Trying again

tigerdawn(7)February 2, 2013

After last year I didn't think I'd ever try a garden again- at least not vegetables. But the problem with that is the gardener's optimism. The hope that this year will be better. So here I go again.

Last year the tomatoes in the ground did ok, but the ones in the big tubs burned up. I tried eggplant and peppers and they both did poorly in the tubs. So this year I'm scrapping the tubs and trying the ground. Tomorrow I'm going to work on cleaning out the old vegetable bed. It still has asparagus in it but the rest is weeds. Ugh.

I'm going to make a hoop house over part of the bed and first I'll put spinach and peas in there and later some squash. Basically, I'm planning for no rain and really hot temps like last year. The other part of the bed will be for some lettuce first, then okra and whatever follows me home from the Fling.

I was trying to think of ways to conserve water. I feel like if I water one part of the gound, it just spreads out over the whole yard. I have about 2 or 3 feet of gorgeous alluvial loam on top of pure clay. So I thought maybe I could put a 2-3 foot barrier in the soil around the bed to keep the water in. I was thinking sheet metal. If you think of reasons that this is a bad idea, please tell me bcause I don't want to put in all that work for nothing. That's how I feel about most of my gardening anyway.

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Tiger, if I had 2 or 3 feet of good soil I would think I was in heaven. I personally would not want metal that deep in the ground, especially accounting for all the labor and cost of getting it there. I cant even drive a "T" post that deep into my ground. If I dont over water I can keep my plant looking pretty well and the grass not far away will be brown as toast. I know I loose some water from bleed off and evaporation, but I think you can control a lot of that with drip irrigation and mulch.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 10:44PM
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TigerDawn, I have some extra zucchetta seeds. Last year I was watching the vines and thought they might make a pretty good "ground shade" around other plants. You would have to stay right on top of them to make sure they didn't swallow up the other plant! They way outperformed my expectations, even in all the heat.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 12:49AM
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Hey, TigerDawn, I'm glad to see you back in the midst of things again!

I don't think anyone's gardens did very well last year. But, Larry, is very humble about his garden. He has posted pictures of the most beautiful veggies and his gardens here, and I, for one, am not falling for his "I can keep my garden looking 'pretty well' statement because they were gorgeous! Hear that, Larry, not falling for it.....

My tomatos in containers did reasonably well under the environmental conditions we dealt with last year. I did prune mine back around July and they bounced back fairly well from the pruning and continued to produce until frost. I had the worst case of spider mites on them, though. But, the spider mites thrive in dry, hot weather conditions. Most of my production did occur early summer, and the plants slowed down considerably from then until fall. I watered every other day, containers that were between 15 gal. to 30 gal. The smaller ones had to be watered daily. Some of my ornamentals, the heat-loving, xeric ones, did exceptionally well last summer, but those that needed more water and definitely cooler temps, struggled.

I had a great early and late butterfly season, with an influx of Variegated Fritillaries and Red Admirals, and lots of egg-laying going on. From late June thru about late July, virtually nothing because they dispersed to fly North during the heat. From late July on, I had tons and tons of Gulf Fritillaries until, and this is a record, the 1st week of December. Never had them that late before.

So, some parts of gardening were great and some not so great last year. But, that's kind of the way it goes for me anyway. In a wet year, I'd probably see the reverse of the above analysis. With the dry, hot summer I had virtually no cracking or splitting on my tomato fruits, and no BER either, altho I think the BER issues have to do more with my watering techniques than Mother Natures.

Yes, gardeners are a perservering bunch of masochists. We come back yearly with high hopes, and a new set of cultural issues as well. Last year was also not so good in terms of bugs. I mentioned the spider mites, but I had yee-gads of spotted cucumber beetles that arrived in late August, too, and some new bugs and beetles I had never seen before. One was a damsel bug in the genus Zelus that I frequently found sitting on the tops of flowers, etc, (they are considered Ambush bugs as well), where they waited for prey, like butterflies and caterpillars to offer themselves up for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack.

We always hope for a better year, and for that reason we keep on trucking. I hope everyone has a better year!


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:53AM
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Welcome back Tigerdawn.
I too had a bad year with tomatoes. I had my canning jars lined up ready to go and I think I got about 4or5 small tomatoes.
This year I am changing things as well and going a little smaller. Hope you have a great year. I have learned what does not work so I am ready for what does work.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I don't know if the sheet metal would be effective. Moisture is lost from the soil not just by the way that it wicks away into drier adjacent soil but also by evaporation and the evaporation rates have been very high the last two summers. I can literally see the water level in the lily pond drop daily and the water level has dropped faster the last two summers than I've ever seen it drop before.

I would think that drip irrigation lines laid under a thick mulch would keep the moisture in the ground just as well as using sheet metal to try to stop the water from wicking out into the drier adjacent areas that aren't being watered as much.

If you decide to do the sheet metal, remember to call and have them come mark all the underground waterlines, gaslines, any buried electrical lines, etc. before you start digging that deeply. That seems like a no-brainer, but lots of people forget to do it and it can lead to disaster.

