It was good to be back with Earl in his garden. Earl is turning 80 this summer and is still experimenting and sharing what he’s learning. We talked about his compost process, his new tomato cage design and how our weird weather fluctuations this spring affected his green bean crop.
Before we headed to the garden, Earl showed me a broom he made a number of years ago using broom straw he collected from a field along side a highway. He said there are just 3 ingredients: straw, twine and a few knots, but it should outlast any modern broom.
Earl uses his compost pile to produce a high-quality fertilizer – he only adds trimmings and roots from his garden, coffee grounds that he collects from coffee shops and seaweed tea. The roots are a critical component due to the mycorrhizal fungi still clinging to them.Together, these materials form a nutrient rich soil additive with an NPK of 2-3-6. Earl uses Maxi-Crop seaweed due to the nutrient content accumulated in the seaweed gathered near Norway resulting from the Gulf Stream deposits accumulated in it’s journey from the Yucatan Peninsula, across the Atlantic, and along the coast of Europe. He showed me the shovel he filed to a point to help break up the coffee filters and stir the compost.
We then moved into the garden where Earl reluctantly showed me his been crop. These are the green beans he’s been growing from the same seed source for over 30 years. I say that he “reluctantly” because he’s not happy with how they look from the high winds and temperature fluctuations we’ve had this spring. My opinion is that Earl’s beans look better in a bad season than mine do in a good one.
As usual, Earl has a great onion crop this year. He grows them from seed planted in September. In November, he harvests the starts, trims them up and replants them. He and his wife enjoy the young, green onions until bulbs form in the spring. He uses nails driven in the sides of his raised beds to help align the 3 inch spacing he’s been using (though next year he plans to move to 4 inches and give them more room). He stops watering them with the when tops fall in spring. At this point the onions are ready for storage.
As I’ve described in previous posts, Earl has developed a tomato cage system that gives his plants great support and plenty of the room and light he feels is critical for good production. To make storing the cages in the off-season easier, Earl revised his system this year – he now uses 7 standard cages including 1 central cage on the plant and the other 6 surrounding it. He uses twist ties to hold them together and 6, 5 ft pieces of re-bar that he drives 1 foot in the ground for support.
Earl lost 4 plants this year which could have been due to our weather, but he also observed that the plants were located where zinnias were previously planted. He said that this isn’t enough evidence to draw definitive conclusions but he won’t be repeating that again.
This year Earl is trying a hybrid tomato from Burpee called Brandy-Boy based on the famous Brandywine heirloom.I’ll check back later this spring and see how he like them.
Earl has 1 outlier tomato, a Celebrity, that suffered some damage from a cold front. He wanted to give it a chance to see how it would produce, but didn’t want to give it garden space. It’s been exiled to a spot outside his garden with a yard of his compost and left to its own devices. We’ll see later in the season how this one produces as well.
Thanks again, Earl, for sharing your vast gardening knowledge….