My Nematode issue in my primary vegetable bed means I can’t plant tomatoes and peppers there this year. But skip them entirely? Blasphemy. Far better to convert more yard to garden.
Here’s the before picture of an ugly corner of my yard, where the shed meets the awful metal/chain link fence. Someday I’ll tackle both the shed and the fence, but today is all about the vegetables.
That weed-covered trellis is propped over a 2′ x 2′ chunk of concrete. I’ve tried digging it up and can’t find the bottom. No idea why it’s there but it’s in a terrible location and I can’t get rid of it today. So I’m going to try to work with it.
Step 1. Clear out that trellis. Dig up the soil. Mix in manure and a bit of garden soil.
Step 2. Lay down cardboard. This should serve as an early weed block while the garden establishes, without the heat-capturing damage that plastic can do. Eventually it will degrade and feed the worms.
Step 3. Cut holes in the cardboard for seedlings.
Step 4. Cover everything in mulch. I decided to do this before planting so I wouldn’t have to be gentle around fragile transplants. I covered the concrete as well. Hopefully this will help pull it into the design.
Step 5. Plant. I spaced those cutouts so I could easily find them under the mulch. I planted tomatoes and peppers every 18″ or so. In between them, I added peppermint, spearmint, mustardgreens, and mesclunmix greens.
Step 6. Clean up, add a bench and a few potted plants. A small mulberry tree in a pot sits on top of the now hidden concrete slab.
It’s not beautiful yet, but it’s better. And when the veggies are tall and full of fruit, I’ll love it. (The dog already approves.)
Here’s the best part of the new area: the view from that little white bench.
My primary vegetable bed has a Rootknot Nematode problem. They destroyed my fall harvest of tomatoes and peppers by attacking the plants’ roots.
Thanks to some stellar advice online, I will not be solarizing the soil to kill them, along all the beneficial organisms. Instead, I’m going to displace them using helpful plants (hopefully).
Here’s the plan:
1. No tomatoes or peppers in this bed this year. That’s what they attacked with vengeance in the fall and I am removing their favorite food supply.
2. I’m planting lots of leafy greens, especially Broadleaf Mustard. They are high in oxalic acid which harms nematode eggs and suppresses the population.
3. I’m adding Broccoli,Cauliflower, and Red Acre Cabbage. Something chemical in brassica plants has a toxic effect on nematodes. Admittedly I don’t fully understand the mechanism but I’ll give it a shot.
4. Marigolds finish the trap. Marigolds attract nematodes, which enter the roots but then get trapped. They can’t grow or escape, and the marigolds will eventually kill them.
I love my time in Minnesota celebrating the holidays. I feel warm and loved with my family. But after ten days of wind and ice and a blizzard that ushered us out with a foot of new snow, I was looking forward to my own backyard.
Full blooms on perennials waited for me.
Firespikes that I thought I killed a year ago returned. This is the first time this gift from a generous neighbor has flowered for me, and I’m looking forward to seeing the pollinators it attracts.
And my sprawling Leaf of Life plant shot tall flowering spikes dripping with little purple bells.
And the mulch. That beautiful gift of mulch I received in late October is still underway. In the past few weeks, I mulched the giant perennial bed, the smaller vegetable bed, and the pots. I mulched the oak trees and avocado and mulberry and citrus. My husband pitched in for a few wheelbarrow loads along the front of the house. And still, this remains:
All that shoveling and hauling and dumping and spreading and I’m only halfway through this massive pile of mulch. Sigh. So, you can guess my weekend plan.
Still, it’s good to be home in sunny Tampa where I’m prepping for the next growing season, starting… now.
Cool temps and soft breezes. I am thrilled November has arrived.
And, there’s more! I came home from a business trip to find this giant pile of mulch in my driveway.
Chip Drop came through for me. If you are unfamiliar with Chip Drop, this is a sustainable service worth learning about.
