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 .
[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
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):
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.
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