Bloomin' Maters and other matters

I noticed today when I was checking the garden that I have a few blossoms on some tomato plants . The cherry toms have more than the rest , but a few on my Mortgage Lifters , and looks like the Beefsteaks are about to . One Roma has some , but the San Marzano's are still just puttering along . I did a little experiment a couple of weeks ago , the SM's were getting yellowed lower leaves and some leaves had brown spots. On the advice of the county extension service I used just a little triple 13 on 8 of them , about a teaspoon per plant spread in a circle about a foot in diameter and worked into the soil . Those plants are doing really well while the rest are ,,, well , not . So yesterday I did the rest of them . All the tomatoes , and did the squashes/vine stuff to boot . I had already done the strawberry patch several weeks ago , and I think that's why they're doing so well . I know a lot of folks here don't like any kind of chemical fertilizers , but the soil is in serious need of something , and it takes time to incorporate organic material . Topsoil here is thin and apparently poorer than I thought - its mostly silt , clay , and rocks . I also have read that some here think 13/13/13 kills earthworms , well the woman that runs the nursery I buy at disagrees and she has a degree in horticulture . I'm still not using any kind of insecticide and no glyphosate or pre-emergents , but that's as much because of the bees <4 hives now> as it is because I don't want it in my food supply .
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Snag



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Terry Coombs wrote:

[long ramble zone ahead :) ]
poor soils take time to improve, be patient.
level the area so your nutrients and organic matter are not being leached or stripped by rains.
being in a warmer climate means it is harder to keep soil organic content levels.
at first i didn't know what you meant by triple 13 but figured it out eventually.
self shaded leaves fading may not be a sign of anything other than natural growth and processes within the plant.
generally adding N will use up your soil organic content faster. which is opposite of what you likely want in a poor soil.
clay and silt are two of the three components of good soil, sand helps too, but also as much organic material that you can scrounge or grow. my preferences are for weed seed free materials like leaves, shredded bark, stuff you can dig up and bury (sod is excellent when buried deep enough that it won't regrow).
i have several areas of high clay content to contend with and many gardens based upon that high clay subsoil. my more formal veggie gardens are treated differently than some other spaces (which are much larger and are used for growing green manure and other things). for the veggie gardens where i know i will be planting the heaviest feeders i keep worm bins all year so they are generating recharged nutrient laden garden soil for me (just happened to add to the following page the other day):
http://www.anthive.com/taters/taters.html
when i've used worm castings and worms in conjunction with some green manure (alfalfa, trefoil) i've never had any yellowing of the lower leaves until the plants get higher to self shade. the first foot or more of the plant gets buried so the roots can come out from the nodes along the stem anyways. using this method, even in the poorest garden soil to start with i've been fairly consistently getting 20-40lbs of tomatoes per beefsteak plant (averaged across the whole plantings as individual plants do vary). no idea how that applies to your San Marzanos. :) never heard of them before.
after the first season heavy feeders are done then that same space gets rotated through two or more crops again before more worms/castings are put in there. i might top feed with green manure choppings, but usually i don't, i might also dig and bury in other extra organic materials if they become available, but that's never a sure thing either. the follow on crops are usually beans, peas, beets, onions, peppers or garlic.
i'm not seeing any nutrient deficiencies so far. i'm seeing a nice steady long term trend of improving soils in every garden i've been working on. adding scrounged organic materials really has helped the most. fireplace ashes i've used too in some gardens and they seem to help lighten the clay soil but i make sure to do it in conjunction with adding more organic materials. one garden of subsoil clay i added 2 cu yards of leaves/twigs/yard debris and 20 buckets of ashes - it was chock full of worms when i weeded parts of it a few days ago. i'm not sure where the worms came from as there weren't that many in there when we went through it last fall (trying to clear it of sow thistle, may be a few years yet before we get all the pieces of them out of there).
another large area behind it is a green manure patch that was the same quality heavy clay, a little sand, compacted and poor ability to sustain even weeds/grasses. several years ago after seeing how it went for the previous five years i'd decided to level it (to stop a gully that was forming, but that water running off was also taking away any organic material). i tilled it shallow enough that i could level it and then planted two legumes (alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil) and then it took about two years to get that patch established and productive for green manure that i could use for the other gardens as needed (and the worm bins too). before it barely supported spindly growths of grasses even the fairly aggressive ditch grass that i have to fight back as i don't want it to take over. now when grasses grow in there they are coming in pretty thick and the ditch grass is using all those worm tunnels to threaten take over. oops. :)
the patch generates enough green manure that i can chop and leave a lot of it behind and still feed the other gardens and the worms keep breaking it down. the whole area would probably respond very well to a layer of shredded bark or wood chips too, but i don't have that much available at the moment. i can however seed in more variety and i'm doing that starting last year with turnips and radishes and this year some turnips survived and are reseeding themselves. also strawberries. i think they'll make a great companion plant along with the fact that the strawberries generate so much extra growth after a year or two that they can be a source of extra organic matter. carrots and fennel i'll try any extra seeds i have from those to see what happens. peas and beans i also usually have extras to scatter around. the alfalfa and trefoil space themselves out. the extra spaces in between are nice spots to work in other plantings if they'll work.
songbird
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