To add the recommended 3-4″ of mulch over my giant perennial bed, and my annual vegetable garden, and my large potted trees and bananas, I require bags upon bags of mulch. So many good trees demolished. So much plastic. So much cash.
As an alternative, Chip Drop connects with local tree services companies in the area. When someone in your neighborhood has a tree cut down, the tree service mulches it and drop it in your driveway or yard or wherever you specify. This is my second delivery.
The first time, I received a fresh pine tree and my yard smelled of Christmas for weeks. This one is a finer, cleaner mulch. And they provided enough for me to mulch everything in my backyard as well as start the other landscaping projects I’ve been planning all year.
Technically, the Chip Drop service is free. But there are so many sustainably-minded homeowners in my area that waiting for a free drop can take over a year. I upped my bid from $0 to $20, and voila, a vehicle-sized mound of mulch appeared three weeks later.
I am anxious to get started. Before and after pictures to come.
And perhaps now is the time to buy the wheelbarrow I’ve been coveting. I always appreciate a clever yet simple product design, and this would cut my bending, twisting, and lifting in half.
I am loving the new monthly seed swap at Shell’s in Tampa. Today, I donated a tray of Cranberry Hibiscus and succulents. In return, I left with a new infusion of natives, edibles, and pollinator-favorites.
Here’s a sampling:
More on each of these new additions to come. But the weather is glorious and I’m headed outside to enjoy it.
In 347 comments, this amazing group shared all their favorite resources for gardening and landscaping in the Tampa area. I’ve taken their recommendations, searched out the sources, and compiled them into an easy reference guide.
Rains pummeled Tampa for the last few months. I left town and my garden at the end of April. Knowing I would not be able to do any yard work through May and June, with the exception of a few visits just long enough to collect a harvest, I experimented with three weed control strategies.
I mulched one bed with a free pine mulch that a tree service company dumped in my driveway.
A second bed I interspersed Boniato Potato seedlings wherever there was a gap of a foot or more.
The third bed is the largest, and has historically had the worst weed problems, so I did both: Boniato Potato seedlings plus pine mulch.
When I returned over two months later, the yard was a bit of a mess. But it was clear which strategy was most successful.
Here is the raised bed with pine mulch only.
What do you mean you can’t find the bed? See that tiny bit of cedar poking out? 🙂
Consider this method a massive failure.
Now take a look at the raised bed with Boniato Potatoes only. I ran out of mulch, so this was clean soil from the compost pile plus potatoes. Some weeds still worked their way through, but this bed is in far better condition.
When I started poking around, I was happily surprised at what I found. The potatoes did not choke out my plants, but filled in around them.
Here is a tall basil plant that would have been strangled in the mulch-only bed. The potatoes blocked the weeds around the basil without killing the herb. And those few tomatoes are attached to an Everglade Tomato vine that runs underneath the potato leaves. Also hiding among the potatoes: Yellow Pear tomatoes, Okinawa Spinach, and Pineapples. A few plants that started in this bed have disappeared: kale, a mesclun salad mix, and more greens that don’t typically fare well this late into the summer.
Some weeds still managed to weasel through the dense canopy of potato lives, but compared to the other bed, this method was far more successful.
And here is the largest garden bed. It is lowest to the ground, only raised by about 4″, and already had a weed infestation. I pulled out everything I could in April, but expected a number of returning invaders. In this bed, I mulched, I planted potatoes, I added moss from the tree in the front yard. I did what I could.
The result is better than I expected. A lot of weeds, yes, but the plants I care about are protected enough. My Rosemary bush is healthy. The Cranberry Hibiscus I thought I lost in the freeze came back, along with at least ten volunteers. False Bird of Paradise, also heavily damaged by January’s freeze, are back.
