Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vegetable Gardening Frustration and Improvements(?)

So here is my main garden site. Doesn't look like much right now because I got frustrated and pulled everything out! Cherry tomatoes grow great. Tomatoes grow great. Green beans grow great. Peppers grow great and pumpkin grows great. Just not now (except pumpkin). All my tomatoes were cracking. I had great big nice tomatoes for a long time and then when the climate got a little wetter all the problems started. Too dry of weather and things were getting buggy - tomato worms, white fly on the gandules and green beans, and then it got wetter and peppers and tomatoes started to crack. I had nice rows made and then the hard rains washed them flat. I'd go out and make the beds again. They'd wash down again and on and on. I got sick of it and decided I needed a solution. So here is the test bed. I decided to make a raised bed of sorts (not raised much, just one cinder block high) so I can control the moisture better (won't get saturated in big rain and won't crack and get rock hard in dry weather) and keep the beds from washing out. Since there is a little slope I ended up sitting cinder blocks on the down side and digging them in on the upper area so it is all square and level. My hope is that the cinder blocks hold the compost and soil inside. When things get buggy I can make a tent-pole type rig to cover it so it keeps things out! I can also put shade cloth over it for certain crops.

So it kind of looks like a grave right now but in a month it will look very different! I have amended the soil in half of it and double dug the whole thing. I am filling the holes with dirt and planting culantro and other small things in them. A friend has a good composting method - she puts onion skins, banana peels etc in a big zip lock in the freezer and when it is full she dumps it on the pile. I am using mainly weed whacked grass and small twigs with some kitchen waste. I rake after weed whacking to make long rows where I want trails and then I steal the compost from below and move it. I may just make a three-sided bin in my little area if I decide to actively toss it. But right now I just make it and move it on the upper part of the hill! And when the work is done I look out at the odd clouds in the south-east. I dream about getting lettuce to grow and about having tomatoes again. Why did I pull things out? Ah well - I have room for a couple more raised beds in that area and as I work the soil and amend it more I think it will be less frustrating than constantly rebuilding the rows. And luckily it is now the time to grow things - I had nicer vegetables in the winter than summer. Here's to the little seedlings and their new home!


Fran and Steve said...

Hi, Katrina. Yesterday my doctor told me I should never do gardening that required me to be on my knees and twisting, or even digging, due to cervical (neck) spurs that I will have to "manage" for the rest of my life. Bummer, huh. So I started imagining raised beds that I could work from a stool. But now that I read your post, it seems such a high bed might create (lack of) moisture problems in dry weather. I guess irrigation would need to be used. Maybe I could collect rainwater like Nick and Miri for rain water on Oct. 5) and use a drip system. So much to consider when trying to go sustainable! A compost bin is also in our plans, and it's something I've never done (always lived in subdivisions with small yards), so I have a lot to learn about! I had been wondering how your tomatoes did, but was afraid to ask, suspecting the worst from your silence. I will need to do whatever I must to ensure bumper tomato crops, as I seriously cannot live without them! Thanks K & J, your experiences have taught us so much in preparation for retirement in Maunabo. Fran

Anonymous said...

Fran - Cherry tomatoes are the best because you don't wait long for them, you always have some and if bugs come or weather changes you don't lose what you have been watching and waiting for! Google "lasagne gardening" and "square foot gardening" for some make-it-easier ideas. I did a little lasagne gardening when we first got here and it works great because we've got water and heat. katrina

Jamesj24 said...

Wow, I always thought that gardening in the tropics would be paradise. Now I see that it's much harder than in the mid-latitudes. I live about 30 miles east of San Francisco where we have fairly mild winters, and hot, dry summers. I won't complain as much after reading about all the problems you've had. I am thankful that we don't have as many pests as you seem to have there, and we have generally tolerable weather, though a few very hot days in mid-summer with temps above 100. At least we don't have scorpions and fire ants! Have you ever been to the area of moderate temps in the highlands of the Dominican Republic? That area interests me most.