Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Giant Tomato Forest!

I thought I could do it. I thought I would be able to get away with letting my tomato seedlings grow another week. But then one day, I took a good look at them and saw this:

These aren't seedlings. These are tomato trees! I couldn't put it off another week--it was time to replant the seedlings yet again. This will be the last time I replant them before setting them in the garden. I really, really wanted to put them in the garden, but there were three major problems with that: 1. I know Ohio weather, and although it was 82 degrees this week, that doesn't mean we won't still get snow before the end of April; 2. my garden is still so wet that with my clay soils I'd be basically building pots around the roots of my seedlings; and 3. this is what my garden currently looks like:

That's annual ryegrass, and I seeded it last fall as a cover crop or "green manure." The rye kept my soil from eroding over the winter, and once tilled in it will bring some great organic matter to the soil. But right now, I'm not planting anything. Therefore, it was time to give the tomatoes a bigger home. You can use all kinds of pots for tomatoes, but when I'm doing my final repotting I really like those big, plastic, 20 ounce drink cups. Pop some fairly large holes in the bottoms for drainage, and you have a cheap, reuseable pot that is nice and  deep.

Repotting the seedlings for the second time is MUCH easier than pricking them out of a growing tray. Simply pop the root mass out of the seedling cell, put it in the bottom of the cup, and fill with the same potting mix you were using before, gently tamping down the soil as you go. Cover stems and all--the tomato will send out roots from its stem and fill the cup. Don't forget to label the cup with the variety of tomato!

The chickens have been moulting these past couple of weeks, and have grown in new flight feathers. It's easy to tell when they have new flights--suddenly you see chickens among the daffodils in the flower bed instead of in their pasture where they belong. That means that the other big chore we have this week is to clip chickens' wing feathers. Our chickens need to stay in their pasture, for the sake of the garden and the landscaping, and peace with the neighbors.

You have never seen destruction until you've seen mulch that a flock of chickens has been in. And any plants they don't eat, they scratch out of the dirt while looking for bugs. It's an idyllic thought--wouldn't it be nice if you could let the hens run in the garden and eat bugs? But the hens like your tomatoes, and peppers, and peas, and broccoli, etc. just as much as you do--if they don't scratch out or eat the seedlings first. Take a close look at those lovely daffodils in the photo above. Here's that flower bed after the chickens left:

Clipping wing feathers doesn't hurt the chicken, and it's not permanent. You clip the end of the feather off to shorten it, kind of like clipping a fingernail. Without their flight feathers, the chickens can't get over the pasture fence. This is for their protection as well as the protection of the landscaping--the pasture fence helps to protect them from predators like neighborhood dogs.

Mama Hen has allowed her chicks to leave the barn with her, and she's been showing them how to forage. She'll find a goodie, and make a special clucking call. Then she'll pick up the treat and drop it again and again until the chicks start to eat. Only after the chicks start to eat will she eat some herself.

That's it for this week! I hope your daffodils are as gorgeous as mine were (right before that rooster decided to scratch them up, that is).