My tomato garden – String Up Method

My Tomato Garden - The String Up Method

23 October, 2016 | Backyard Farm

“Gardening is
cheaper than therapy;
and you get tomatoes”

In this day, and with this post, I declare my 2016-17 veggie garden open for business. Although the work started a couple of weeks ago when my lovely husband prepared my new garden bed for my tomato garden. Thanks honey!

My tomato garden

Ihave been in New Zealand for 7 years now, and since we arrived we were amazed with how popular veggie gardens are here. This was something I never did before, and when we tried it we fell in love with it. When we bought our own house our veggie garden spaces have been evolving and growing with each season. Probably our favourite plant to grow are the tomatoes (follow by the strawberries), and I was looking around in Pinterest about tips and tricks for growing better tomatoes, when I came across with the “String Method”.

Tomato plants need some help and support to reach their full potential, they grow fast, big and wild, so if they are left as it is the leaves covers the sunlight, the fruit weights put them down to the ground and they get rotten. Stalking the tomatoes is great for small gardens as you can use the most of the vertical space, and allow the plant to get more sunlight. On my previous years planting tomatoes I used bamboo sticks stalked to the soil and next to each plant and plastic strings to attache the plant to the stick.

The String Method (or Tomatoes on a String)

I read that this method is not new, it’s used for small farmers operators, but it becoming more popular with personal gardeners. Basically, you place strings from the base up and you wrap the plant around the string as it grows. This requires to prune the plant to grow on a single steam.

First, you need to have a support for the strings… in my case I put four pine stakes of 170cm height, one on each side of my two tomato trails. I buried the stakes a few centimes into the soil and I then attached them to the garden bed with a screw. When they were nice and secure I tied the string at the bottom of the stakes from side to side of the garden bed.

I tied up a string from side to side at the top of the stakes, in this case I placed a hook on each of them to avoid my strings moving down.

Then I tied one string from the top string to the bottom one, one for each tomato plant.

And when my string frame was finished I planted my tomatoes underneath each string and I carefully wrapped it around the string. And that’s it!

Wrapping Up

I have to mention that this method is best for some kind of tomatoes, specifically those that are not bushy-like and needs stalking becasue they grow tall. This is my first summer using this method and I’m quite excited to see the results. Now I need to check the growing and wrapping of the plants at least twice a week to make sure they are well wrapped up the string and well pruned. Wish me luck! :)

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My broody hen

A few month ago I decided to give my ladies the opportunity to have baby chicks, and because we live in an urban area we can’t have a rooster the only possibility is to get fertilized or hatching eggs. After I made my research I find out that I could order some eggs online and it is recommended to order from well known breeder.

The first and most important thing for hatching your new chicks is a broody hen – or in other words a lady who really wants to be a mummy. One of my ladies, Zoila, is broody at the moment. A broody hen is a lady who is sitting on the nest 24 hours a day, she might get up and out of the coop for short periods of time during the day to have some food, drink some water and maybe take a dust bath. Also we noticed that she started pulling out some of the feather on her chest and in between her legs, they do this so they can keep the eggs warm. I didn’t know that and I was worried that she could be sick, but I was wrong, she was ready to take care of her babies :)

Of course the ladies won’t sit on an empty nest, they need something to hatch. We always keep some golf balls on the nest to encourage them to lay eggs, and the same balls are acting as hatching eggs for Zoila. I also leave a couple of real eggs under her to encourage her more and to stay on the nest.

This is Zoila, nesting all day while Elda is checking on her :)Zoila, my broody hen

As soon I realized Zoila went broody I made my online order for hatching eggs. I found a hatchery close to Hamilton in the North Island called Poultry Valley & Lifestyle, that have the two breeds I wanted: Dorkings (the same breed as our lovely Carmelita) and Araucanas (chicken originally from Chile!).

So while my lovely lady is sitting on the nest, and I am waiting for the hatching eggs to get home in a couple of days, now it is a good time for a deep cleaning in the chicken coop. I got out all the hay on the floor and nest and apply a lice powder all over the floor to control lice and bugs. Something I also wanted to do is to get wood shavings for the chicken coop to replace the hay, this is also ideal for raising chicks. It is recommend the use of wood shavings in a deep litter bed system. Deep litter is a term used to describe the floor of a chicken house where loose dry material  are used, in this case wood shaving. If mixed with chicken manure and and additional dry litter will not need removing for 6 to 12 months. If looked after deep litter has no smell and ends up as beautiful compost. Also control bugs and lice, avoid flies and is not harmless for the delicate chicken respiratory system.

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So the house is ready to welcome our new arrivals, hopefully we will have very good news in some weeks ahead. I can’t wait to see how many baby chicks we’ll have. From the moment I get the eggs and place them under Zoila it will be her jobs to take care of them, after all is the natural way to raising chicks, and of course we will take good care of her.

Mi Gallina Clueca

Hace unos meses me decidí a darle a mis chiquillas la oportunidad de tener pollitos , y  ya que vivimos en una zona urbana y no podemos tener un gallo la única posibilidad que teniemos era la de comprar huevos fertilizados. Después de hacer mi investigación online descrubrí de que podía comprar huevos en línea y de que se recomienda pedir de un criador conocido.

