Tag Archives: mulch

Tomato and Basil Time!

With spring in full force, my thoughts have turned to tomatoes and basil starts as I’ve been trading and selling them.  The Kent Community TimeBank has given me an outlet for them where I don’t need to worry about the exchange of money.  The truth of the matter is plant starts represent mostly time as they have to be treated like infants so the KCTB seems to be appropriate.  The basil has been more popular than I would have ever imagined, so I’ll make an effort next year to produce more.

On 5/12/2013, I attended the Foods Not Lawns Cleveland plant swap.  I traded 4 tomato starts (1 Mega Cherry cutting from my AeroGarden and 3 Sweet 100 Cherry starts).  In return, I received two Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, two Long Purple eggplants, and a whole bunch of comfrey plants.  Comfrey is useful as a nutrient mulch because it accumulates minerals well.  Just chop it down a few times a year and put the leaves in your compost or around your heavy feeders (tomatoes, corn, broccoli, etc).  Who needs to buy chemical fertilizer?  Not this Snarky Gardener.

The AeroGardens have been producing well, giving me Jalapeno peppers, basil, cutting celery, parsley, and tomato cuttings (for starts).  The Mega Cherry tomatoes are just getting ripe, and will be eaten seconds after they are ready.  I will be saving the seeds from the red pepper to see if I can get them to grow.  Practice makes perfect when it comes to seed saving.  I tried to save the seeds from a green one, but they never spouted.  I should have better luck with the riper Jalapeno.

Mega Cherry tomatoes – 5/7/2013
Jalapeno peppers and Thai basil – 5/7/2013

Of course, with all these starts running around, I planted 6 in late April and early May to get some from under my feet (even with a chance of frost still possible).  This chance became reality on 5/13/2013 and 5/14/2013 as temperatures fell into to low 30’s overnight.  Overturned pots became makeshift protectors inside the steel fence tomato cages.  I did lose one Sweet 100 Cherry tomato plant as the pot I covered it with was too thin and holey.   Luckily I have more plants where that came from.

On 5/12/2013, the first of the potato leaves poked their heads out (and were promptly frosted).  I’ve been checking on them from time to time, finding a few that turned rotten.  I’m not sure if this was caused by using the leaf mulch (it’s pretty wet in places) or the potatoes themselves, but I pulled any that didn’t look good.  Fortunately the Snarky Gardener is smart enough to have extra potatoes that he didn’t plant the first time, so those will fill in any open spots.

Potatoes sprouting up from leaf mulch – 5/12/2013
Potatoes coming up by my kale – 5/17/2013

Growing Potatoes with Leaf Mulch

Over the last year or so, I have read some Internet articles about using leaf mulch in the garden.  I had heard that leaf mulch would cause my garden’s pH level to get too acidic but wanted to look into it further.  After through research, I determined that this was probably not true, but that even if it was, using lime or wood ash would reverse any pH problems.  So, during last summer, I purchased a lawn sweeper for my mower as I have almost 1 acre of lawn and plenty of oak and maple leaves to pick up (and pick up and pick up . . .).

42-inch Lawn Sweeper
Lawn Sweeper from John Deere’s website. The driver is NOT the Snarky Gardener.

This year I decided to use some of this mulch I collected to cover my potatoes, especially after reading a potato mulching article or two.  You can see by the pictures that my garden is a sea of leaves.  They have been a pain in the butt to move around, especially when they are wet and several feet deep in places.  On the plus side, they will make my potato growing a lot easier than last year.  All I had to do is place the seed potatoes in the mulch eye side up and cover with leaves.  No messy digging or soil involved.  And later, as the potato leaves grow up, I will just pile up the more leaves around/under the stems like I did with dirt last year.

Note on 4/19/2013:  The severe April winds have blown off the leaves at times, exposing some of the potatoes.  I checked one for development and saw roots.  I’m not worried as I do know from experience that they will grow anyways (my compost pile potatoes kept putting out vines).   I’ll just keep covering them back up, though I might add some dirt to make it a non-issue.

Note on 6/15/2013:  Some of the potatoes are several feet high and flowering;  others have just started a little.  I moved 6 “barely starters” to a different part of the garden (where the spinach was) and buried them under dirt, thinking maybe a change of scenery would help.  I replaced these with red seed potatoes purchased at the farmer’s market.  We’ll have to see if it’s the potatoes or the site/mulch.

Potatoes planted 4/5/2013
Potatoes planted under leaf mulch – 4/5/2013
Potatoes sprouting up from leaf mulch – 5/12/2013
Potatoes coming up by my kale – 5/17/2013
Leaf mulched potatoes – 6/15/2013