Tomato Season Underway

It’s official.  Tomato season has begun!

We picked our first ripe tomato on June 2.  JUNE SECOND!  The earliest by far that we have every had tomatoes.  This is thanks to converting our useless greenhouse into a highly productive high tunnel.  The little bit of extra heat from the wood stove heater in the greenhouse/new high tunnel allowed us to plant tomatoes in late February.

And here they are now:

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SOOOO delicious and yummy!!

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The kiddos in the “greenhouse” about three weeks ago.  Yeah, it’s a little tight in there.  It may or may not be a jungle at this point.  Let’s just say, I won’t be posting any pictures.  I will also say, we will most likely rethink our spacing in the greenhouse next year.

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The old high tunnel is looking good, too.  Especially since this is the FIFTH YEAR for tomatoes in the high tunnel.  Yikes.  That’s too long to have tomatoes in one spot.  These are all determinants, meaning we will get a big crop off of them, and then yank them out. After this year, we have plans to rest a replenish the soil in this high tunnel, and then decide what crops to plant in it next spring.  We also have plans to put in another this fall.

Look closely and you will see that we have wire along the sides of the high tunnels.  That’s to keep critters OUT.  Last year, we had TERRIBLE trouble with possums, raccoons, and skunks sneaking in and eating big bites out of each ripe tomato.  It was disgusting.  This year, we’ve outsmarted them!  We hope.

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The field tomatoes are looking good, as well.  Tilled, mulched, caged, and irrigated – it’s been a busy week in the garden!

 

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Tomato update

It’s been a little over a month since we planted those little tomato transplants in the high tunnel.  What a difference a month makes!

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It is been a very mild spring, with no significant temperature fluctuations, and NO ROLY-POLYS this year.  Thank goodness.  Our high tunnel has been relatively stress free for the first time since its installation.  The plants are thriving, and putting on flowers – it’s awesome to see!

The watch is on for the first green tomato!

Asparagus season was shorter than we anticipated this year, thanks to two late freezes.  😦  But. never fear, veggie lovers!  Summer veggies will be here before you know it!

First Freeze

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This is what our tomato field looked like hours before the first freeze.

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… And here is what it looked like the next morning.  Good thing we picked all the tomatoes!

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And here is what the high tunnel looked like after it got down to 28 degrees – warm and balmy inside!  Amazing!

Looks like we will have tomatoes a while longer.

 

Tomato triage

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We have already had our first tomato crisis of the year.  A few days after planting our high tunnel tomatoes, nearly two-thirds of them were dead.  I came to discover that roly poly’s … That’s right, those cute little bugs your kids love to play with … Were to blame.

With nothing else around the to eat, they were chewing through the stems of every tomato plant they could find.  And we had HUNDREDS of roly polys.

Not good.

We replaced the dead plants and when planting our new ones, we put cans or buckets around them to hopefully make a barrier and keep the little suckers out.  I think of heard of other people doing this.  Hope it works.

Oh, and we are heavily using diatomaceous earth around the plants , which roly polys hate.  That seems to be working so far.

Last weekend we discovered that even the plants that lived had been damaged.  We are trying to save them by adding cuffs around those plants and building up the soil inside.

First tomato crisis of the season.  Probably won’t be the last.

Planting Time

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We had planned to plant our high tunnel tomatoes this past weekend, but with the forecast for Sunday night a measly 23 degrees, we decided it was too risky.  (And it did indeed get down to 23 last night.)

So tonight was the night.  We got three of the four rows planted …. Whew!  That was some quick planting!

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Okay, so it looks darker in this picture than it really was, but we were out there at sunset.

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We got the black mulch down on Saturday, and our jugs filled with water, so we were just all ready to plant.  Now, just pray for warm nights!!

High Tunnel Experiments

It kind of feels like this whole season with the high tunnel has been an experiment.  Most of them have been scary, but most of them have also worked.  Here is the latest experiment:

Removing the plastic.

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Is this normally done?  We have no idea.  Are other people in our area doing it?  Don’t know.  If anyone DOES know, we could sure use some input.

But in any case, we decided this was necessary for three reasons:

#1 The plastic makes it hotter.  That’s kind of the point.  But with summers like we have had the past two years, we certainly won’t need it any hotter than that.  In fact, there have already been days, with as mild as it has been outside, it is almost too warm in the high tunnel.  Too warm means tomatoes won’t set, and the ones that have set won’t ripen.

#2  Salt Build up.  In our research, we have learned that, over time, salt build up in high tunnels can be a problem.  We recognize that this could be an extra big problem for us, as our well-water is extra high in salt content.  By removing the plastic and exposing the plants to a little rain water, it will help keep the salt build-up to a minimum.

We hope.

#3  Kansas Storms.  Hail, strong winds, you name it, we’ve got it.  We would like to keep our plastic in tact for as long as possible, thank you.  And keeping it protected from Kansas thunderstorms is the best way we can do that.

Like I said, it is all an experiment.  Hopefully it was the right decision to remove the plastic.

Time will tell.