Knitting & Gardening

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Typically, on weeks that I join up with Ginny’s yarn along and Nicole’s Keep Calm, Craft On, I write about knitting and reading. But it’s hard with the children at home to find enough time to read so I hope you don’t mind that I pair knitting with gardening this week. These pictures seems so calm and soothing. Inside the house it’s a wild mess of sibling bickering this summer, so being outside is always a good place to be right now.

Yesterday I finally finished this cardigan that I’ve been working on since April. I used gorgeous Radius yarn from Knitterly. It’s a 100% merino wool from Vreseis Farm just an hour or so away from us. Dreamy stuff and would be perfect for a highly cabled fisherman’s sweater. The pattern is called Vodka Lemonade and I thought it would be a great little cropped, three-quarter sleeve cardigan to throw on over tank tops, which I wear all the time. I wear fairly simple clothes. Not much lace work or cables, but having the lace work go all the way up the back and the seed stitching makes this cardigan really pretty. Knitting it was fun, this pattern was the perfect blend of simple and interesting for me.

Small parts of our garden are starting to look like little meadows, this time of year at least. Walking around today I realized that I wouldn’t mind if it always looked a bit like a meadow. It takes me a long time to make design decisions regarding our house and our garden. Do we go with structured? Modern grasses? Overgrown, colorful homestead mish-mash? We’re hurting for water too much to go with overgrown and bountiful. Modern, symmetrical grasses planted in tidy rows are just too…structured for my taste. But I’m liking this meadow idea. Maybe I need to work on propagating the plants that are already here and spreading them outwards.

There is a lot of talk about this next winter being an El Nino year, which means that there is a chance that we could get a very rainy winter. Or it could be just as dry as it’s been the past four years. We won’t know until we go through it. But as always I remain hopeful so I allow myself to think that we’ll have enough water next spring that I can plant away, guilt free.

 

How to Support Your Tomato Plants

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Today I asked my husband, Scott, to give us a little write up on how he’s learned to support our tomatoes. After 14+ summers of tomato gardening together, we’ve gotten it down to a fine science. Since tomato support is his task, I asked him to give us the low down on how to do it right.

Tomato Support
There are all sorts of support contraptions sold for tomato plants these days. Some have been around forever. Some are new ideas. Some work, some don’t. There are wooded stakes, spiral metal stakes, hoop cages, square collapsible cages, etc. I’ve tried many of these with only moderate success. Wooden stakes work well but it’s a lot of work getting them set in and then securing the vines to them with twine all season as the tomato grows. Cages are the convenient because it’s a one-time setup for the season. Most of the cages sold however are not big enough to hold a healthy tomato plant and many of the cheaper ones are too flimsy. The issues I would have is that the tomato plant would eventually grow over the cage out the top and down the sides making it hard to manage and stems would break. Or the weight of the plant would cause the whole thing to fall over. Also the hoop cages have narrower hoops at the bottom and some tomato plants don’t want to grow in a neat V-shape to fit that. I needed something strong, easy to get at, evenly spaced, tall enough, and easy to set up.

Many years ago, I noticed that my dad was using something that looked homemade.  They were heavy duty circular wire cages. I asked him where he got them and a friend who was a very experienced gardener had given them to him. They turned out to be concrete wire. Concrete wire comes in a roll. It is used for, you guessed it, concrete. It’s put in concrete patios and such along with rebar to strengthen and help with cracking. It comes in various widths and lengths and has a 6 inch squares which gives you room to get your hands and pruners in yet gives plenty of support for the vines as they grow. Anyway seeing them in action was one of those moments where you think this is the way, why did no one tell me? I’m telling you now, this is what you want. You will not be disappointed. They work the best hands down at containing and supporting a large healthy tomato plant. The only downside to these, and it is definitely worth considering if you are tight on space, is where to put them when they are not in use. They are rigid and big. They don’t collapse in any way so they take up a lot of room.  If you have a spot in or behind a shed or something they are completely worth it.

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Building the Cages
Rather than going through the details of building the cage here, I found a good post here on the process. I will share some tips that I’m not sure if are included in that post. One is that you want the cages not to be too wide or narrow in diameter. Too narrow and the tomato will be constrained and sending a lot of shoots out the sides. Too wide and the plant can fall over inside. I agree with the Tomatoville post that the best diameter is between 20 and 22 inches. If you follow those instructions it should come out right. Concrete wire comes in various widths of 4, 5, 6, or 7 feet. I used the 5 foot width. My tomatoes often get big enough to spill over the top. If you want to go bigger, you can but just be aware that that the downside is manageability. Also a 50 or 100 ft roll of 7 ft concrete wire is HEAVY.  One time I ziptied 2 of the 5ft ones together for a 9.5 ft cage to see if I could grow the tomato that tall. It just made it   . Impressive but needing a ladder to pick tomatoes is kind of a pain and storing a large cage like that is a real hassle.

