Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tomatoes in Arizona: The Early Girls Get Their Turn

Since the Roma tomatoes I planted earlier this spring continue to thrive, I decided to try the same tactics with some Early Girl tomatoes. I saved seeds from the nicest-looking Early Girl tomato I could find at Food City, and sprouted them in water to make sure they were good. Once all the seeds sprouted, I planted them in cut-down 2-liter bottles filled partway with crumpled, torn-up grocery advertisements and dollar-store potting soil.

Early Girl tomato seedlings, May 27, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

As you can see from the photo, I had a lot more seedlings than I need for one season. The fifth bottle has crushed palm leaves instead of crushed newspaper. I want to see which one makes a better wick. Since the weather is so hot and dry, I figure a good number of the seedlings will wilt and die. The ones that don't wilt should grow well, because they will have adapted to local conditions.

I had a bunch of fallen palm fronds in the yard that I usually toss in the trash alley. I thought they would make good tomato stakes, so I broke off the curved ends and stacked them in a corner of the garden area. I plan to tie them together at the top and spread them over the tomatoes in the cut-off 2-liter bottles. They will provide support and help shade the plants from the worst of the sun once the tomatoes grow enough. The palm tree's shadow will also protect the plants from the harshest rays of the noon sun.

Dried Palm Fronds May 27, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Palm frond tomato stakes, May 27, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

I chose where to plant my seedlings by flooding the yard and watching where the water pooled. That way, any rain will stay near the plants, and my watering will be more effective. I put 5 seedlings in each 2-liter bottle and used the extras in two arcs at each side. I planted close to 60 seedlings but I expect quite a few to wither.

Water pooling test May 27, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Water pooling test photo 2, May 27, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

I also took photos of the view from my chair in the southwest corner of the garden, behind the palm. The way that part of the yard lies, people walking by don't even look, so it's more private than it seems. I plan to add some sunflowers in the northeast corner, just past the big palm tree in the background of this photo, and I want some terra cotta window-box-style planters to put on top of the slabs you can see along the top of the brick wall between our house and the neighbors' house.

Facing East, Garden photos by Jack V. Sage

I waited for about 30 minutes to see how fast the water evaporated. Thanks to the pitch of the yard and the way I trenched the plants, everything was still wet. I went back an hour later and the ground was still damp, so I think the plants will do okay.
Early Girl seedlings May 27, 2012, photo 1 by Jack V. Sage

Early Girl seedlings May 27, 2012, photo 2 by Jack V. Sage

Early Girl seedlings May 27, 2012, photo 3 by Jack V. Sage

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