June 25, 2020

An Experiment with Planting Transplants

Last month, while I was deciding where to plant my tomato seedlings, I wondered if downsizing my garden several years ago had been such a good idea, after all. It certainly makes it easier to keep up with work-wise, but because my winter and summer gardens overlap, space is sometimes a little tight in spring and fall. As I stood there with my tray of little tomato plants, I thought about the principles of soil health.

I blogged about these last fall (that post here). Four of those principles apply specifically to my garden, and I've changed how I garden because of them.
  1. Decrease mechanical disturbance
  2. Keep soil covered at all times
  3. Maintain a diversity of plant species
  4. Keep living roots in the ground as long as possible
I looked at my bed of heritage wheat, which had made a poor showing. I realized there were enough spaces in the bed to put the first of my transplants. I cleared out little places for them, pulled any unwanted weeds (left as mulch), wrapped each tomato seedling with a cutworm collar, and tucked it into its new home with a trowel.

Fortunately, there weren't a lot of weeds to pull. This is partly because the bed was well mulched (soil health principle #2), but also because some of what was growing there I no longer consider weeds. I left a number of plants for soil principles #3 and 4—diversity of plant species and living root in the ground. Plants that got to stay: wheat and oat plants, clover, chickweed, wood sorrel, dandelion, vetch, violets, heartsease, plantain, chicory, and hop trefoil. All of these are useful plants one way or another.

The partial shade from the neighboring plants seemed to protect the transplants from the sun while they established new roots. I watered daily until they started to grow well. A couple of weeks later I gave each little tomato plant a dose of compost.

After I harvested the grain and cut back the stalks, Dan helped me put up a cattle panel as a trellis. Then I mulched the entire bed with wheat straw and wood chips.

Rain has been good and they are starting to flower. That's happy!

My observation is that the tomatoes thrive as part of a polyculture, so I'm going to call this experiment a success.

How about you? Are you doing any garden experiments this year?


daisy g said...

I think your idea is spot on! It seems that many plants thrive on being nestled in with others.

I love experimenting in the garden. There is so much to learn.

Mama Pea said...

So interesting to hear about your method of gardening. The pictures are great and add so much. As we both know, our growing season and climate is so very different. I think if I placed transplants in among other plants, the ones I was trying to nurture would be quickly overrun and crowded out. My guess is that in our short season, ANYTHING that needs/wants to grow has this hepped-up energy (weeds and invasive species mostly!) and, unfortunately, the stronger ones, not always desirable, slurp up the nutrients and prevail. No doubt about it, we all have to work by trial and error to see what works for us. Ain't it fun? (Well, sometimes yes. Sometimes no. ;o] )

Leigh said...

Daisy, thanks! This is the first time I didn't check a companion planting chart! Of course, weeds are usually considered companion plants. :)

Mama Pea, yes, it's fun when it works! lol. One thing your experiences "versus" mine have confirmed is that there is no one-size-fits-all gardening and homesteading. Some folks just want a 1, 2, 3 how-to, but that doesn't mean it will work. Still, I get good ideas from others' experiments.

Cockeyed Jo said...

Good girl leaving the useful weeds. I do the same thing when I pull weeds. Even with my this year's weed cloth experiment going on, I still leave goodly portions for my weeds that aren't weeds. What do you use for cut worm collars? I recycle drink 16 oz bottles. They work year after year.

Florida Farm Girl said...

Your ingenuity when gardening amazes me. I love to read of all your experiments.

Leigh said...

Jo, the reusable collars are a good idea. I use newsprint. In this case it was an old income tax instruction booklet. So they just decompose right where they are.

Sue, thanks! Nothing I'm actually inventing, just trying to figure out ways to put those soil health principles to practice.

Ed said...

No experiments in the garden for us this year. We are still trying to find our new normal post-mom. She was the avid gardener in our family and always took care of the garden on the farm in exchange for my preserving labor. I really miss that arrangement.

I am switching things up in the preserving department. We are going to do more pints and less quarts because we always seem to go through the pints much faster. I may have to upgrade to a two tier canner so I can process the same amount as I could doing quarts. As you know, we are also experimenting with canning different things like beans and this year I'm going to do pizza sauce for the first time.

