25 May 2015

Killing frost

The good news is that the 20 greenhouse tomatoes are still going strong

It's a different story out in the barnyard, however. The weather took an unpleasant dip below freezing on Saturday May 23rd, leaving all the tomato plants looking like this at 7.00am:

And by the time the sun had warmed them up, they all looked like this:

This, dear reader, is a dying tomato. Today, all that's left of it is a sad little pile of brown.

I still had a few of my excess plants left, which I've been selling from my mini farm stand at the front of the house. In fact, a woman bought 30 dollars-worth on Saturday afternoon. She's a regular customer, so I couldn't say no, but my heart was breaking a little bit as I saw her leave with 70% of my remaining plants. This left me with just eight to replace the 40-odd I had lost.

I have sown some more, in a spirit of optimism, and have also pinched out side-shoots of some of the greenhouse plants, in the hope that they will root and be useful to fill some of the gaps.

I also discovered a couple of volunteer tomato seedlings growing in the pepper bed, so I have recruited them to the cause as well.

Then I remembered noticing some other stray tomatoes in the front garden: they must have grown from the worm compost I spread there in the spring. Sure enough, there was a respectable crop of baby tomato plants growing in among the flowers there. I dug them up and potted them into a seed tray. At this rate I will soon be over-run with tomato plants again. ;-)

Of course I have no idea what variety these little plants are, but they will all be from last year's fruit, so should all be heirloom types. I can't think of a better argument for growing heirloom plants and for home composting than this!

The frost was forecast - in a rather last-minute way - but the night before was very windy, so putting any sort of protection in place wasn't easy. I managed to cover up the corn and squash plants with plastic, but even with that layer, most of those died, too. They were only sown a week or two ago, so won't be as difficult to replace as the tomato plants.

The brassica plants survived the frost, but even they have suffered some damage - I think the temperature was more like -2°C/28°F than the 0°C/32°F that was (eventually) forecast. Ah well, lesson learned: wait until June to be safe.

16 May 2015

Garden in!

The Victoria Day weekend is the traditional one for putting tender plants in the garden, but I was slightly nervous of doing so when I saw that the temperature was going to drop to 4°C/39°F in the coming week. I went ahead anyway, and the next time I looked at the weather forecast it had changed to 7°C/45°F - so with any luck all will be well.

It's been a madly busy week in the lower vegetable garden, which has only just dried out and warmed up after the cold Spring. There has been a lot of weeding and manuring leading up to the last two days when I've been putting in the tomato, corn, squash and brassica seedlings which had been growing on in the greenhouse. Last year I lost most of the cabbages to rabbits. so this year I'm experimenting with scattering some ground-up dried cayenne peppers around them as a deterrent. 

The tomatoes are all in the ground and surrounded by a mulch of grass-cuttings.

In the much drier upper vegetable garden I'm experimenting with some grain crops this year: barley, oats and wheat. The idea is to become a bit more self-sufficient in grain for the chickens in the future, but I imagine that this year we'll probably just keep any grain we gather as seed for next year.