August 26, 2013

Double-digging Dividends

The big double dig is paying off! Back in October of 2012, I started a double digging project, inspired by reading John Jeavons' book How To Grow More Vegetables. The goal was to improve the soil in my garden beds and hopefully increase veggie production. It was a lot of work, and even though I knew I wouldn't see the results for many months, I opted to broaden my experiment and double dig several more beds.

Ten months later I can confidently say it was well worth it. The beds I worked using Jeavons' method are paying huge dividends now, in the form of super lush, healthy and productive plants. Take the pepper bed, for example.

Maddie in front of Gourmet pepper plants

This is the same bed pictured mid-dig in the post linked above. My daughter is standing in front of Gourmet variety bell pepper plants that are 5 1/2 feet tall from soil level to the top of the plant. These plants are absolutely loaded with big, beautiful (and tasty!) peppers. This is the third year we've grown this particular variety and never have the plants been this healthy and happy.

I might think it was a fluke except that the chard I planted in this bed in the fall right after double digging also grew ridiculously well and was much more productive and huge than any other chard I've ever grown.

3" chard rib is thick as a brick, literally

It's a lot of work, but I will definitely be double digging more garden beds this fall. I figure if I just do a few each year, eventually I will get the whole garden done. The payoff is just too great not to do it!

August 22, 2013

Blossom End Bumps

Family vacations, volunteer commitments, preparing for an increase in work this school year, and of course lots of garden tasks (!) all have contributed to zero blog posts so far this summer. That's not what I'd planned, but that's the way it is. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to post a very short entry with a picture or two that gives a flavor of summer on the Banyan's End homestead, so that's where I'm going to start. No attempts at long and comprehensive posts (who wants to read those anyway, right?), just a few pictures of interesting stuff happening on the mini farm.

So...take a look at these mutant alien tomatoes I just plucked from my Siletz tomato vine:

Siletz tomato with mini-tomato growths

Siletz tomato past its prime

Kinda creepy, huh? Most of the tomatoes coming off this plant have weird, protruding growths that look like extra tomatoes bursting from within the original. Not all are quite as extreme as the pictures, but even the "normal" looking tomatoes have a teeny hint of a growth. The strangest looking tomatoes are typically hidden deep in the middle of the vine. My theory is that the alien growths start emerging when the fruits are past prime picking time. Because they're hard to spot in the thick foliage of the Siletz plant--which doesn't get pruned because it's a determinate variety--I miss them when harvesting and they stay on the vine way too long.

Siletz is supposed to be tasty, nearly seedless and "one of the most reliable slicing tomatoes you can grow" according to Territorial Seed Company. That hasn't been my experience so far here in Davis, but I'm willing to try again one more year. I did transplant this one a bit later than my other tomato plants, so that could be it. Or, maybe they just do better in Oregon. Anybody else out there tried growing Siletz in the Central Valley?