Uwharrie Farm

  (Asheboro, North Carolina)
Sharing tips and how-to information on growing and preparing delicious and nutritious food.
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Growing Tomatoes: Greenhouse

Sawing wood to heat the greenhouse  Preparing tomato beds      Planting tomato plants 

Heating the greenhouse can be one of the greatest expenses.  Fortunately we have been able to cut the cost by heating the greenhouse with scrap wood collected from local businesses.  Keeping in mind that healthy soil promotes healthy plants we periodically add leaves and compost to our tomato beds to increase soil fertility and soil life.  This year our tomato plants were planted the last week of Feb.and the first week of Mar. with harvest expected to begin in May.

Fertilizing tomato plants  Pollinating tomatoes

    
I use a simple hose end sprayer to fertilize our tomato plants.  Our organic fertilizers do not go through the drip irrigation system as easily as non-organic liquid fertilizers.

Organic Fertilizer Mix    Pour into a 1 quart container:  1/8 cup liquid fish fertilizer (nitrogen), 1/8 cup Biolink 0-5-5 (phosphorous and potassium), 1/8 cup Epsom Salts (magnesium; if you applied dolomitic lime to the planting bed you do not need the epsom salts as dolomitic lime contains magnesium), 1 teaspoon Borax (boron).  Finish filling the jug with water.  This is a concentrate and should be enough for 40 - 50 plants. I place this in a hose end sprayer, attach to the end of my garden hose and water the plants.  The number of times that I fertilize is dependent on existing soil fertility and the availability of soil nutrients.

Some hand pollination is beneficial as the greenhouse environment does not get the benefit of wind and insect pollination that occur outside. 

Potato aphids on tomato plant After planting, yellow sticky cards were placed in the greenhouse to trap pest insects.  Once potato aphids were discovered on the plants I removed the yellow sticky cards and released a parasitic wasp, called Aphidius, to parasitize the aphids.  The yellow cards had to be removed because Aphidius are also drawn to them.  Aphidius Ervi effectively control potato aphids while Aphidius Colemani control Green Peach Aphids.  You can also purchase a mix of Aphidius to control a number of different aphids.  We have used these parasitic wasps to control aphids in the greenhouse for many years.

  

            Uwharrie Farm Tomatoes - 2010 harvest began about mid May

 


 
 

Christmas Harvest

Christmas Harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the week before Christmas and I am harvesting fresh veggies here in central NC.  How fortunate I am.  Collards and Savoy Cabbage have survived well in the garden with temperatures dipping into the low 20's on several occasions.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are producing well in our greenhouse.  One of the cabbages in the photo weighed 6 1/2 pounds with the other one close behind at 5 1/2 pounds.  The larger tomato in the photo, weighing in at over a pound, was about half the size of the one picked a few days earlier that weighed over 2 pounds.

The tomato harvest is about half done, the cabbage harvest is coming to an end and the length of the collard harvest depends on how low night-time temperatures go.  Feeding the wood stove that keeps the tomatoes and cucumbers warm keeps us plenty busy. (No need for a gym membership here).  This week I planted the garlic bed then covered it with a blanket of leaves and compost.  Soon the materials we've collected from the chicken coop and cow pen will become a new compost pile.  Finally, as the new seed catalogs come in, I am reminded of all the winters that I have searched through them, like a child in a candy store, anticipating the delicious treats I would choose to grow in the coming year.  Remember these catalogs are a wealth of information.

Merry Christmas and Happy Gardening in the New Year!

 
 

How to Grow Great Tomatoes

First Prize Tomatoes     Nothing says summer like that first vine ripened tomato from the home garden.  Now is a good time to brush up on your tomato growing techniques.

     Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, lots of vitamin C and many other nutrients.  However, don't be fooled, not all tomatoes are created equal as a test done at USDA Agricultural Research Service in Albany CA illustrates.  When 13 ketchup brands were tested researchers discovered that the organic ketchup contained far more lycopene than the non-organic.  Also as an organic market gardener I can tell you that our customers tell us ours are the best tomatoes at the farmer's market.  Flavor, texture and shelf-life surpass other tomatoes.

     You have heard the saying, you are what you eat.  Similarly tomatoes and other vegetables are what we feed them.  So how do you grow a first rate tomato?  First rule in organic agriculture, feed the soil.  Healthy soil promotes healthy plants which promote healthy people.  Now what type of tomato are you going to put in your healthy soil?  There are a vast number to choose from.

     Look over the seed catalogs and you will find tomatoes of different shapes, sizes and colors.  Other choices include determinate or indeterminate; hybrid or heirloom; early season, mid-season, or late season; and disease resistance.  I suggest you study over seed catalogs to discover what tomato varieties are best suited for your situation and preferences.  You will find a wealth of information in seed catalogs that you will not find by going to your local garden center and buying plants.  Burpee, Tomato Growers Supply, Totally Tomatoes,Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Peaceful Valley are catalogs that I find very useful.   Of all the tomatoes I have trialed over the years First Prize and Health Kick have won out in my situation.  First Prize, an indeterminate tomato, is good for slicing,  has good resistance to disease and nematodes plus it produces an abundance of large delicious tomatoes.  Health Kick, a plum shaped determinate tomato, shows good disease resistance, is very prolific, resist cracking, has more lycopene than other tomatoes and is delicious.  It is perfect for fresh eating and sauces and because it is determinate it is easily trellised with a stake and weave method.