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Setting the Cages in Place
Once you have your cages built and your tomato starts in the ground, it time to start thinking about putting them in. I wait until the plants are about 18 inches tall. Make sure and space the plants with enough room between them to accommodate the cages plus more if you use the drain pipes for deep watering. You need to install those drain pies first. For spacing the plants you need 2.5 to 3 feet between each plant. What I do is put mulch down first around the plant. Then I put the cage over it with the plant centered and the cage as level as possible. The next thing I learned the hard way. SECURE the cage. If you leave it at this point, everything will be fine until the plant gets big. Then one day a wind will come by and blow it over. If you are super unlucky like me one year it will domino and take them all down. So secure the cage to the ground. The best and easiest way to do this is to buy some rebar from the hardware store. You need it to be about 4 ft lengths. So if you can find that great otherwise buy 8 ft lengths and cut them with a hacksaw. I hammer one for each cage in the ground right next to the outside of the cage. It should go in a good 18 inches to be really secure. Then just secure the cage to it with twine or a zip tie. You should never need to mess with the cage again for the rest of the year.

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I hope this helps. It sure has made a difference for me. You can support and easily manage bigger plants much more successfully giving you more tomatoes per plant.

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As you can see from the photos here we have a few tomato cages built with left over deer fencing. You can see from that one (the one on the left) that it’s nowhere near as strong a support as the concrete wire. The mesh is also a lot closer together at the bottom, so in order to get at the tomatoes we’ve had to cut away some wire so we can reach in (below):  IMG_9841

 Share with us, how do you support your tomatoes?

In the Garden

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I cut this hydrangea back hard over a year ago. Really hard, because it was somewhat overgrown and never bloomed very well. This receives laundry grey water as it’s only source of water and this year it’s blooming brilliantly! We’ve made a couple changes to how we garden due to the drought, one of which is trying to optimize our laundry grey water. As the summer progresses, I’ll be sharing what we’ve done to be water wise and how that’s working for us. So far, so good on the hydrangeas.IMG_9811 IMG_9815

As sweet pea madness tapers down due to the increasingly increasing temperatures, the scabiosa are starting to bloom. I had to move a small field of them to accomodate our new raised beds. I was nervous about moving them but they survived and are thriving. We have maybe close to a hundred plants scattered around the back property now. So pretty and the bees and butterflies love them.IMG_9818

Shhh, don’t tell the cats, but we have a quail nesting in one of my flower beds! I check on her everyday and she sits as still as stone.IMG_9820 IMG_9822 IMG_9825 IMG_9826

I’m having a hard time getting a good overview of the vegetable garden. The sun is never in the right angle and since we plant our tomatoes right down the middle, they are always hiding whatever is in back of them. In the picture above it looks like we only are growing tomatoes, but there is a row of melons a patch of peppers and a section of zucchini and cucumbers that you can’t see at all. Maybe my new summer project is experimenting with full view garden photography. There’s been a lot of interest in my old tomato post due to google searches and we have updates to make to that post which hopefully I can do next week.

The raised beds are certainly in a state of transition. Since the garlic and onions came out, there are a few seemingly bare boxes, but things have been planted and hopefully will fill the spaces soon.IMG_9830 IMG_9831Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids and after a good walk out in the garden this morning, I’m ready for summer now. I typically drag my heels going into this season, but I’m ready now. Ready for peaches and tomatoes and melting popcicle, barefoot wild kid goodness.

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The Bounty of May

The garden is slaying me with beauty this year. The end of this month marks four years in this house and it’s our first growing season feeling like we’re…well not quite ‘on top of it’. Nor do we have the beast tamed. But we’re the least overwhelmed of the previous years. And I think that’s…

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Knitting & Reading & Unknitting

You won’t believe what happened to me last week. We’ve been planning our school fundraiser. We haven’t had a big party like fundraiser in a few years and since it’s the school’s 20th anniversary, we’re even going so far as to call this a ‘gala’. All of us who got suckered onto the planning committee…

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A Simple Seaside Spring Break

It’s tough to get back in the habit of blogging once you’ve broken it. But I’m going to try get things going once more. After all things are blooming and growing and that’s motivation, certainly. (I do try and keep up on facebook and instagram, if you’d like to follow me there) We took to…

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March in the Garden | Flowering Success

Since there appears to be no March showers to bring April flowers, the plants have decided to make their big show early. There are flowers everywhere. From wild tiny purple flowers in freshly mowed fields, to neglected rose shrubs, to carefully pruned lilacs and promises of blooms from nurtured fall planted seedlings. Eleven years ago…

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Knitting and Reading : : Life Lessons

My goodness. I made a sort of a new years resolution that I wasn’t going to knit any sweaters this year. I typically like a long, constant project like a sweater. This year was going to be different. This year I wanted to play around with textures and new stitches that I hadn’t tried before….

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Enjoy this Life

{ this moment }

{this moment} ~ Joining Soulmama’s Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.