try too. Even though I really shouldn’t be sharing any fantastic information with you, what with you pretty much ruining my life and all.

THE HOOP HOUSE

hoop-house-2

Suck on that cabbage moths.  If you read my blog you know the cabbage moth and I have a love hate relationship. I hate it and it loves all of the plants that I grow.  Dinosaur kale, cabbages, broccoli, swiss chard … all of it covered by the second week in summer with tiny little green cabbage worms that stand up on their hind legs, look me in the eye and then slam back down into my brassicas mouth first.  It’s not the holes they make in my food, it’s the fact that they’re the exact same colour as it which makes them invisible. So no matter how many times I wash it there’s a good chance they’re still hanging on.

hoop-house

I’ve tried traps, scare tactics, kill crops, everything.  When none of that worked I decided this year I was going all out and building a hoop house to cover all of the my cole crops (also known as brassicas).  I’ll keep you updated on how this experiment goes. I’ve built many hoop houses over the years but never one this big and never for this purpose.  I could just end up trapping in all the other bastard insects like Swede Midge, guaranteeing the death of all my crops, not just cabbage moth holes.

 

GROWING POTATOES IN STRAW

potatoes-in-straw

I’ve grown potatoes in straw before and it was a complete disaster so don’t even ASK me why I’m not only trying it again this year but I’m solely using this method.  It’s a type of straw bale gardening where you don’t use soil to grow, but straw.  You plant your potato in a trench of nice, loose soil and then hill it immediately with 6 inches of straw instead of soil. Then you continue to hill with straw.  The logic is the straw is good for keeping weeds down, keeps the light out that would turn the potatoes green and most importantly makes the potatoes MUCH easier to harvest. You just pull the straw away and don’t need to use a fork or shovel.

Last year I hated digging up my potatoes so much I laid down in the dirt, threw a hissy fit and cried.  Then I ate a kid.

I’ve done my research and potatoes grown in straw DO have a lower yield than potatoes grown in soil BUT you don’t have any potato loss because you can easily find all of them and you aren’t stabbing and injuring any of them with a pitchfork.  To make up for the possible loss in yield I’m just going to plant more potatoes.

Russian-Blue-potato

The most important things for a high yield in potatoes is making sure the soil is cool. Potatoes don’t like hot soil. So I’ll dig a trench as deep into the soil as I can when I first plant them. The deeper down you dig, the cooler the soil which is especially important since I’m planting my potatoes WAY later than I should be so the soil is warmer.

The one problem I had with straw when I originally planted them in straw was the fact that straw really, REALLY holds in moisture.  I had planted them in peach baskets which maybe didn’t drain enough and I really packed the straw in. The vines all just kind of rotted. I was angry.  So I ate a kid.

This time I’ll loosely scatter the straw and I might water the potato beds with soaker hoses that won’t get the straw wet, which should help with that problem.

When did I get so serious?  I’m so serious when I talk about gardening tips.

ESPALIERED TOMATOES

tomato-espalier

This one I’m not convinced will work at all based on how tomatoes grow, but I’m going to try to espalier a few tomatoes along my garden fence just like you’d espalier a fruit tree.  So the tomato will grow flat against a wall or fence with the the lateral branches flat.  They’ll take up less space, get a ton of sun and air flow, and hopefully grow healthy tomatoes less prone to disease.  Although as I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not convinced this will work but I sure am excited to try it.

Wow.  Now I’m not only serious, I’m pretty dorky when talking about vegetable gardening.  If you’re new here, I’m normally more entertaining than this.  I swear.  So please give me another chance.

OMG, now I’m also needy.  This is nuts.

HONEYDEW

honeydew

The circled plants are the Honeydew. The rest of the plants are potatoes I missed digging up last year that are now growing!  Which is why I’m trying the easy dig straw planting method.

This isn’t so much a trick as a test.  I grew cantaloupe years ago in this zone when I was a teenager (because yes I was an unfunny, needy, vegetable dork as far back as then) and as far as I remember it was a success.  So honeydew can’t be that different can it? My little niece that doesn’t like me (although I’m growing on her) wanted to grow cantaloupe so I gave her a section in my garden for cantaloupe and dedicated another section to trying Honeydew. Which everyone knows is much more delicious than cantaloupe.  Also easier to spell.

DELAYED PLANTING

garlic

This is another risky one, but I’m going to have a safety net just in case.  A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to rent huge garden beds like mine. Or they have reliable true friends to talk them out of it. Either way,  they have a regular backyard vegetable garden which only has a certain amount of room and that means having to choose what you really want to grow.   But if you think about it a little bit and time things right you might have a lot more garden space than you think you do.

Lettuce croaks as soon as the weather gets hot so all the room that lettuce was taking will be available for something else that loves the heat.  That means when the lettuce bolts in the middle of June you can take that space to plant your zucchini which will still have plenty of time to grow.  This year I decided I could save a lot of gardening space if I waited to plant my squash until I harvested my garlic. I’d plant the squash in the huge bed I pulled my garlic out of.  I’ll also be planting some squash over in my second garden so I won’t be squashless if this experiment doesn’t work.  But if it does, then I know for next year that I can save a whole lot of space by delaying the planting of my squash.

