The plants are in, it's time 'watch the garden'
By Farmer Bubba Scott
Hello all ya'll gardeners, farmers and those who eat what we grow. It's been a great week on the farm. Since all of my plants are grown from seed, there's a special joy in eating the first harvest. I had a bit of trouble with my compost early in the season, which sent a lot of my plants to the compost pile. Thanks to my friend Jim, who gave me some really nice tomato plants, the farm was back on schedule. Jim grows without chemicals and poisons and his plants were started from seed, so they fit right in.
Now that everyone has an established garden, it's time to talk about maintaining what you're grow'n. I hope all of you who grow are on a weekly watering routine. I also hope you're staying away from chemical sprays. It's just nice to have a garden take care of itself with us being the helper. Only by spending time in your garden daily, can you see what's happening to the plants. Remember, they can talk. We just have to have the eyes to hear what they say.
Here's some things I do on the farm which might be of help to you. I mulch my containers. This means I use old hay to cover the dirt. This will help keep the top of the dirt moist and slow down evaporation.
BUBBA NOTE: When there's no rain and a lot of sun, evaporation from the soil happens daily. This will not only dry out the soil and leave the plant searching for water -- unless you do deep watering. Deep watering is when you give your garden a good soaking. In containers, when the water runs out the bottom of the container, you know the dirt is well watered. In raised beds and in-ground gardening, you can't see the water at the bottom. You'll just have to do it and get the feel of it. Deep watering should not be done every day.
Now it's time to have a little fun in the garden. Have you ever trained a plant where to grow? Let's use the cucumber as an example. Cucumbers have these little arms that reach out and grab hold of the first thing they touch (photo at top). Each 'arm' sets the direction of the plant's future growth. I direct the cuke vines to grow where they can have the most free space in the garden. This can be done to any vining plant. Tomatoes and squash can go through this Farmer Bubba training school and come out being big produce producers.
Another fun part on the farm is pulling the suckers off the plants and starting new plants. Tomatoes are my favorite. When you see new growth between the leaf and the main stem, it's a sucker. In other words, it's a new plant. When it gets about 3" to 8" long, I pull it off and plantsport it to a 4" moist container. It'll look a little droopy at first, but it'll start making new roots before long, and soon I have a new plant. WOW! Is that cool or what? These suckers (right) are on pepper plants and corn.
BUBBA NOTE: Why get rid of the suckers you may ask? Suckers always start out at the bottom of the plant. These are new plants and will try and produce blooms and fruit. When suckers produce blooms and set fruit, the fruit will be smaller in size and "suck" away the energy needed by the main plant to produce fruit.This is not what you want. Say you have a cherry tomato plant. Each sucker that is growing on that plant is a new cherry tomato plant. These new plants will limit the amount of produce you'll get from the main plant.
If you haven't had any rain in a while and the larger animals are eating your garden, they're probably look'n for water. And plants hold a lot of water. Go some place away from your garden and put out a water trough for thirsty animals. This will keep them out of your garden. Critters have enough to eat in their own world.
The most fun I have is spending time on the farm and in the garden. There's just something about being in a world where I have limited control, but always ready to assist my plant partners. For example when I mulch a plant, I can see a difference the next day. My plants know the water will always be around until the next watering and the little root family can stay cool and happy
Pulling the suckers off and starting new plants is a like going from the nursery to the garden and back to the nursery again. And when it's time to take the tomato that created the sucker to the compost pile, before I take out the old plant, I plantsport the new tomato into the same container. As if the plant is saying, "Your shift is over, I'm your replacement. See ya later."
My way of farming and gardening isn't to make the animal and plant world fit my needs. It's me who has to make the adjustment into theirs. Make your visits to your garden daily and remember this: Grow only as much as you can take care of. When you get frustrated, learn from your mistakes, ask questions and keep grow'n.
- From the desk, on Farmer Bubba's Farm, Aloha.
Do you have a gardening question for Farmer Bubba or a photo of your garden you would like to share? Email Bubba or add your question in the comment window below, and Bubba will try to reply as quickly as possible.