On the subject of tomato grown in containers, I am not sure why yours burnt up. I've been growing container tomatoes for many years and my tomato plants in tubs do well despite the heat as long as I keep them well watered. In the worst summer weather that might mean watering them in the morning and then again in the evening. I also place them carefully so they get sun until around noon-1 p.m. and shade after that. I have found they are much happier with less sun than you'd think. Full-day sun from sunup to sundown in July and August, especially in 2011 and 2012, is just too hard on the container plantings and is not necessary. Tomato plants produce just fine on 6 or 7 hours of sun in our climate. I do use a moisture control mix that helps the soil hold moisture and I often add Black Kow cow manure to the mix to improve it even more. I also put the containers as far away as possible from anything like the concrete patio or driveway that would reflect heat and light back onto the containers, and mulch them well. I wouldn't completely give up on the idea of container growing. It took me years of tweaking the soil mix and placement of the pots to find the right combination of conditions that made the tomatoes happiest. My container tomatoes will slow down in production in late July and in August but as long as I keep them well watered and happy, they kick back into production when the temperatures cool. This year, container tomatoes that were put in puts in February produced until mid-autumn and others that were put into containers in March and April, and then were moved into the greenhouse in November, produced until December, so it clearly is possible. One advantage of containers is that when the heat is being brutally hard on the plants, you can move them into deeper shade to get them through the hot spell.

I am planning for the same sort of summer you're planning for, by the way. I don't know if any of us will remember how to garden in a normal rainier year if we ever have one of those again.

I hope this year is better for you. Notwithstanding the fact that some spring crops didn't produce well because it got too hot too early, I had a great garden year. Only the mid-season and late--season corn was really disappointing, as were the sugar snap peas. Everything else that didn't produce well in spring or summer did very well in the fall. That's one advantage of gardening in Oklahoma---our very long growing season gives us a second chance with most crops in the fall. The way the springs are heating up so fast so early these last few years, we need that second chance in the fall. On the other hand, when spring warms up very quickly, we can get the warm-season crops in the ground earlier. We just have to be flexible and be willing to push hard to take advantage of whatever weather conditions we get.

I feel like our children and grandchildren will look back at the first decade or two of the 2000s and will reflect that those years were very similar to the drought-plagued decades that our parents and grandparents endured in the 1930s and 1950s. I wasn't born until 1959 so clearly have no memories of those decades, but from everything older family members have said and from what I've read, I believe our weather pattern these last few years is similar to what they endured in those decades.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:15AM
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Thank you everyone for the encouragement. I will try without the metal this year. I have lots of soaker hoses and Sam's has 100' for $13 right now so I can really go crazy if I need to. Sam's also has 65 gallon rain barrels for $80. I got one last year and it is great. It's the best deal I've found.

The veggie bed is situated where it should get some shade on the part that isn't covered by the fabric. There's a pecan tree and a peach tree to the west and southwest. I think I may put the okra on the east side so it shades the tomatoes, etc. in the morning. That way the'll get sun from about 10-4 and part shade the rest of the day. If it gets to be extreme, I can put up some shade cloth with some t-posts I have laying around.

Lisa, I would love some zuchetta. I was envious of your harvest last year. I'll have to look through the archives for recipes.

Last fall I put lots of preemergent in the bed. There are a few cool season weeds in there now but it is mostly dead crabgrass clumps. I hope to get it all cleaned out today and then add more preemergent. I'm going to start everything inside so it won't be a problem.

So, on the hoop house, do you just put rebar in the ground to hold the pvc in place? Will a 2x4 hold the edges down enough that the SVBs don't get in? Do I use 10' or 20' pvc? What diameter? I suppose there's an old thread or a website I should look up.

Also, are there any other desert vegetables that might do well for me? I'm planning to put sweet potatoes in one of the front beds and swiss chard in another. They have both done well for me in the past. And DH likes the chard! DH, who hates almost every vegetable!

Ok, enough procrastinating...

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Tiger, the inside of a 1/2" sch. 40 PVC is a around 5/8",the inside of 1/2" EMT is around 9/16". A 1/2"(#4) rebar is a little over 1/2" and will fit into both PVC and EMT.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 2:28PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Sun from 10 am to 4 pm should be good for them. That's really all they need. The plants I have in part shade always seem less stressed than the ones in full sun.

There are various ways to hold down the edges of the cloth to exclude the SVBs. You can use 2x4 lumber, rebar (it is nice and heavy and so small in diameter you barely notice it is there), or old metal fence posts if you have any lying around. Just be sure you level the ground nice and flat so theSVBs cannot crawl underneath whatever you use to hold down the cloth.

To hold the PVC in place, you can use rebar. That's a pretty common way to do it. Some people use some sort of clamp attached to the wooden sides of the base of the hoophouse. They attach the clamp to the wood and slide the PVC through the clamp and tighten it. I imagine either one would way would work equally well.

Hmmm. For other desert vegetables, you could try anything typically grown in hot climates like moth beans, bitter gourd, yard-long bean, etc. but mostly in hot climates they attempt to grow the same things that we attempt to grow--tomatoes, peppers, okra, summer and winter squash, southern peas, melons....

In climates hotter than ours that have a mild winter, they often grow their cool-season veggies in fall thru early spring and their warm-season veggies in winter thru spring. In some climates there is not a lot that you would attempt to grow in summer. They just plant at different times of the year depending on what their winter time lows are like and depending on when their real heat sets in.

You also could try specific varieties from hot climate areas, like the tomatoes Wuhib (from Ethiopia) and Heidi (from Cameroon), or the shell bean Kebarika, also from Africa. Lisa at Amishland Seeds has a nice selection of tomatoes from Africa.

You also can find varieties at Native Seed/SEARCH that are adapted to the heat, but you have to research every variety before you buy it because some of them are adapted to high altitude areas with cool nights and because some of them only begin to produce after daylength reaches a certain point.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:59PM
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I'll put your name on a packet :) Maybe I can bring them to you at Spring Fling...or we can meet up somewhere.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:25AM
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