Friday, June 16, 2017

Tomatoes Everywhere - but what a day!

Yesterday was a very full day, but with a successful ending... Lots of tomatoes!

We were given almost a thousand tomato starts, needing to be in the ground ASAP. So what do we do? Drop everything and get those plants in the ground!

The "chicken transport" trailer was still together, so we were able to load all the flats of starts into the trailer, utilizing the second deck quite nicely. It was wall to wall plants on both levels!

Then yesterday, the fun started. The first step was to prepare a plot of ground becasue of course, there was none ready! We decided on the original pig pen. It should be decently fertilized, out of the way of other activity, close enough to water, and  "doable" this late in the season.

To till the hard dry clay dirt requires the tiller to be in top shape.. so that meant a couple hours rebuilding the tiller.  The back cover had fallen off while preparing the melon spot (sorry, missed the chance to blog that one), some of the tines were shot, and it was again covered in rogue baling twines. So this was the first order of business.. rebuild the tiller. Sorry again, no pics.. was racing the clock! But we managed to clean the tines, replace the worst ones with the old semi worn tines I had kept from last time, and reattach the cover. Took a couple hours of work.

The tilling went pretty good then... until the 4wd went out on the tractor! Yep, tractors ALWAYS break when you need them most. It's some type of law of nature! The thing is.. with a reverse tine tiller it is possible to turn a hard dry clay pasture into plant-able soil in a couple of passes IF in 4wd, but totally impossible without it! the rear wheels simply dont have the traction required to pull the tines through the hard dirt. There is a weak C-Clip in the driveshaft, which only gets weaker and keeps popping off, letting the splines separate. This happened in the middle of the second pass. So, off to repair the tractor! Unfortunately, I know this repair all too well! Took about an hour underneath and it was all back together.  That allowed just enough  working time to get it barely sufficiently deep for tomatoes before it happened again. Ok, fine.. good enough! Time to move on...

Then the transplanting started... this takes a while. 900 plants?  Takes a system! Fortunately the farmer who grew the starts let us borrow his "auto-transplanter" which is a really great invention.  A tool that cuts a hole just the right size and depth, open the hole, drop a plant in the top, and almost fully buries it.  Pretty nice! We set up an assembly line with the kids and it worked beautifully! The kids loved taking turns dropping the plants into the hopper to let them fall into the hole.  Farm Fun!

Then of course, water... we rushed to build some headers (were out already). Of course the glue got spilled onto the soil, so I was literally dipping the ends of pipes into the liquid glue puddle resting on the soil and successfully gluing the ends on. Quite a site!

We did manage to get the water lines in and "lit up" right at sundown... But didnt get time to fix all the leaks in the one year old lines. Instead, I just turned the water flow very low and let them drip slow all night.  In the morning, they look bright and tall!

The finished product. A patch of about 900 tomato plants getting their first real drink and sun in the "wild". As you notice.. planted VERY close with no stakes or trellis of any kind. We are going for a "natural" tomato patch where the vines "do their thing". Low maintenance!

Believe it or not.. THIS is what the patch looked like just 6 hours earlier! This is the beauty of a reverse tine tiller with 4wd trator. 

The slow watering all night seemed to be just enough to perk them up.

This is the nifty trans-planter tool that we borrowed. What a timesaver!

for the curious

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