Monday, March 10, 2014
In January, I sowed my tomato seeds indoors under lights in my spare bedroom. Today, the plants went on their first field trip outside starting their hardening off process. This year, we are growing Large Cherry, Pantano Romanesco, Homestead 24, and a new one, Marmande. I had a very other varieties, but never got around to sowing those, so maybe I'll try those for the fall.
Hardening off is the process by where you take your indoor seedlings and gradually expose them to the outside world to prepare them for living full time in your garden. It helps avoid transplant shock and it keeps them from dying due to temperature shock when planted out. I start them out with 2 hours of exposure in full shade. Tomorrow, I'll increase it to 3 hours in full shade. I'll do this for a couple of days, then move them to partial shade for a few days. Then, they'll move to shade in the morning and sun in the afternoon and lengthen the time they're out. As it gets closer to their plant out date, they'll stay out all night. Initially, I bring them in at night, especially if we're going to get down in the low 40s or lower. Otherwise, they can stay out. I also make sure to water them well as they are root bound in their cups. I also might need to provide some support for them since they are a bit top heavy and lankier than in years past due to our light set up this year. We get a lot of wind this time of the year, and I don't want them to topple over. Last year, I set them in a large laundry basket and that worked well. I might do that again this year.
Each year, the biggest problem we encounter in our garden is watering. Due to the heat and the fact that we don't get a lot of rain during the summer (or other times of the year for that matter), we try to conserve as much as we can. Plus, to water, you have to get up way early in the morning to beat the heat or water way late at night then you have to fight the mosquitos. The other day, I ran across an ancient watering technology that has been used in places like Africa and China as well as more locally in South and Central Texas. It's Olla Irrigation, and I think we're going to try it out this year for at least part of our garden. We might do a side by side comparison with ollas and traditional gardening to see what happens. If you'd like to know more about Olla Irrigation, check out these links and You Tube videos.
Ancient Irrigation (This is the video that got me interested.)
Ollas: A Collection of Information and Techniques
Thesis on Clay Pot Irrigation in Africa (This is a *.pdf document that's 25 pages long, but good research)
Say Hola to Ollas