This post is dedicated to Mel Bartholomew, founder of Square Foot Gardening, an early influence on my gardening knowledge. Mel passed away as this blog is being posted. He was 84…
Having spent several years and many difficulties in My Atlanta Garden, I am attempting new strategies and techniques to deal with our blistering hot and desert dry summers.
Several years ago, I built a raised bed using cinder blocks and an old water bed liner. I did this to (a) help in water conservation, (b) to give the plants plenty of room to send roots, and (c) to incorporate something known as ‘Square Foot Gardening’. I built this bed with that specific goal in mind, and followed Mel Bartholomew’s book of the same name, (Rodale Press, c 1981), and still incorporate those methods today. Several years later, it has become my Tomato bed / Japanese garden. Having finally learned how to properly pinch plants, (yea, alliteration) and the difference between determinate (bush) and indeterminate (vine) varieties, my tomato bed is off to a start as hot as our spring, putting out blossoms and fruit like crazy. I have also helped my particular plants with cages for the bush , and some para-cord for the vines. These small, but simple changes have made all the difference in the health and production of my tomatoes.
I had planted some onions down in the rock garden (soil) a year or so ago, and they have done wonderfully. This year I added some top soil and planted the whole bed in onions, paying special attention to the perimeter in a weak attempt to keep the ants at bay. (It actually seems to be working!) I had added some peppers early on, though my faithful readers know that they were decimated, then moved to the aquaponics system where they recovered nicely.
More recently, however, I purchased additional pepper starters, Bell, Sweet and Hot, and added them to the rock garden along with some marigolds and a few squish (as we like to call squash). They still need to be watered often, (about every other day), but as you can see, they are all flourishing, several of the onions sets (as I think onions are called), are heaving, and even more had their leaves falling over. I am letting (2) plants go to seed, and knocked over the leaves on the remaining sets to start the curing process.
The wicking bed has gone absolutely ballistic, throwing off several handfuls of beans, as well as some VERY healthy tomato plants. Just look at these stems!! I also have to add water to the wicking bed about once every week to 10 days, just to keep everybody happy and growing. The wicking bed gets less sun than the other (2) gardens, but are beginning to put off numerous flowers and, subsequently, fruit. I am looking at a potential bumper crop of tomatoes this season.
We have had early heat in my Zone 7b West Atlanta garden, with most days in the mid to upper 80’s, so both the lettuce and broccoli plants have succumbed, and been donated to the compost pile. I eagerly anticipate their return with a fall crop and harvest!
The last system to update is the Aquaponics system (APS), where I have been having mixed results. While it is supposed to be easy to operate, and while I have seen extraordinary results, for some reason I cannot seem to keep the fish alive. All mine have died. Yet, oddly enough, the system continues to grow. To help the plants thrive, I have added some seaweed extract, potassium bi-carb, calcium and some additional fertilizer. The plants look healthy, the Marigolds are blooming and have nice color, the Beans are podding. and even the Tomato plants are fruiting. I’m not sure whether to add fish again, or just try this water method for awhile.
I guess you will have to check back in soon, to find out which we do…