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18 April, 2014

Tomato Attack!

Burbank Slicer Tomatoes
F3 Generation 

Sorry that the picture is not more clear - you are looking at some three tomato plants ripped from the ground with only some of their roots left.  More than a dozen of my little Burbank Slicer Tomatoes were yanked from their homes sometime in the evening or night. It was a bird, and I'll bet the culprit was a crow because this is typical of crow damage.  

When I discovered the crime, seeing that most of the pulled-up seedlings still had roots, I made a hole in some of the empties and stuck the tomatoes back in. You and I both know that tomatoes really are just weeds and there was no reason that they couldn't take a little uprooting episode and still survive.  I hard started with about 50 plants and now I'm down to about 35 at this point (a large number of the seedlings were nowhere to be found and I had already given a few plants away).  

I will make some of these available to SLOLA members tomorrow if they promise to bring back the seeds of the largest tomato of each plant.  These are not large plants, nor are they extremely large tomatoes, but they are some of the best tasting tomatoes I've ever grown in the Learning Garden, which is a difficult place for tomatoes because of it's colder location (near the ocean and one of the lower elevations around here where cold air drains to).  And they are productive of many firm tomatoes that can be used for slicing or for juice.  A very talented plant for a small garden.

Luther Burbank introduced this tomato in the early 1900's.  I and a few friends have been on a program to select only the largest tomatoes from each plant to come up with a consistently larger tomato from this variety.  If you choose to take a plant, all we ask is that you return only seeds from the largest tomatoes.  That's how we're working it and I invite you to be a part of this project.  


13 April, 2014

Links To Owen Dell's Articles on Sustainable Gardening

Owen Dell

When I first started teaching sustainability in gardening, these two articles were the most profound thinking I had read on the subject at that time.  I am grateful to have had these in my head for the past five or six years and I am happy to share them with you.

The following links give you the material I used for the last part of our first class.  All of what I worked from was in the second link, but the first link provides an excellent introduction to the meatier second.

This first link, provides some background leading up to where we are today.  This second link, Imagining a Better Garden gives you the meat and potatoes of what I was addressing.  


How To Take A Soil Sample and Read The Soil Triangle

Taking soil samples for any kind of garden analysis should be done in a manner that will net you the results you need to make your garden more congenial to that part of the plant that lives in the soil – the roots. Roots for most of the plants in our gardens, live about 4 to 18 inches beneath the surface of the soil. Exceptions to this include most drought resistant plants (with roots that range some distance out and down) and other notoriously strong rooted plant – mention just about any weed and it will fall into that category. You want to take your sample around nine inches down. This method of taking a soil sample is effective for the soil triangle tests and is the preferred technique for soil samples sent to labs for testing.

  • Remove as much surface organic matter as possible before taking your soil sample.
  • Put approximately one cup of soil into a straight-sided quart jar with lid.
  • Add approximately one tablespoon of alum or Calgon bath beads – this is a surfactant to help the particles separate from one another.
  • Fill the jar with water almost to the top.
  • Shake vigorously for several minutes to get all the soil moistened. 
  • Let the jar stand undisturbed for at least one hour, separation continues for as long as 24 hours with some soils.
  • The soil mix will separate into layers. The longer it sits, the more distinct the layers will appear.
    Figure out the percentages of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter in the water – do not measure the water itself. The sand will be the bottom layer. Silt will be the next layer, followed by clay; the combination of these three should add up to 100%. Organic matter will float on top of the water and does not figure in the total of percentages..  
    Determine soil type by comparing percentages with soil triangle.
    Understanding soil type will help you know how to properly amend, fertilize, water, and plant so that you will have healthy, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant plants.

    What to do and How to do it

    Follow these steps to determine the name of your soil texture:

    1.Place the edge of a ruler at the point along the base of the triangle that represents the percent of sand in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.

    2.Place the edge of a second ruler at the point along the right side of the triangle that represents the percent of silt in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.

    3.Place the point of a pencil or water soluble marker at the point where the two rulers meet. Place the top edge of one of the rulers on the mark, and hold the ruler parallel to the horizontal lines. The number on the left should be the percent of clay in the sample.

    4.The descriptive name of the soil sample is written in the shaded area where the mark is located. If the mark should fall directly on a line between two descriptions, record both names.

    Feel the texture of a moist soil sample between your fingers.
    Sand will feel "gritty", while silt will feel like powder or flour.
    Clay will feel "sticky" and hard to squeeze, and will probably stick to your hand.
    Looking at the textural triangle, try to estimate how much sand, silt, or clay is in the sample.
    Find the name of the texture to which this soil corresponds; that will be the descriptive name of your soil.