     If at all possible, grow your own transplants.  Prepare a bed or row in your garden that is rich in organic matter and amended with compost.  If the bed or row has not had lime applied in the last 2 or 3 years you should apply 2 cups for each tomato plant and thoroughly mix into the soil.  Lime supplies calcium which helps prevent blossom-end rot.  The planting bed or row should receive 8 hours or more of sunshine each day.  After all danger of frost has past and the soil is warm, plant your plants.  Remember that tomato plants benefit from deep planting with the soil pulled up around the stem.  Additional roots will grow from the stem if it is covered with soil.  Apply mulch (leaves, straw, hay) to the planting area and trellis your plants as they grow.  The mulch helps with weed management and water conservation plus when it decomposes it feeds the soil.  Tomatoes need nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and a very small amount of boron.  I fertilize my tomatoes a couple of times with the following mix:

Organic Fertilizer Mix    Pour into a 1 quart container:  1/8 cup liquid fish fertilizer (nitrogen), 1/8 cup Biolink 0-5-5(phosphorous and potassium), 1/8 cup Epsom Salts (magnesium; if you applied dolomitic lime to the planting bed you do not need the epsom salts as dolomitic lime contains magnesium), 1 teaspoon Borax (boron).  Finish filling the jug with water.  This is a concentrate and should be enough for approximately 40 plants.  Place in a hose end sprayer, attach to the end of your garden hose and water your plants after planting and  again 3-4 weeks later.   Keep in mind that this is a general recommendation.  The amount of fertilizer needed is dependent on existing soil fertility.  

     Keep the soil evenly moist.  Water deficiencies can cause blossom-end rot while too much water or uneven watering can cause cracking.  Summer heat can also cause cracking.  Choosing a crack resistant variety can help with this problem.  Watch for insect pest such as worms and hand-pick them.  In time you should be rewarded with delicious, nutritious vine-ripened tomatoes.

    

 
 

Visit the fall garden and greenhouse

Broccoli    Sweet Potatoes    Savoy Cabbage, Collards, Broccoli

I have begun harvesting broccoli and finished digging all the sweet potatoes.  Mice nibbled on a few of them but left plenty for us.  They will keep all winter in a cool area in our house (55 - 60 degrees).  Never store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator as temperatures below 50 degrees can cause cold injury and rotting.  Savoy cabbage and collards are still growing very well.  The rest of the peppers and neck pumpkins need to be gathered soon.

 

Greenhouse Tomatoes  Pest Control,Yellow Sticky Card  

The greenhouse tomatoes are pollinating very well without my help even though we have had a lot of cloudy days.  No serious pest problems so far.  The yellow sticky cards have caught a variety of insects.  I've seen a few white flies and a few aphids.  We expect ripe tomatoes in the first or second week of November.

After quite a bit of searching I finally found some Chandler Strawberry plants.  They should arrive the middle of next week.  A little later than I usually plant but it should be all right.  Remember its time to clean up the garden, take soil test (see your local extension office), apply lime if needed and plant cover crops.

 
 

The Home Garden, September, 2009 plus Greenhouse Tomatoes

Home Garden Sept. harvest         The summer home garden is winding down and the fall garden is growing well.  In the past week, from our home garden, I have gathered corn, green beans, lima beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.  The October beans will be ready to pick soon followed by pumpkins, collards, cabbage and broccoli.  The collards are sweeter after they have had some frost. I have picked a few worms off the fall plants and the greenhouse tomato plants.  If the numbers increase I will spray the plants with Bacillus Thurningiensis (Bt., brand name Dipel).  The last plantings of tomatoes and corn had a lot of disease and pest problems that are a normal part of late summer, but still produced enough to be worth while.  Over all the garden produced beautifully this year except for the eggplant which finally succumbed to the flea beetles.

     Now it is time to do the ground work for a successful garden next year.  Clean up the garden, plant the cover crops, add the fall leaves and lime if needed (this can be determined by a soil test, see your local extension office).  

DSC_00560173 

     The greenhouse tomato plants that where planted in August are beginning to bloom and should produce ripe tomatoes from November through January.  In the photo on the right the tomatoes are being hand pollinated.  In the outdoor garden tomatoes are pollinated by wind, bees and insects.  To insure better pollination in the greenhouse we hand pollinate or release bumble bees in the greenhouse.  The humid days and damp nights of August and September create an ideal environment for powdery mildew to grow on greenhouse tomato plants, however this year it has not yet become a problem. 

     I have also placed a few cucumber plants in the greenhouse which should provide us with cukes into December, thought I would make more Bread and Butter Pickles.  Though not everyone wants to grow a large crop of greenhouse tomatoes, a small greenhouse makes a great addition to the home garden.  It increases the length of the harvest and enables you to grow your own vegetable plants.

 
 
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