Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bed #4 Retrospective for 2014

The first frost of the season came on Friday morning, the temperature just barely nudged down to 32ºF. Friday I cleared out the old Green Fingers cucumber plants and the Tromba D'Albenga zucchini vines, those were the very last of the tender vegetables to be removed from the garden. I've been working on clearing out Bed #4, the solanum bed, over the last few weeks. All the tomato plants have been disposed of, and the pepper and eggplant plants are snug in the compost bins and the bed has been sown for the winter.

Here's my all natural tomato plant disposal system. I prefer to keep tomato plants out of the compost and I don't want to clog up the landfill with them so I cart the plants away from the garden and give the deer a treat.

Bed #4 was devoted entirely to solanaceous crops in 2014, unless you count the cover crop that filled the bed in late winter and early spring.

Here's how it looked back in January, I had cleared out the bean, zucchini, and cucumber plants and all that remained were a few Lacinato kale plants (covered to keep the birds from munching) and a frost zapped volunteer Aji Angelo plant.

January 14
Here's the bed a month later after I had laid new drip lines and sowed most of the bed with a cover crop mix which had to be covered to keep the birds from eating the seedlings.

February 14
By the end of March the cover crop had matured enough to chop down and dig in.

March 27
That task was completed by April 2. The worms made short work of all that delectable greenery.

April 2
There wasn't a trace of greenery left in the soil a few weeks later when I dug in my usual amendments  plus about 3 pounds of pulverized egg shells. I had the bed ready for the summer solanums by the 28th. You can read a more detailed post about my solanum bed preparation here. We were in the middle of the third year of a severe drought so I experimented with laying sheets of newspaper over the soil to try to conserve soil moisture. The bed may have been ready for planting but my tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings weren't big enough to set out yet.

April 28
Planting out started in mid May with the tomatoes.

May 18
By May 28 I had set out all the solanums.

May 28
The weather was unusually warm this spring and summer (summer here tends to be more like spring) which prompted the plants to leap into growth.

June 8
June 22
July 2

July 30
August 12
Growth slowed at the end of August as the peppers and tomatoes started to mature on the plants. The first cherry tomatoes started ripening at the beginning of August but the larger fruited tomatoes started ripening in earnest in early September.

August 30
I started harvesting the first ripe sweet peppers in mid September. Disease struck the tomato patch, you can see the brown foliage in the Amish Paste plants rising above the pepper plants on the left.

September 22
The Amish Paste plants were dead before the end of September, but not before I was able to harvest almost 47 pounds of tomatoes, enough to can about 18 quarts.

September 27
So I cleared them out for the most part. One of the plants had the neighboring Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes growing through the cage So I left that cage standing. The Black Krim plant was also a goner by this time so I pulled it out too.

September 28
October 3
The pepper harvests continued into early November, the final harvest of good peppers was on the 9th. The tomato harvests lasted a bit longer with the final harvest coming in on the 18th. I'll be looking back at the 2014 harvests in a retrospective post to come some time in the next few weeks.

November 4
Let's take a look from the other end of the bed where the eggplants were growing.

June 3
June 22
July 2
July 30
I harvested the first eggplant, a couple of Salanga, on August 2 and the harvests continued into mid September.

August 30
The plants were hit with a severe infestation of spider mites and and unfortunately my treatment of Neem and Pyganic not only killed the spider mites, but they killed the new blossoms as well. Below, you can also see the brown foliage of the dead Black Krim tomato plant rising above the yellowing foliage of the eggplants.

September 22
The weather was quite warm this autumn which helped the plants to make a good enough recovery through October and November that they produced another flush of blossoms. Most of the foliage on the plants seen below is new since I had stripped the dying spider mite damaged foliage off the plants earlier.

November 4
November 29
I was able to harvest another 10 pounds of eggplant in December before I cleared out the plants on the 21st, the last of the solanums to be cleared out.

December 21
Here's the bed now, the Agribon fabric covering the soil down the right side of the bed is protecting the Kodiak mustard cover crop that will be dug in later this winter. The left side of the bed is sown with Extra Precoce Violetto (Extra Early Purple) fava beans. I grow them inside cages covered with bird netting and fabric to keep the birds (always the damned birds) from digging up the seedlings and munching the tender young foliage into oblivion. The cages also keep the mature plants from flopping over when they become heavy with beans. The favas should mature sometime in May, they will be followed by corn and pole beans. The mustard will be followed by bush beans and melons and perhaps squash.

December 23
My garden is home to a number of Western Fence Lizards, (Scleroporus occidentalis) and apparently this bed was an attractive nesting spot.

Western Fence Lizard
Unfortunately I figured this out when I was prepping the bed for planting and dug up a cache of eggs.

I didn't figure out that these were Western Fence lizard eggs (there are various other lizards and a few types of snakes that I've seen around my garden as well) until I caught her in the act. Can you see her face peering out of the hole that she dug? I found three more spots in this bed where she placed a cache of eggs and marked them so I wouldn't disturb them. In late summer I saw some juvenile lizards racing around the garden - success!

Mama lizard making a nest.

I guess I must be doing something right if these beneficial critters make my garden their home.


  1. That's neat how the lizards are nesting in the garden. The one in the photo is well camouflaged, and I never would have seen her head poking out if you hadn't mentioned it!

    I see your peppers and eggplants are staggered down the row. I plant mine in a staggered double row about 18 inches apart in the row, and I was curious about your spacing. For me it's always a balancing act between getting enough leaf coverage to minimize sunburn, but not crowding the plants too much.

  2. It's interesting to see you using newspaper to cover the bare soil. Presumably this is to reduce water loss? Your soil must be very fertile, because you certainly pack those plants in, and get some amazing crops.

  3. I can't get over how long your growing season is. Most of the heat lovers seem to go in around the same time as here but they continue to produce for a good 2 months longer. Those pepper plants are huge - I was all a gush about my lushest pepper plants and they weren't even two feet tall!

  4. I love seeing the lizards nesting in the garden. They must be great to have around. And it always amazes me that you can be picking solanums in December. Even in your zone. You have a very strange climate.

  5. So you get cute bug-eating lizards nesting in your beds and I get snarly snapping turtles that can take a toe off digging washtub size holes in my beds. It's not fair. At least our birds are red-blooded, bug-eating ones, not wimpy vegans. And I'm stealing your idea with the newspaper. If I get the extra garden plot again, I think I will put a heavy layer of newspaper down the row before covering it with plastic row cover. Last year I got a lot of weeds growing under the plastic, plus it was a pretty dry summer. Good luck with the new gardening year and Happy New Year.


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