Over the Fence Urban Farm


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Tomatoes Growing Up One Vine

People sometimes look sideways at our tomato vines. We grow them up strings tied about 6 feet up from the ground, prune them down to a single fruiting vine, and they grow to be about 10-15 feet long by October. We fit around 20 plants in a 25 foot row. This practice was the result of reading Fell’s Vertical Gardening and watching a pruning tutorial on YouTube. (It’s linked in this post from a few years ago: “Tomato Fingers.”)

This year I’m trying to train more of our CSA folks to prune the plants. This is something I like to do myself both because I enjoy it and because it is somewhat exacting work. But I need to teach others what I’ve learned the past few years and I need to let go so I can get away from the farm from time to time! Pruning must be done at least once a week.

The hardest part for people to watch and understand is when I cut the suckers, some with stems 3/4 of an inch wide with flowers. They shouldn’t ever get this big but sometimes I miss one when they are young. I see the potential for fruit on those vines too, but I know from experience that it is easier for the plants to breathe, and for me to harvest their produce, when they are cut back.

People always ask whether the plants make as much fruit as they would if I let them grow out. I don’t have a scientific answer but have always assumed that since they are directing their growth in fewer directions the yield is concentrated to those areas and does better than spreading itself out. I still don’t have hard numbers to share- I’m a qualitative researcher afterall – but as the fruit sets this season, I do believe the proof is in these pictures. (top to bottom: Marbonne, Amish Paste, Sun Gold)

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I Heart Our CSA!

This afternoon our CSA members turned up and knocked out some seriously good and important work. Here are a few highlights.

Sarah and Emily helped my harvest nearly 40 lbs of new potatoes. Then Melissa helped me replant the row with some quick growing haricot-vert and cilantro.

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Carrie harvested beans that have already come in.

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Liz and Melissa did some heavy weeding to help prep the old garlic bed for fall crops.

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Elizabeth pruned basil and Sarah followed behind with fish fertilizer.

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Pam worked her magic on the tomatoes.

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And Andrew checked after the irrigation system.

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Love you guys.


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Four, Make that SIX, Weeks of Photos

Has it really been four six weeks since our last post?! It was four when I first sat down to write this one. That seemed like a long time. Six weeks seems downright negligent. But, while we haven’t been blogging, we have been busy. Here are some highlights. (Note: We have been pretty good at posting on Facebook. If you aren’t following us there, maybe you should.)

The romaine we transplanted during our last workday came in full and crisp.

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We have harvested HUNDREDS of tomatoes, oftentimes in a single day…

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DSC_0114 photo 3We distributed a ton of them through our CSA thanks to our “sarcophagus” system. (Term coined by Julian Halliday)

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We made and distributed roasted tomatillo salsa to nearly all members of our CSA…

This was a goody batch we sent to Rosa and George's band instructor. The red bottle is a tomato version.

This was a goody batch we sent to Rosa and George’s band instructor. The red bottle is a tomato version.

We also harvested, shared, and ingested TONS of kale, chard, and arugula, herbs, onions, cucumbers, beans. You can check out some of our favorite recipes, including our own K-Word Smoothie, on our recipes board.  We canned pizza sauce, chutney, and salsa verde (a cooked and preserved version of our fresh salsa that doesn’t really compare but when you are sitting on a mountain of tomatillos what are you gonna do?). We made refrigerator pickles and jardiniere. It’s been awesome.

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We have lots to do to get ready for fall. And some things we hoped to get done probably won’t this year. But, we’ll be ready next time around.

 


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Tomato Fingers

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If you’ve ever grown tomatoes you know where this is going. You know that smell they leave on your fingers when you’re pruning and training them. It’s nothing I can describe in words. All I know is I’m happy to be smelling it again.

This year’s tomato plants are extra special since we grew them from seed. The fact that some are now standing over two feet tall in the ground is nothing less than amazing. And they are just starting to show their first signs of fruiting.

DSC_0150We’re mostly growing cherry tomatoes this year (see “What We’re Growing 2014” for a full list) to try to avoid some of the worst plagues of any backyard tomato grower – early blight, blossom end rot, splitting and cracking… These are all indeterminate varieties, which means they will, in theory, continue to grow and set fruit until they die from frost, so we’re training them up a line of twine.

This video explains the process pretty clearly. Hoping our CSA members will take a look to learn how to help care for the plants here as well as those they took home. Of course, if you have the space, you can just let them run wild. We’re going with this option to keep the plants from becoming a mess of vines. This should ensure good air circulation and an easier harvest.

Now get out there and get yourself some sweet smelling tomato fingers.