Gumboot Adventures

gowing and growing green

Picking and Pinching August 14, 2011

 

Tomatoes Ripening

Tomatoes Ripening

It’s the time of year when a lot of the work in the garden is either pinching or picking.  To increase production, plants need to be pinched. To maintain continuous production, other plants need to picked regularly. The practice of pinching sends the energy to the fruit, increasing the likelyhood of nice, big, ripe fruit and vegetables. Our tomatoes have been especially needy in the pinching department as they struggle to produce ripe fruit amidst a short growing season and the constant threat of blight.

PINCHING

Tomatoes  – Tomatoes can be pinched in a couple of ways. (1) Once flowering starts, pinch the tops to stunt growth and send energy to fruit production. (2) Especially in wet climates, pinch the lower leaves to prevent the onset of blight. (3) Once fruit production begins in earnest, thin out leaves to send energy to the fruit and to allow the sun to reach and ripen the fruit.

Squash & Pumpkins – If size matters, pinch all but a few flowers to get big, lovely pumpkins and other squashes. If space matters, trim back the vines, unless you’ve trained them up.  Squash flowers are edible and make a nice colourful addition to salad.

Strawberry – Trim back those runners! Strawberry plants should be replaced about every four years. Unless it’s replacement time, trim back the runners to direct the energy to the plant, and to allow enough space for the existing plants to produce well.

PICKING

Peas – Peas require continual picking to keep up their production. In August, the novelty of the peas can wear off as other vegetables come into season. Don’t let the peas become the neglected plant in the corner. Continued love will be rewarded with long lasting production and fresh peas for salad, stews and pesto well into the summer.

Brocoli – Quick, before it flowers! Any remaining brocoli needs to be picked now before it flowers. Leave the plants for a second set of heads ready for harvest later in the fall.

Leafy Greens – Picking a few leaves from each head of lettuce and from the kale, chard, and spinach is key to preventing to bolting and to enjoying fresh sweet salads all summer long.

Advertisements
 

Strawberry Beds and Buttercup Weeds May 20, 2011

Strawberry Flower

Strawberry flowers are blooming.  It fills me with hope for a summer of bounty.  It’s also a call to action!

Our house came complete with the most deliciously sweet strawberries.  Truly.  It also came complete with buttercup. For those of you who don’t know, buttercup is an incredibly invasive weed that makes pretty little yellow flowers, is almost indestructible and mildly poisonous. As an aside, in our first garden years ago, I planted buttercup on purpose after finding it in our front garden and thinking that the yellow flowers would add colour to the back.  I should write and apologize to the current owners of that home.  Regardless, we’ve been here almost a year now, and for that time, the strawberries and the buttercup have shared a bed. No more.

We’ve started anew, so to speak, creating a new strawberry bed and hoping for increased yields with all that root space to themselves.  Strawberries require healthy soil and lots of light. They love the sun and heat, and also enjoy being planted near onions. Strawberries shouldn’t be planted where previous strawberry beds have been, as rotten roots left decomposing can pass disease to the productive plants.

Since we’ve no shortage of strawberry, I’ve actually created a proper bed in the back (following the steps outlined below) and also transplanted some plants to the front yard – where they occupy a sunny patch in our newly converted grass-free yard.  As with all plants, it’s nice to try them in a few places and see where they thrive.

Strawberry Bed Before

Here are the steps taken to create a “proper” strawberry bed:

Step 1: Remove Weeds – in our case, Buttercup

Tedious work! I dug deep and loosed the roots, separating the strawberries from the darker buttercup roots. Buttercup is bagged and sent to the city green waste – no way that horrible little weed is setting root in my compost.

Step 2: Separate Runners

Strawberry runners are clipped and separated from the main plant.  Strawberry plants are generally productive for about five years.  With plants younger than this, remove the runners to send the energy towards fruit production instead of reproduction.  With older plants in need of replacing, allow the runner to take root, then remove the parent plant. In our case, we opted for a combination of the two and saved some mature plants, while also setting up for a good yield next year with younger plants.  If you’re starting from scratch, save the trip to the garden store and instead opt for a friend’s clipped runners.

Step 3: Build Raised beds

Raised beds provide an optimal growing environment.  To maximize strawberry yield, set a raised bed in a hot, sunny location and fill with garden soil.

Strawberry Bed After

Step 4: Plant

We follow biodynamic gardening principles which means – among other things – that plants are grown on mounds, spaced more closely than traditional gardening methods and are planted in combination with beneficial companions.  Our strawberry bed has a lovely chive plant  and will have a few daffodils near the edges when I get there.  Plants are spaced about 1 ft apart, in staggered (offset) spacing.

Step 5: Pinch flowers – sad I know!

The first year of plant’s its flowers should be removed so as to divert all the energy towards plant growth and health, instead of fruit production.  Which means, no fruit year one. But lots of really fabulous fruit thereafter.  Since our strawberries patch is a combination of mature plants being transplanted and new runners, I’ve pinched the flowers on half the plants and am letting the other half produce. Also, if I pinched all the flowers  my kids would think I was a complete failure when they had no strawberries this summer, and I couldn’t have that.

All in all, strawberries are a relatively simple fruit to care for and the reward is oh-so-sweet.  Here’s hoping the blasted buttercup can be kept at bay!

 

 
%d bloggers like this: