Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tomatoes and corn

The flat of tomato plants and my row-stick.   I am using 42" rows this year.  This is my official 42" stick.  It has a grip at the center-of-gravity and is marked with a piece of green, surveyor's flutter tape.
Today is the first tomato planting day.  And if we do not have a killing frost it will also be the last tomato planting day.

Mrs ERJ loves salads.  Sometimes I think her love of salads seeps over and enhances her love for me...the guy who grows her salads.  Obviously, I do not complain about the seepage.

Cherry tomatoes planted beneath feedlot panels.  I planted five varieties.  Two of them were "jumbo" plants to get a jump on the season.
My original plan was to use a tipped feedlot panel for the cherry tomatoes.  One of the central tenants of Permaculture is that growing plants becomes much easier if you mimic the ecological niche the plant originally came from.

Tomatoes are sprawlers and scramblers. They are like teenagers.  They do not want to stand up straight.  They do not want to lie on the floor.  They are happiest when they can drape themselves over furniture.

The best tomato support system that I have found is to tip a feedlot panel and give them a modest amount of help weaving through it as they grow.  It is a truism of farming that a man can never have enough feedlot panels, gates, hose or tool boxes.

Plants are the original solar panel.  Like the silicon based panels, these feedlot panels are tilted to take advantage of the sun's south-of-center path through the sky (in the Northern Hemisphere).  That is, north is to the left of this picture and south is to the right.

Two other "magic" tricks are to place a cinder block on the north side of the plant to increase warmth and to plant onion sets or leaf lettuce between the tomato plants to help choke out weeds.

Picking cherry tomatoes is a breeze.  I planted five varieties and will have a taste test to see which ones we like best.

Same row but viewed from east-to-west.  South is to the left in this picture.
Knowing how much Mrs ERJ likes picking tomatoes from the feedlot panels, I took an inventory and determined that I have enough feedlot panels to support the entire row of tomatoes.  I expect an extra kiss on the cheek for this.  The advantages are
  • Less bending over
  • Fewer tomatoes lost to slugs
  • Fewer tomatoes lost to rot
  • We can FIND the ripe fruit
In addition to the five types of cherry tomatoes, I planted two paste type tomatoes, Super Marzano (hybrid) Polish Linguisa (open pollinated) and two medium "round" tomatoes Celebrity and Jetsetter (both hybrids).


Sumac brush

Walnut and Box Elder brush

The ends were cut to make them pointy and to push into the ground easily

You cannot see it but this is a hop plantation.  The variety is "Sterling" which is a more disease resistant "Saaz" type suitable for pilsners.


I also planted the corn today.

Now that I am retired I can do many things for no better reason than those activities amuse me.

I crossed Silver Mine (seed parent) with Santo Domingo Pueblo (pollen parent) corn and have been selecting back for early ripening, large ears, white kernels and "QPM".  Santo Domingo has the "floury 1" gene.  Last year was a bust for the corn.  My free range chickens destroyed my planting.  This year I have three hens and they are confined.

This year I planted seven rows that are approximately 65 feet long.  Kubota helped me strip kernels the nine best ears that were left and he sorted out the white kernels for me.

Traditionally, farmers would choose a hundred of their best ears (for diversity and to avoid in-breeding depression) and they would select kernels from the middle third of the cob.  The kernels near the base of the cob set earlier and the kernels near the tip set later.   Kubota and I chose kernels from the third that was closest to the base since I am trying to shift this strain to an earlier ripening date.

This breeding project is nothing that I will ever be able to justify from an economic sense...but then neither can golfers justify hitting a little, dimpled ball with a silly-stick. Mrs ERJ tolerates my growing "field" corn because we have neighbors who are very good at growing "super sweet" sweet corn.  We pay them $4 a dozen and are happy to do it.

My goal is to develop an awesome strain of corn/maize for white cornbread that is adapted to the upper mid-West.

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