Mint, Peas and Tomatoes Three Ways

For the first time in weeks, we are living in an extended forecast of sun.

Six days of rainless existence (allegedly, of course), lay stretched out before us. But with all the planting we desperately need to do, it still feels like a race against the clock.

Thankfully, as we waited for the soil to dry out, we had time to tackle some other projects. Seeding in the greenhouse, some major thinning, and some high tunnel work.

Keith likes to hedge his bets when he farms, and he plants the same crops in different places and in different ways across the property. Our Tomatoes are a clear example of this. We have some gorgeous, huge tomatoes in the tunnel that are already bearing giant green fruits. In a previous post I explained how we string the tomatoes in the high tunnels. As they grow, we add clips to the string to keep them climbing, and we prune the suckers off each plant, which are extra limbs that grow from the V of other branches. They waste the plant’s energy and counter our tomato yield, and we will continue to walk through and prune suckers out of the tunnel tomatoes for weeks.

See how tall they are getting? We clip them every few inches so the tomatoes will grow to the ceiling of the high tunnel

Tunnel Tomatoes!

Look at the fruits of our labor!

We have tomatoes in two other spots, and a fourth planting outside the greenhouse on the hardening off structures. The second set of tomatoes is out next to our giant garlic field. We have ten rows, two hundred feet long, of over half a dozen varieties of tomatoes, from cherries to Romas, which are good for sauce, to our Cherokee Purple heirlooms. We laid these in black plastic, and they are fed through our drip irrigation. But you don’t just plant tomatoes in the field and leave them be – over the past two weeks some of the guys staked every third tomato plant, which involved using steak pounders in ways that hurt my wrists after one go. From here, we take boxes of tomato twine that we strap through our belt loops and walk out through each row to Florida Weave. We start a couple inches off the ground at the base of the plant and run the trine from stake to stake, wrapping the string at each stake and knotting it every third. We do this all the way down the band, and then come back up the other side of the plants, blocking them into a little corridor that keeps them growing straight. We will pass back through and add a level of Florida Weave as the plants grow.

Ten bands of tomato plants. Oh la la.

We are doing this in a field over by our house as well, though only a couple rows of tomatoes are in black plastic. The rest are in compost and horse manure, and were planted last and won’t be ready for several months. But here we also help them along with Florida Weave, and though they are currently some of the smallest tomato plants I’ve ever seen in a field, they’ll come right along.

Our tiny third planting tomatoes.

Happy in their horse manure, our third planting tomatoes get ready to grow.

Farms in other nearby states are getting late blight on their potatoes and tomatoes, and we are all not talking about it, but terrified of it getting to our plants. If that happens, our tunnel tomatoes have the best chance of survival. But it looks bad no matter how you slice it, really. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

The potatoes, meanwhile, though crawling with Colorado Potato Beetles, are looking magnificent. It was really cool to walk through work that I did my first week here and see how amazing it looks. For instance, on one of my first days here we divided our mint into new beds, and though we sort of beveled the area, the mint has grown fantastically. Our chocolate mint is out of control, our KC mint is finally coming along, and our orange mint may actually exist now. Go us.

Our elusive, but apparently thriving, orange mint.

They’re ain’t no party like a KC mint party.

Chocolate Mint, our delicious peppermint.

And remember those peas I was posting pictures of? The snow peas are flowering and almost as tall as I am now, and we’ve been harvesting our sugar snaps for over a week. They look great, and they taste pretty wonderful too, especially when you snap one right off the vine. Mmmmm. Unfortunately, some of the poles we used during our pea trellis apparently were too flexible, and the weight of wet peas has bowed them in on their aisles. Now we have rows of peas but no paths to walk through to harvest – but I’m sure this is something we’ll fix up tomorrow.

Our peas are too heavy!

We’ve also spent some time this week mulching and weeding our orchard trees and putting up more 8-foot deer fence. These pesky deer. I’ve also spent some time finally sitting down and reading some farm related books and working on some basic outlines of what I would want to grow and sell and how much this may potentially all cost. Once again, I wish I was more savvy at math.

Anywho, it’s late. I should be sleeping, but the farm world (if you couldn’t tell), has really done a number on my sleep cycle. But knowing the sun will be out tomorrow makes all the difference.

-Farmer Liz

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