Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tomato Plant Mistakes Made 2013

20 April 2013 I put four commercially started tomato plants into the new raised bed #2. Boy, they looked good and I took credit.

The bed has 16-1' x 1' squares in a 4' x 4' frame. I numbered the 1' square starting with #1 in the lower left and continued numbering them moving to the right through #4. Numbers 5 through 8 in the second row, so on and so forth until the last square in the top right corner is numbered 16.

Planted in position #9 was a Beefsteak, which I purchased at my wife's request. In position #10 was Mr. Stripey, whose taste is rather buttery. In position #11 a Mortgage Lifter, a prolific producer.  A Tami G grape tomato finished out the third row at position #12, a variety I had never heard of until this year. 

At that time there were no supports in place. No trellises, cages or even stakes. Over the next month the plants gained in size. Without stakes or support the tomato plants bent over from their own weight and were touching the ground. 

By the time the new trellises were made and installed along with the trellises made last year, the stems of the tomato plants were rigid. Rigid and bent. I was worried the stems might break if I tried to straighten them and tie them to the trellis. Starting down low, I tied the stems loosely. Hoping I would be able to change the shape of the stems slowly, over the course of days if not weeks. That I would be able to get the tomatoes upright, off the ground and tied vertically to the trellises.

Unfortunately, I was impatient that day. I lacked finesse. I pushed the stem of the Beefsteak tomato too far. The stem broke. Not completely severed. Just cracked, half way through. At the time I thought, "You dumb #*∞§!"

My mind went into first aid mode. I triaged the situation. I looked at the materials and tools at hand. I was going to save this beefsteak or else.

What did I have on hand? I had 1"-2"/25mm-50mm wide strips of knitted bed sheet rolled into a ball, like a knitter rolls yarn. I expected to use the strips to tie the vines to the trellises as they grew during growing season. These bed sheet strips resembled bandages. You know, the kind women boiled and rolled back in the old days. Seemed perfectly clear what to do.

Cut my wrists.

No! I wasn't going to take the easy way out.

I fashioned a face mask out of my red bandana and prepared to begin the operation. I wrapped the damaged stem with a long strip of bed sheet. I figured that would pull the stem together to keep out insects but allow some flexibility in the stem. With the stem closed, I hoped it would somehow heal itself, the sap would continue to flow and keep the plant alive. I wound the bandage snuggly around the stem. Then I tied it to the trellis.

I removed my face mask and stepped back to evaluate the situation. The wound was closed and the vine was off the ground. Only time would tell if the operation was a success.

With my face mask down around my neck I continued to survey the remaining tomato plants. That is when I saw the Beefsteak wasn't the only tomato damage I inflicted.

Trying to keep the plants healthy and as productive as possible, soon after transplanting I began pinching suckers from the tomato plants. Suckers are branches that grow from the crotch where a side branch connects to the leader stem. Many people believe the suckers take energy from the main portion of the plant and are not necessary. It seems I was a bit too aggressive pinching the suckers from Mr. Stripey. It wasn't the sucker I pinched off at all. I mistakenly pinched off the leader stem. Once that was done the plant stopped growing, all together. It looked really sad. All the leaves were curled and discolored. A sad looking plant.

There were some flowers below the point where the leader was pinched. Those flowers went on to set fruit. Those tomatoes continued to grow in size. I had no idea where they got the energy to grow with the leaves in such bad shape. I hoped some new growth would emerge below that pinch site. New growth that would take over for that missing leader stem.

Of the four tomato plants transplanted on 20 April, 2013 neither Beefsteak nor Mr. Stripey look good. I take full responsibility. It is all my fault. You dumb #*∞§!

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chicago Grill Has Two Walls

Another wall was erected at the Chicago Grill / Pizzeria Uno in Oaks.

It seems there will be several upright beams on the near side in this photograph to carry the weight of the roof.

The view through this window is the church. What can't be seen is the cemetery between the church and that mound of dirt. Rather than that plain brown mound, I would rather see the cemetery as I eat my meal.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Monday, June 24, 2013

Organic Fertilizer Formula Ready to Spread

To bring you up to date, last I mentioned the batch of organic fertilizer it was mixed and wet and in a tray. 

It consisted of three components. The first two components were equal parts dry blood and bone meals. The third was to be dry wood ashes. However, I received the wood ashes from my neighbor in a plastic bag and they were wet. Impatient, I was, I mixed the wet ashes with the blood and bone meals. I didn't think it would take much to dry out the mix. The result was a brownie batter kind of mess spread out in the bottom of a baking pan.

Remember, I was in an impatient mood. So, the pan was placed into the oven at about 300ºF/149ºC. It was in the oven for awhile. I took it out of oven only after the people with whom I live couldn't take the odor any longer. Out of the oven, the pan was placed atop the range. The batter looked more liquid than when initially placed into the oven. It was a hot gooey brown mess in the bottom of the baking pan. When cooled to room temperature, the batter still quivered a bit when the pan was shaken.

