learning the hard way

This year was my first attempt at vegetable gardening and I have learned some lessons the hard way.
1. Tomato cages are only good in theory. I went with 6' tomato cages because I live in Texas and wanted as much foliage to grow as possible to shade the fruit. Yesterday, my 8.5' tall tomato plants fell to the ground because the cages wouldn't support them anymore. Next year I will get out the table saw and the brad nailer, buy some fence boards, and make some super-sturdy 8' teepee trellises to hold them up. My solution this year was to drive some cedar spikes in to give the cages some support, then hack back the tops of the tomatos. I will maintain them at 6 feet this year.
2. People plant in rows for a reson. I planted my tomatos in a 4-3-3 cluster for aethetic as well as shade reasons. However, it makes picking the fruit a bitch. Also, the ones in the middle aren't making it. This is fine because of the next point...
3. Plants yield more than you think. Our household is just me and my wife. 10 tomato plants are WAY too much. Luckily I know how to make sauce and salsa and I know how to can. The neighbors and co-workers are loving me, though.
4. Cucumbers keep growing and growing and growing. And growing, and growing. I'll have to learn to pickle, but these would be big-ass pickles. 10-12 inches long or so.
5. Cilantro, yes. Lettuce, no. Home grown cilantro is great here. I think it is too hot for the lettuce. It was bitter, so I yanked it.
6. Don't underestimate bermuda grass. Next year, I'll use a pre-emergent and put down newspaper. This year, its hoe, hoe, hoe. But, I don't wear a big red suit. Nor do I have reindeer.
7. Don't wait to put down the soaker hose. I don't have room to manuver and put it down now, so its overhead watering.
8. Pick just before red, don't wait. They will ripen in the kitchen, but something will eat them if they get too red on the vine. I just wish whatever animal that is having them would finish the job before taking a bite out of the next. (Every tomato that goes fully ripe is getting one 1" bite taken out of it)
9. There is no shame in planting from seedlings. Our seed planting did not turn out so good. Only the cukes and cilantro came up well. I'm sure I could do the research and get better results, but one step at a time. Maybe I'll build a greenhouse "wing" onto the shed I'm building for doing seedlings.
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In our last fun filled episode, 15 Jul 2004 09:11:14 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@kreusch.com (Jay) proclaimed:

Two words: Winter Greens.
I plant lettuce and spinach in January and pull it up before the end of May, and I;m further north then you. I'm in SC.
Penelope, same goes for dill iffen you want weed and not seed.
--
"Maybe you'd like to ask the Wizard for a heart."
"ElissaAnn" < snipped-for-privacy@everybodycansing.com>
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| This year was my first attempt at vegetable gardening and I have | learned some lessons the hard way. | | 1. Tomato cages are only good in theory. I went with 6' tomato cages | because I live in Texas and wanted as much foliage to grow as possible | to shade the fruit. Yesterday, my 8.5' tall tomato plants fell to the | ground because the cages wouldn't support them anymore. Next year I | will get out the table saw and the brad nailer, buy some fence boards, | and make some super-sturdy 8' teepee trellises to hold them up. My | solution this year was to drive some cedar spikes in to give the cages | some support, then hack back the tops of the tomatos. I will maintain | them at 6 feet this year.
You can throw up your teepee around the cages this year. This is the technique I use. Cages provide good early support, then when the plants outgrow them, the vines can be ties to the teepees.
| 2. People plant in rows for a reson. I planted my tomatos in a 4-3-3 | cluster for aethetic as well as shade reasons. However, it makes | picking the fruit a bitch. Also, the ones in the middle aren't making | it. This is fine because of the next point...
Try planting in a two across in a wide row where the plants are staggered on 30" centers.
| 4. Cucumbers keep growing and growing and growing. And growing, and | growing. I'll have to learn to pickle, but these would be big-ass | pickles. 10-12 inches long or so.
Cukes that size may be over-ripe. If you see well-formed seeds when you cut them, pick 'em sooner.
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These are merely my suggestions, do with them what you will
Jay wrote:

Tomato cages can be suspect with large tomatoes but you can stiffen them, as you did, with a single stake which saves the construction. We dont use cages, we use two stakes with a short stretch of 5' woven wire inbetween and grow 6 plants, 3 on each side.

Esthetic gardening often times interfers with production. Though it is not always the case it is most often true.

This isnt necessarily true if you start canning. When you can you usually want enough for a batch or two which may mean you need a LOT of ripe tomatoes at once. Sometimes ten plants wont always yeild enough ripe tomatoes to can in a single harvest.

Picked too late. Again, same as above, if you want to can small to medium pickles you may actually have to put MORE plants in the ground to allow for harvesting enough young, small, cukes to make a batch to can.

Plant lettuce earlier, and then late in the fall. You will enjoy lots of good lettuce.

Planting from starts is what 90% of home gardeners do. To try grow all your own plants from seed would be a major endeavor for most gardeners. Starting a few plants is always fun but as you say, there should be, and is, no shame in buying starts.
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@kreusch.com (Jay) wrote in message

If I lived in Texas, I would start planting lettuce in september and I would continue planting it until march. Temps in the 60s are ideal for lettuce growth. Many greens that I grow would make it through your winter without cover.
Also, put down those newpapers a few years in a row, and you will see that bermuda grass will be strongly reduced. And yes, I grow everything from seed except some greens. It is not so difficult, in time you become more efficient, and seedlings are just what you need if you have to plant through newspapers.
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On 15 Jul 2004 09:11:14 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@kreusch.com (Jay) wrote:

Often seems as if that's the *only* way with gardening. :-) But these are the lessons that stick. I *still* find it hard to believe a frail 5" tomato plant will require 6' industrial-strength support and 10 square feet of ground space come July. As for cucumbers, just be glad they aren't zucchini!
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(Jay) wrote:

plus, it is hardly "the hard way" - too big plants, too many tomatoes, etc. the hard way is zucchini with rotten stems, bean plants covered by a cloud of mexican beetles, groundhog breakins, obsessing about chipmunks, wilted pitiful yellow things throughout the garden, rootbound cabbage plants which have not grown an inch in six months, armpit-high weeds, broccoli skeletonized by worms and slugs. etcetera. can you relate?
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On 15 Jul 2004 09:11:14 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@kreusch.com (Jay) wrote:

The only thing I didn't see was a reference to zucchini the size of bombs and still expanding. Do try some next year...
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