Finally, we are going back and forth on our future garden and whether to start all over where we live or improve the farm garden so it will function with infrequent visits. Not sure where we will end up on that one.

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

I attempted to grow dill in with the tomato plants but my seeds didn't sprout. I may replant though. I was told they help keep the worms away.

Helen said...

I always enjoy reading about what you are working on. Thanks.

Leigh said...

Ed, the partnership with your mom will be sorely missed. Now it sounds like you've got a few decisions and adjustments to make. I suspect you'll try out a few ideas before deciding.

I have to mention that we love canned pizza sauce! So handy.

Kristina, I've had poor luck with some of my seeds as well. I've planted Swiss chard three times! Fresh dill is so nice for making pickles. I hope your second planting does better.

Helen, thank you!

Woolly Bits said...

yes, I am trying out that old combo of sweetcorn, beans and sqash. not sure that it will work, because the sweetcorn isn't growing much, while the beans... are in a rush:) and I think butternut doesn't like our climate outside much... the uchiki kuri looks much better! everything is growing away nicely for now, but after a spring like this one I am not surprised! it seems as if nature is trying to make up for the virus with good weather over here! it was so dry that we had a hosepipe ban by mid-may! it's turned more changeable by now, but it's still quite warm with it. makes for another problem of course - potato blight! there's always something... if it's not slugs, it's greenfly - or blight or vine weevils or.... something else:)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, the only problem I have struggled with in the past is that my mulch is hiding place for slugs and snails which go after seedlings with a vengeance. I have to figure out a way to balance when to add it.

Leigh said...

Bettina, did you plant the corn, beans, and squash all at the same time? I find I do better if I plant the corn and squash first, and the beans once the corn is about 6 to 8 inches tall.

The real challenge sounds like your weather! I agree, it's always something.

TB, have you tried diatomaceous earth for the slugs and snails? It's said to work quite well. Yes, balance is an elusive thing!

Goatldi said...

Sweet. Plus beautiful win win!

Isn’t it fun to wait and see? I am already looking towards winter garden and I haven’t harvested a morsel. Getting close though and have leads lot too!

Good job lady!

Leigh said...

Goatldi, thanks! You've got some experimenting to do because you're in a new location. Always an interesting venture.

Woolly Bits said...

no, I did plant the corn first, but it has since become quite cool and it's slow in growing further - in contrast to the beans... I have to pre-sow corn here or the cool summer isn't long enough to have it ripe in time! well, if it doesn't work, I'll start even earlier in the tunnel with the corn - and wait a while longer with the beans:) trial and error - you just never know what works in the garden:))

Leigh said...

Bettina, yes, that's exactly it - trial and error! What works for one person, may or may not work for someone else! Sounds like you've got a good experiment going, and are figuring out how to head toward success.

wyomingheart said...

Time really waits for no farmer and the garden! Spending a lot more time in the tractor seat this year, LOL! Year ago, during my Master Gardner classes, they always talked about the right plant in the right place. Since we have been here on the ridge, it has been a true study on what plant is in the right place, and what grows this year may be a total dud next year. Great post on your tomatoes, and I hope they do excellent! The candy rooster squash is up ;) ! Looks to be a great performer! Just as a reminder to let nature work, last year we had horn worms on the tomatoes, and a parasitic wasp laid her eggs on them, and took care of them. It was nature doing what nature does! Have a perfect week!

Rain said...

Hi Leigh, what a great success! I have so much to learn about gardening still. I've been watching a You Tube channel from a British gent named Charles Dowding. He's awesome, talks about the "no dig" garden and keeping the soil healthy. I started his method with my raised beds this year. Cardboard underneath with a healthy mix of garden soil and compost. My seeds really came up quickly but it remains to be seen what I can harvest. I love reading your blog, you do so many things I will be doing in the future. We are finally getting a week of rain (oh thank you Mother Nature)....so hopefully our well will be happy with that!! :)

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, finding the right plants for the right place is indeed challenging. I'm still working on it!

I'm glad the candy roaster is doing well for you so far. That squash seems to do well everywhere! My Long Island Cheese are one of my slow growers this year. I put them as one of three sisters in the corn, so that may make a difference. It's interesting to watch and see!

Rain, well, it's exciting because you finally have your own place. So you can experiment to your heart's content. And isn't YouTube the greatest resource? Never-ending ideas there.