It took a couple hours to excavate, but the plants I care about are all here, protected by the potatoes and mulch. I harvested a bowl of Sweet Italian Red Peppers, Hungarian Hot Peppers, and Chili Peppers. I clipped handfuls of Basil, Mint, Papalo, and Cuban Oregano. I yanked the tomatoes that were at the end of life. The Prickly Pear Cactus, Aloe, and other succulents in pots throughout the bed are not thriving, but are also not dying. They are just waiting around for some love and attention. Florida Lettuce, Okinawa Spinach, Sticks on Fire, False Roselle, Lillies, Lemongrass…they are all doing well, hiding among the potatoes.
I’m looking forward to eventually harvesting the sweet potatoes, a secondary reward for this self-caring weed control. Overall, I’ll call the method a success.
I planted a variety of tomatoes in various locations around my yarden. All started in healthy soil, thickly mulched, and I watered regularly for the first two weeks. Then I abandoned them. Now, I’m back to harvest and judge.
Two varieties failed this experiment.
Mr. Stripey, an heirloom variety, grew a huge limb-heavy plant that, in the end, offered a single ripe fruit. And it was a tasty one. I will likely try this one again on another year when I am around to trim and tend to it. Perhaps a bit of babying would have helped.
Summer Set, a heat-tolerant hybrid, also grew an unwieldy plant, but offered zero fruit. None. And then the plant died.
I yanked both disappointments from the bed today.
A few tomatoes did well with my “plant em and ditch ’em” approach.
In full sun, Yellow Pear tomatoes produced baskets of fruit and I’m still picking a bowl a day. The Better Boys kicked out a number of juicy, healthy tomatoes. The Sweet 100s are amazingly sweet and easily my husband’s favorite.
I added a new garden bed in the shadier side of my yard. The bed receives filtered sun all day, and direct sun from 3:00 to 5:00 pm right now. The Yellow Pears did fine here, but they do fine wherever I plant them. The Everglade Tomatoes could use more sun. They are producing a few ripe fruit here and there, but far later in the season then the rest of garden.
My favorite addition this year was this Garden Peach variety. They have a mild, sweet flavor. They slice up beautifully and serve in gorgeous thick slices. And, since they are in the new shady bed, I’m still harvesting them.
This is a summer of travel for me. A bit for work, a lot for fun, but very few days at home. After my last post, I flew to Denver for a week. I returned to more wildness, more chaos, and more hidden harvest.
Allowing this kind of wildness to take over shows me which plants thrive on my neglect. I become aware of just how much weeding and pruning and sculpting I do in the especially unkempt areas of the yard. Time to find a solution for those areas. Other corners are well-planted with the right plants in the right place with the right weed suppression (mulch or Boniato Potatoes or both).
I returned to more ripening vegetables. I now pick a small bowl each morning, plus all the Okinawa Spinach and Lemongrass I can use. Today, I gathered my first collection of these lovely Garden Peach tomatoes from a shady area of the yarden. They are thick and juicy and sweet, and I am absolutely saving some seeds for next season.
My new passion flower, in full sun, is happy and covered in caterpillars. The little plant has a strong stem and is kicking out new leaves daily, even as the caterpillars fill them with holes. But providing a home to local species is one of the reasons I bought this beautiful plant, and I know it will bounce back after the caterpillars eat their fill. I’ll let nature do its thing and trust I’ll see more of these beautiful purple flowers in the future, soon with the addition of bright-orange Gulf Fritillary butterflies.
The Purple Bush Beans and Cherokee Wax Beans are thick with pods.
In the shadier areas of the yard, Sugar Snap Peas and Everglade Tomatoes continue to flower and produce fruit.
The yarden is a mess right now, but it’s working. The weeds are down, the desired plants are up, and it all just needs attention and time and, eventually, a landscaping overhaul that focuses on aesthetics.
I had one full day to clean it up yesterday. But it was hot, sunny, and a perfect day for scuba diving, so I went on a play date with schools of fish instead of working in the garden. Oh well. Maybe I’ll find the time before I head off on my next adventure.