Yeah, but for real. just to reiterate, I’m normally really entertaining. I mean I once nearly killed my sister I’m so funny.  If I’d thrown in a knock knock joke, she’d be as dead as a head of lettuce in July.

 

111 Comments

  1. Kat says:

    Instead of straw I used fine cedar shavings and cheap small grain mulch for potatoes one year. Worked pretty good.
    It costs more, but the finely shredded “pet bedding” is better than most mulches, at least that we have here ( Georgia).

  2. shawna says:

    Did the espalier tomatoes work?

    • Karen says:

      It did! It worked perfectly. I tried to get photos of it last summer but I espaliered it on a fence and it was just impossible to get a clear shot of it. I’ll try again this year on a more of a solid wall if I can. ~ karen!

      • shawna says:

        Thank you! I will try that this year. Thanks for testing it!
        the clearance sale multiple-apple tree from home depot didn’t make it :( so i will replace it with espalier tomatoes this year while I recover from my disappointment. :(

  3. Fantastic blog! So well written and entertaining too. How did the potatoes grown in straw come out?

  4. Ellen says:

    I’m trying the espalier tomatoes this year, only because I ran out of space in my garden and planting against the fence seemed like the obvious answer. I’m excited to see how it works out.

  5. Garth Wunsch says:

    OK… so I didn’t read your post the second it hit my inbox – please don’t break down on me. but is is a good post. Been gardening for over sixty years – yeah – older than Birch Bark and dirt.
    Potatoes – we’re both really clever. Never tried straw alone, but I do plant on top of the ground, cover with a shovel full of compost and then mulch everything with straw and/or leaves. Once the plants get high enough to need hilling, I add more compost or rotted manure and more straw… then go have an adult drink as there’s nothing more to do until near harvest. As the tops die down, I throw on more mulch to keep the taters from getting sunburn. Some varieties are smarter than others. Kennebec are really dumb… they try their best to stay in the sun. On the other hand, my lovely Nicola babies know enough to stay underground in the shade… mostly anyway. I get about 15:1 yield with this method. Not too shabby.

    Have you ever tried chitting your potatoes – and yes, I spelled that correctly – no chit!

    I’ve got more stuff I could write, but I’m too lazy. But not too too lazy… I also built one of those hoop houses with floating row cover… working well so far, except for the resident slugs, which I have banished with Helix Tosta – a homeopathic garden remedy. HT is ground up toasted snails – I don’t get mad, I get even.

    • Karen says:

      I have chitted Garth! I didn’t need to this year because I had so many seed potatoes there wasn’t any reason for me to try to stretch them. So I plunked them in whole. I’m growing Kennebecs (along with Blue Russian, Chiefton, Russets and something else I can’t remember) so I’ll let you know how they behave. They’re my favourite potato for french fries! ~ karen

      • Garth Wunsch says:

        This was my first attempt at chitting… and I found they leafed out so very quickly. I initially did it to try avoiding the long white sprouts that form in my cold cellar. Not familiar with the idea of “stretching my seed stock”, will have to ask Mr. Google.

  6. Pam'a says:

    I’ll be interested to see how your espaliered tomatoes do. It did occur to me that you might want to pinch off those little shoots that sprout at the intersections of the branches– You probably already know about those “suckers.” They don’t bear fruit and only sap the plant’s energy. Beyond that, I leave it to your superior skills and wish you luck and temperate weather. :)

  7. Kristy says:

    Snarklefart is my new favorite word!

    • Karen says:

      Good! That settles that then. Onto finding a new second favourite word. Might I suggest Fooflebomb. It’s a good one too. ~ karen!

  8. Erin says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with Remay. Love how it protects the plants from insects, hate how it blows, snags, rips and is generally finicky. I’m trying some insect netting over the summer on some of my brassicas. Once they get large enough to survive the flea beetle onslaught, I’m switching from Remay to the insect netting which should cause less heat build up. And less swearing.

    We’re also experimenting with shade cloth on the lettuces to try to extend their harvest. Seeking the elusive July lettuce is probably more realistic here on the Bruce Peninsula. We’ll see.

    Don’t wear yourself out! (Maybe throw some buckwheat in your empty garden spots to out compete the weeds for a few weeks until you can get to them?) It’s a crazy-busy time of year, but we dream about it all winter, eh? Take care.

  9. Shirley says:

    One more thing, Karen. With all the extra space you’re going to have with your second plot this year, please tell me that you’re going to do a hanging gourd archway, so I don’t have to. Enjoying your garden vicariously is working for me …

  10. BaconBleuCheez says:

    Many years ago an old friend told me a tall tale, or maybe it was the truth…he claimed he moved a tiny tomato plant indoors one fall. He espaliered it against an interior window screen in a south facing window, in order to maximize the available sunlight during a long Michigan winter, and kept it pinched back so it wouldn’t get too leggy. When blossoms appeared, he carefully hand pollinated them, and got tomatoes all winter. This alleged feat of horticulture took place before I met the gentleman in question, so I cannot testify to the truthfulness of the story. Still………

    • Karen says:

      OH, it’s probably true. I grew a tomato indoors once. It didn’t do great, lol, but it did get a tomato. Just a cherry tomato but I didn’t go to the trouble of espaliering it against a south facing window etc. etc. I thought I did a post on it but for the life of me I can’t find it! ~ karen

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