Lo primero y más importante que se necesita para tener pollitos es una gallina clueca – en otras palabras, una chiquilla con muchas ganas de ser mami. Una de mis chiquillas, Zoila, es clueca en este momento. Una gallina clueca es una gallina que está sentada en el nido las 24 horas del día, se puede levantar y salir del galinero por períodos cortos de tiempo durante el día para comer  un poco, tomar agua y tal vez tomar un baño. También notamos que ella se empezó a sacar algunas de las plumas en el pecho y entre sus piernas, esto lo hacen para mantener los huevos tibios . Yo no sabía esto asi que estaba preocupada de que ella pudiera estar enferma, peroestaba equivocada, ella solo se estaba preparando para hacerse cargo de sus bebés :)

Por supuesto, las chiquillas no se sientan en un nido vacío, necesitan algo para empollar. Nosotros siempre tenemos algunas pelotas de golf en los nidos para motivarlas a poner huevos, y las mismas estan actuando como huevos fertilizados para Zoila. también le dejé un par de huevos de verdad debajo de ella y animarla más a quedarse en el nido.

Aqui esta Zoila, empollando ensu nido mientras Elda mira como está :)

Zoila, my broody hen

 

Tan pronto me di cuenta de Zoila se puso clueca hice mi pedido en línea de los huevos fertilizados. Encontré un criadero cerca de Hamilton, en la Isla del Norte llamado  Poultry Valley & Lifestyle, que tenian las dos razas que quería: Dorkings (la misma raza que nuestra querida Carmelita) y Araucanas (gallinas originarias de Chile!).

Mientras mi linda chiquilla está sentada en el nido, y yo estoy a la espera de los huevos para incubar que llegarán a la casa en un par de días, ahora es un buen momento para una limpieza profunda en el gallinero. Saqué toda la paja del suelo y los nidos y apliqué un polvo especial para controlar piojillos y otros bichos. Algo que quería hacer era comprar virutas de madera para el gallinero para reemplazar la paja, esto es también recomendado para criar pollitos. Se recomienda el uso de virutas de madera para cubrir el suelo del gallinero. Si se mezcla con estiércol de las gallinas y un producto de seco adicional no hay necesidad de cambiarlo de 6 a 12 meses. La viruta controla el olor y termina tan siendo ideal para el compost. También ayuda al control de bichos, evita las moscas y no es peligroso para el delicado sistema respiratorio de las gallinas.

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Asi que la casa está lista para dar la bienvenida a los nuevos habitantes, si todo sale bien vamos a tener muy buenas noticias en las proximas semanas. No hayo la hora de ver cuántos pollitos tendremos. Desde el momento en que lleguen los huevos y los pongamos debajo de Zoila será su trabajo el cuidar de ellos, después de todo es la forma natural de criar pollos, y por supuesto nosotros vamos a cuidar muy bien de ella.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Ever since I lived in New Zealand I was amazed on how popular Veggie Gardening is here and I got attracted to it very quickly! I started very little, with a couple of tomato plants the first summer and some herbs. Four years later I have a bigger backyard with 4 veggie beds and a chicken coop with 5 chickens.

Last summer was really good for our garden, we had lots of nice and juicy tomatoes, beautiful spring onions and the sweetest strawberries. These were planted in a couple of very small boxes so we decided to make a bigger one.

Here you can see the new box being assembled by my husband. The box is 2mt wide, 80cm deep and 40cm tall. We fill it out with soil from the garden up to 20cm, and on top a layer of sand to improve drainage.

Strawberry Field Box The box filled with normal soil Sand Layer

The next layer is the compost, and here I have to thanks my husband for his great job on making a beautiful compost. There is a compost bin at the back of the house and he is been working on it during the year. I will ask him to write a post about making compost for me :)

Compost bin Compost Compost ready on the Strawberry Field

For the final layer we got Potting and Strawberry Mix to give a nice soil bed for the plants. We had 10 plants from last year and we bought 6 more for the new box.

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The last touches were a weed mat to protect the soil from weed growing, keep the temperature and moisture, and a bird net to protect them for the wild creatures around and my ladies – they would love to have a good pecking around the soil and enjoy the sweet strawberries to come ;)

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DIY Ladies Feeder

This is my first post about our experience having ladies (5 chickens) in our backyard.

We moved to this house last year and the ladies were already there. The previous owners of the house were moving and planning to sell the chickens because they couldn’t take them with them, and since I was planning to have chickens we bought the house with chickens and chicken coop included :)

I will talk about my ladies in another post, for now I will share with you this DIY-very cheap chicken feeder.

feeder01

As you can see the top part of the feeder is a simple plastic round container, and the bottom part is the base of a cake container.

My husband made four even spaced holes along the bottom edge of the plastic container with the drill. As the ladies are eating the food goes down and out through the holes… easy. The two part are attached together with some screws.

feeder02

With the feeder we don’t need to fill their plates twice a day, as we used to do, and also the container keeps the food cleaner and fresher. And of course the ladies can enjoy their always available food – even though I think they are eating even more now! xD

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