It's that time of the season when so much is happening here on the farm, as well as in many backyard gardens, that it's hard to keep up with it all.
Both literally and figuratively, the list of things that need to be tended to seems to be peaking to maximum length.
The sun rises early, and it sets very late, providing ample time to get lost in the garden. Nearly all of our garden plants love this time of year, the annuals, the fruit-bearing perennials, trees and strawberries alike, bursts of growth seem to be all around. Seeds sprout quicker, both sown in a tray or planted directly in the ground. Lawns and grazing pastures persist with growth spurts, resulting in yard mowing being a regular weekend task.
The longer the day, the more to do in the garden. Don't get overwhelmed, get organized. Don't work harder, work smarter.
This year summer arrived with showers accumulating several inches. The rain will assist gardeners regarding irrigation responsibilities, it will also inhibit efficient weeding. Take a moment not only to prioritize your list, but also identify one-time-only and ongoing tasks, and those that can be done rain or shine.
A current example of a highly prioritized task here at Ocean Air Farms is the trellising of the tomatoes. It holds top rankings on all of our lists and sublists and most of the work is rain-friendly since the vast majority of our tomato crop is grown in our greenhouses.
Whether your tomatoes are grown indoors or outdoors, the benefits of trellising are suitable for either situation. There are a variety of trellises that can be constructed, or purchased, like prebuilt cages, lattice fences or plastic webbed fence. Each has pros and cons.
Installing the trellis is a task that happens only once a growing season. We choose to use wire to run "clothes lines" above each row of tomatoes planted. We then use baling twine (an abundant by-product collected here on the farm,) to dangle two strings above every plant.
The ongoing trellis maintenance is comprised of "trimming" and "training." Both steps are relatively urgent as the plants are prone to snap without support for the rapid weight and height gain occuring during these long warm days of summer.
Train your plants to use the support in which you are trying to provide for them. Sometimes the plants will do this naturally (as seen often with pea tendrils climbing on whatever they can cling to) other times, a little encouragement is needed. We carefully twist a trellis twine around the base of each and every individual plant. We then identify two main runners, and carefully twist the twines around them. As the plant grows, we keep twisting these two main runners (or "branches") around the twine.
Once you've identified what parts of the plant you want to keep and train, you can then trim off all other runners that you didn't choose as either of your two main runners. Additonally trim off what we view as "excess green foliage." This includes leafs that are touching the ground, leafs that are jumbled together, and leafs that have yellow blue/ black/purplish spotting (potential blight indicator).
Actively keeping the excess green plant mass to a minimal, allows for maximum air flow which helps delay the inevitable onslaught of blight. Blight is known to bring an extra-early death to tomato plants. Blight is common in cool, moist coastal areas, but can also be prevalent in warm, muggy conditions sometimes associated with inland environments and or indoor environments. If your tomatoes are indoors like ours, you can take some simple additional measures to increase air flow by opening your greenhouse doors, and or windows, or adding a fan or more sophisticated ventilation system.
Never leave your clippings behind, always pack them out, place in "green waste" containers, or better yet place in your compost pile.
Allow some greens to stay on the plant, as plants' leaves play an important roll in photosynthesis. Leaves are like solar panels, collecting sunlight and converting it into energy the plant needs to grow. Remember to allow some of the flowers to stay too, as they are what will make the actual tomato, which is what all this extra love and care is for.
Life is busy, fill it with beauty and passion like garden time, gathered meals with friends and family, and festivities like the upcoming Fourth of July parade. Come cheer for us in the parade and find us at the new Front Street Wednesday Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Take the time to organize. Update your list, rewrite your list, take the time to do these things to maximize your efficiency or low and behold you'll end up with an overgrown garden filled with weeds, grossly overgrown zucchinis, and out of control grass yards that habitat some of our most dreaded pests, slugs and snails. It's always a process, don't give up, some things are better late than never.
Del Norte Gardening runs monthly. Paul Madeira and Julie Jo Ayer Williams own Ocean Air Farms in Fort Dick. Have a question or suggestion? Email it to ocean firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be addressed in a future column.