Outside there was rain everyday or at least it seemed so. Once the sun was strong and the sky clear, the pan and batter were placed on the patio to get as much bright sunlight as possible. Within a few days the batter had transformed into a solid sheet of brown brittle. What needed to be done was to pulverize the stone-like food into a powder.

To start the pulverizing, the pan was carried into the garage where the floor was concrete. That would give a solid foundation for the next step and get us both out of the seemingly never-ending rain. I grabbed a 2lb/.9kg engineers maul and began to bet the brown brittle into small brown chips no larger than 1/2"/13mm. Chips ready to go into a kitchen blender.

After hours of perspiration while pummeling and precipitous tinnitus caused by the whirling of the blender blades, all the brown brittle was broken into powder. Blood rich organic brown powder ready to be spread upon the soil in the raised beds of the square foot garden. A powder to feed the stems and roots, fortify the flowers and increase the size and taste of the vegetables.

No one said it would be easy. Nor perspiration or pain free. But, it was worth it.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Walls at Oaks Shopping Center

As of June 8, unlike the Uno site, there were no walls going up for buildings at Oaks Shopping Center.

There were other kinds of walls built at this site. There is a retaining wall parallel to Egypt Road. That can be seen in the foreground of the above photograph, just in front of the orange safety fence

Looking along Egypt Rd in the direction of Phoenixville, PA.

Above is looking at that same retaining wall from the other side of the safety fence.

There were two alcoves sculpted in the rear embankment on the site. Both of those alcoves can be seen in the backgrounds of each of the above photographs. I really don't know the functions of those alcove. Nor why one is much larger than the other.

There is another retaining wall along the site of the old railroad tracks that ran between the construction site and residential homes along Gumbes Road.

2.1"/53mm of rain fell on June 10 that can be seen here in the basin. I am sure that long wall will keep the residents yards from washing into the shopping center. 

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Monday, June 10, 2013

Early June Downpours Pack Punch

The growing season is just getting underway and last night there was a downpour. Followed by another at 13:30. Downpours can deliver a powerful punch. Weather can knock-out a garden before its prime. Between the downpours, I ran outside to assess the damage.

Above is a well established Black Eyed Stella Daylily with petals thinned by a rain beating.

This Clematis x durandii was wet but came through without needing the cut man.

The remaining blooming flowers were down for a technical. So I wondered over to the raised bed rings to see if the vegetables got their ears pinned back.

Lettuce was still holding their heads high. Prepared for what ever nature may unload on them in later rounds. 

The above lettuce is Red Rosie purchased from Johnny's Select Seeds for the 2012 growing season. I have been taking some outside leaves for salads over the last week. It tastes delicious. Nothing better than lettuce from the bed directly to the salad bowl. Except for tomatoes directly from the vine to my lips.

This is Buttercrunch. It, too, was purchased at Johnny's for the 2012 growing season.

The potatoes planted in the lazy bed are showing signs of growth.

After I covered the potatoes with sod, grass side down, I covered the bed with shredded tree leaves collected and shredded last autumn. There are five or six plants that have pushed their way to the sunlight.

On the whole, the garden is in good shape this early June. All one can do is be prepared. And, hope for the best.

I hope it will be a champion season.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Walls Going Up in Oaks

Walls are going up in Oaks, PA at the intersection of Egypt and Black Rock Roads.

Block laying started here between Black Rock Road and US 422. 

This retaining wall was first to be built. It runs parallel with both US 422 and Egypt Road.

This bricklaying scaffold is in place, inside the walls of the future restaurant. The building is taking shape.

Rebar is set with safety caps atop to keep the workers from loosing an eye or being impaled in a fall.

Some blocks begin to frame a door way, others stacked waiting for the call.

Others lay broken, half used, cast off. Sacrificed to the greater whole.

Whole pizzas can't be far behind.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May Ends Bursting with Flowers

By the end of May all of the early spring bulbs are spent. Now the croms, tubers and perennials take over the spring flush of flowers.

There are two hardy geraniums blooming in my garden. On the left is Brookside and the right Claridge Druce

One of the best purchases I ever made was two bushes of Sambucus Nigra - Elderberry - Black Lace. They were planted some six years ago. They have been trimmed very little over those years.

It can be grown as a wonderful screen or trimmed for a more formal look. In the above photograph it has reached the height of 8'/2.4m. The pink blossoms have a heady licorice scent that fills the air. Blackish-red berries follow in late summer. The birds always seem to beat me to the berries. 

Another strongly scented flower blooming in late May is the Madame Isaac Pereire rose.

The antique Bourbon rose variety shares a 15'/4.5m trellis with a 
 Lonicera - Honeysuckle - Alabama Crimson on the south side of my house.

Madame Isaac Pereire is virtually thornless, which is good because I brush against it as I walk along the footpath. The honeysuckle attracts hummingbirds.

Iris are in bloom. The above white spreads into thick clumps.

This stately tall, dark and handsome variety is slow to spread and

Meadow sage tends to fall over and could use support. 

I found this hoe stealing a sip. The ferns said nothing.

It won't be long to see what blooms in June.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved