2020 Garden Update: Over 100 tomato plants and moreOn July 18, 2020 by Greti Alaci6 min read
Back in February, we’ve already gone over a rough overview of our garden plans for this year. We’ve doubled our growing space and added a high-tunnel on our homestead, which gave us a big upper hand in gardening this year. The lockdown measures also helped, with both of us working from home, we didn’t have to commute and we had more time for homestead chores. Aside from gardening, we’ve also tackled long-overdue projects and we even mastered the guts to hatch our first baby chicks.
Having a greenhouse is super useful
Our high-tunnel greenhouse was sort of an impulse buy, but it turned out to be a great investment. The best part is that we finally had a way to provide enough light to our seedling during the super cold months of early spring. We still had to carry tens of trays with seedling inside the house every night to keep them from freezing overnight, but it was well worth the effort. Aside from a batch of peppers, all of our seedlings survived and grew nice and strong.
As soon as we’ve put the greenhouse in, we planted a few cold-weather crops that were ready to harvest by the time we could start planting outside. We planted a few radishes, a few gorgeous looking May King salads, spinach and green onions. Everything grew beautiful, but we were especially proud of our big lettuce heads.
Now that we harvested the last of those early-spring veggies, we’ve built two raised beds on either side where we’ll plant tomatoes and basil on one side and hot peppers habaneros and jalapenos on the other side. We also added 3 luffa plants, to see if we can grow them. All those are heat-loving plants and should do well in the greenhouse during our hot summer.
A bigger garden patch by the orchard
This garden patch was used last year to grow potatoes and garlic. We didn’t have much luck with potatoes and even though we were successful in growing garlic, we still decided to skip those this year and try planting something else in that space instead.
We ploughed and tilled a slightly bigger area to make room for this year’s garden, but other than that we didn’t amend the soil too much. The soil in this area of our garden is a bit more sandy, but it’s still mostly clay. We still can’t produce enough compost to add to all of our gardens, so this fall we plan on spreading cow manure over our growing spaces and let it compost in place over winter.
We started planting in this garden back in early March, way before our last frost. Based on past experience we know that our soil here is great for growing plants from the brassica family, so we started with a few transplanted plants that we started indoors a while back: some cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. We’re super excited about the Brussel sprouts, this will be our first year growing those.
We still had loads of space in this garden, so we planted a few more rows of green onions, some corn for popcorn, making sure we leave enough room for our tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of our favourite vegetables and they are super versatile. They are used in a lot of sauces and we also want to make a lot of tomato sauce to last us the entire year. Thus, we planted about 50 tomato plants in this garden, using seeds from the leftovers of last year’s tomato sauce processing.
After nearly losing most of them in a late cold-snap, they all recovered and now are doing great. It’s been actually hard to keep on top of all the pruning they require while growing so big.
Improving our last year’s garden patch
When we first moved here we started a garden patch behind our house. Even though the soil here was not ideal either, we liked the location and close proximity to our house. Since this plot was already cultivated in the past couple of years, the soil here is starting to show signs of improvement.
We also planned to double this growing space and since we now had a plough, I wanted to take advantage of that. Although ploughing doesn’t align with our long-term plans that involve various no-dig methods, I felt it’s a necessary evil to kickstart the process and to speed things up.
This meant we had to stop our Ruth Stout experiment, but this also helped us to drow a lot of helpful conclusions on how effective the Ruth Stout method is and formulate a better plan for the future. For now, we just ploughed and tilled all the decaying organic matter resulted from our Ruth Stout beds, into the soil.
Using a shovel I cleared out the walking paths between our garden beds, thus helping to raise the beds on each side. This will give our vegetables more space to bury their roots in loose soil.
In early spring, we planted a few rows of radishes, spinach, arugula, that we’ve since harvested. The other beds were filled with eggplants, pepper plants, tomatillos, beets, kale, parsley and cucumbers.
Next to these, we laid out a big piece of groundcover fabric that is now home to our summer and winter squash, zucchinis and melons. The groundcover fabric turned out to be a great idea so far, as we didn’t have to worry about weeds in that area of the garden.
We also have a lot of volunteer plants growing in this garden patch from leftover seeds from last year. We have loads of marigolds that grew all over the place and tens of surprise tomatoes everywhere. This is partially my fault, as the compost we used to amend the soil was not properly made and it still had a lot of tomato seeds.
More plant diversity for our food forest
We’re still working on slowly turning our orchard into a food forest. We started this process last year, and this season we continued to add more plants and diversity among the already established trees. We planted a few more berry bushes and a lot of aromatic bushes such as tarragon, thyme and dill.
I’m still adding more layers of hay around the trees and between them to create areas for future plants and perennials. We plan on adding a lot more varieties here, but all in due time.
Garden tour June 2020
Here’s a video update of how our garden looked at the end of June. I started writing this article a few months back, but I never got around to publishing it. So, some plans have changed, others stayed the same. We hope you enjoy this garden tour!
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We (Vlad & Greti) are building a home on a homestead in a rural area of Romania in Western Europe and sharing our story as two passionate gardeners who ditched the city for a simpler, better life.