Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I'm paper-mulching my tomatoes this year.

I know that gardeners are always saying that crops should be mulched, especially tomatoes which can get soil-borne diseases from the rain splashing around the plants.
This year I'm trying paper mulch.  I cut several sheets of newspaper with a hole in the middle and an opening out to one edge so I can fit it around the plants.
Here's my 4 x 4' greenhouse bed with its frame around it which has a plastic covering to put on in colder weather.
All my tiny tomato plants have this paper mulch of which I write.  I put a bit of soil on the outer corners to hold it down against any wind.
I tried shredding the paper, but found that it was impossible to control that way.  I stiff breeze and the shreddings were blown about instead of staying put.  This way the mulch stays over the soil.
So far these little guys are doing well.  All happen to be tiny varieties, like Tiny Tim, Totem, Tumbling Tiger and Lizzano.  But it works for the biggies, too.  I've covered the indeterminates the same way.
This bed above with the purple Salvia and English Daisies to the right, have 3 New Girl tomatoes to the left in this photo.  Again, the paper mulch around the base of the plants.
Yes, I'm cutting back on my crop gardening in the Back 40 this year.  I can only access this area by trudging up a rather steep hill between my doorway and this plot.  It was fine in my younger years, but these days its harder to trek up that steepness and on a wet dewy morning or after a rain, I don't dare take that grassy hill.  I've fallen at least 3 times in the past without breaking anything but with more brittle bones as I age, I won't chance it.  That means I can't access the Back 40 as often meaning less time for weeding and watering the crops.  Therefore, I chose to change every bed to some form of perennial bush/flowers with only a little space for crops.
I think broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts can pretty much take care of themselves one they are established for the season.  And of course, there's the sugar snap peas.  The tall fence poles to the north of each bed make a good place to attach trellises but also to stake tomatoes or string them, for which they are set with wire running along their bases and a pole along the top.

Above:  Here's a long view of my Back 40 with its 9 4 x 4 beds and 3 berms (raised beds of soil without boarding).  In the foreground is a strawberry berm which needs to be repurposed.   The onion chives have been in that center bed for the last 3 years and have to be thinned each year.  They provide more than enuf for our needs.
 In the foreground is a strawberry berm which needs to be repurposed.   The asparagus berm in the rear can only get better as it ages.  Mmmmmm good!
Some of my perennials are: Columbine above.
Silene to the right of the Sugar Snap peas and that's nasturtiums in the background, just poking thru the soil.  I have a few annuals tucked into the beds here and there as well, like alyssum, asters, zinnias, marigolds and nasturtiums.
One bed, above, is pretty much for broccoli and kale, except for 3 Better Boy tomatoes on the north side.
Another bed, above, is just for Brussels sprouts but with some marigolds tucked in along one edge for color later.
For more perennials I've also got Coreopsis, above, along with lavender, Dianthus, Scabiosa, Leopard's Bane, and English Daisies already planted and seeds sown for Coneflower, Malva, Painted Daisies, Campanula and Black-eyed Susans.  By next year this Back 40 should be a sea of lovely color beloved by butterflies and bees alike.
To take up some of the slack, I've tucked some crops and herbs in the flower bed right outside my kitchen door for easy access.  Its no trouble at all to get out to weed a bit and water when needed when one doesn't have to traipse up a steep hill.
I'll be showing you photos of my flower garden with its crops as they gain some growth.  I've just transplanted most of them in the last couple of weeks.
I hope others in zone 5a, like me, are getting their edible gardens ready for the season so they can enjoy good eating.  Nothing says it better than fresh from the garden.   
        Happy Gardening!

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