Monday, May 21, 2012

Gardening without Water - Tomato Plants

The garden looks very puny. I knew we'd have trouble this year because of water and poor soil, but until you see scrawny, nitrogen-deprived plants you just don't know how bad it's going to be.

The tomato plants are small but some are thriving. There are lots of small green tomatoes so I have high hopes. These are Roma plants and I freely admit that I did not check whether or not they are the best to grow in my current environment. They were what I liked to grow in Illinois so I decided to grow them here. I also planted some Celebrity hybrid seeds, also without any real thought. I planted about a tray of those to see how they did.

The Romas are a determinate variety which means they will grow to a certain size only and produce fruit. They have done rather poorly. During their early critical growing period (April) they received about a half-liter of water every 3 days which was enough to keep them alive but not enough to really thrive. Now they are stunted and for all intents and purposes will not grow much larger. They are producing fruit and just counting the green tomatoes right now I can see about 8 quarts of salsa. That's not too bad. It takes about 8-10 Romas for 1 quart of salsa (when you add in onion and peppers). So we'll get some degree of a harvest but it's not going to be bountiful.

The Celebrity seeds are doing much better. They got about the same amount of water but being indeterminate plants they were still growing later on when I upped the water amount for the garden. So they were more "dormant" during April and now are popping right along. (Experienced gardeners know what I mean when I say popping. A tomato plant will go for a period of time where it looks like no real growth is being added and then suddenly, almost overnight, you'll see it suddenly size up.) There is no fruit on the Celebrity yet but lots of buds. I am hopeful.

Other things in the garden are doing mediocre. About half the squash plants are almost to the point where I'm ready to pull them up and plant something else. The other half are sizing up nicely. The cantaloupe and watermelon plants are going like gangbusters and it's clear now that I planted them too closely together. There will be blood.

So we'll be better off next year. The compost from the humanure will be added to the gardens to increase soil fertility and we'll have the pond hopefully dug and filled with water. I may also set up a 3000 gallon containment tank that I can siphon off some creek water during the winter rainy season and then preserve for the summer months when there is no water. At 70 gallons every 3 days (our garden water needs) that 3000 gallons would last us 129 days, which would be enough to get us through the worst of the dry season.

We're down to less than 200 gallons in the main tank. There is rain in this afternoon's forecast which is a mixed blessing. It would delay the pond building but it would give us usable water in our reservoir. At worst I have to call my water guy and he'll deliver me 1000 gallons. I may do that anyway just for the having of it now.

God bless you and keep you today.

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