We tried something new this year – tomato grafting. pHred Molnar, our longtime friend and drop-off location owner, grafted a variety of heirloom tomato scion seedlings onto a special root stock tomato plant – Maxifort F1, and then generously donated them to the farm. The idea is that this root stock is highly disease resistant and can protect the grafted top, which will bear the true heirloom tomato fruit. You can read all about this technique as Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
The results thus far are impressive:
photo credit: L. Butler
As you can see, the grafted plants on the right of the pepper row are nearly double in size from the ones grown on their own roots. The cages on both rows are about 7′ tall. These were planted at the same time with starts that were the same size.
The final test, of course, will be in the quality and quantity of fruit. We’ll keep you posted.
–posted by Steven
Today we used a permaculture method for readying beds for planting. We are in the upper bed of our greens garden (also known as the Gather Garden – since there is where we grow much of the specialty greens for Chef Sean of Gather Restaurant in Berkeley. In this first picture, you see Hailey raking unsifted compost over a recently harvested lettuce bed. She’s raking the compost right over whatever was left in the bed – weeds, bolted lettuces, whatever. You can also see in this photo behind Hailey a bed that is nearly finished being refreshed in our traditional no-till way – by removing all of the crop remains and weeds, applying a think layer of sifted compost/native soil mix, and raking it smooth.
Here you can see how that sifting is done. On a frame of 1/2″ hardware cloth, we dump aged compost and our native “soil”. Yup, that light stuff is our native soil – it is pure, white sand. We make the mix for this application pretty rich – about 1/3 sand to 2/3 compost.
Here Quinn is finishing the operation. As you can see, this is quite labor intensive. The finished mix is carried down to the beds in 5 gal. buckets. You saw how it was used in our traditional no-till beds in the first frame. Now, back to the Sheet Mulching:
Hailey has been laying down the cardboard atop of the unsifted compost. Mandy is spraying it down until it is wet all the way through, and Quinn has been dumping the sifted compost/native soil mix on top. It then gets raked smooth.
This is the last step before planting – Hailey and Mandy are spreading straw over the beds. We are using old, rain-soaked straw that has seen prior duty as potato mulch and who knows what else. You can also use leaves, which is pretty common in permaculture.
What’s next? Planting, which we will show you in a future post. We plan to plant the same crops side-by-side in this bed so that we can compare the two techniques. It should be interesting!
–posted by Steven