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Here in Michigan we are coming to the end of our regular dirt garden growing season, with exception of cool weather crops, this includes tomatoes.

An interesting observation I made tonight, I hoped to take some pictures but it was too dark when I finished for the evening.  I have begun pulling some of the tomato plants, getting ready to heavy mulch this area or plant some green manure crops, and noticed as I pulled each plant from the soil, the original seedling tray rectangle was still very noticeable in nearly 90% of the plants.  What we did was deep dug our maters, taking advantage of the plants ability to shoot roots from high up its stalk which gives it great advantage in hardening off, quick to produce etc.  Anyways, nearly all of the root mass was above the seedling tray rectangle.  I will try to post a few pics tomorrow.

I know this has little to do with traditional AP systems so I posted it in case someone was interested in seeing what happened.

The cool thing was we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes.   We planted over 100 tomatoes, only 7 -9 varieties, most of which were Romas.  We will plant our dirt tomatoes this way for now on.

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It has been a good tomato year here in Denver too. Plenty of nice hot days and semi-cool nights. It would be great to have room for 100 plants!! That has to be alot of quarts of tomatoes :)
Richard, Too many quarts of tomatoes, I will have picked over 1000 lbs, the tomato garden was a bit of a test.

I should have taken pictures but basically I sheet mulched one section last year and then another section this year, you can see a definitive line of the 2 sections. We used newspapers, which I do not know if I would suggest it again, and straw. The weeding was very minimal throughout the entire season, I am just starting to weed and 90% of this is next to the plants. The one drawback with using straw for mulch is that, for tomatoes, it keeps the soil pretty cool. I only wish I could buy black straw... jk

Next year I will move the tomato garden to another spot and instead of planting in a big boxed area, I plan on doing them in a long row. The more time I spent out there, sometimes it was like therapy, the more I realized by planting in box style, typical of most dirt gardens, I am concentrating my pest problems. With row style gardening, we are talking long long rows, that diversity or concentration of pest is elongated making them more susceptible to natural predation, less likely to find their buddies and repopulate, less likely to find hiding places etc. One big drawback is getting water to the plants, this will probably be accomplished with drip hose or something. Just my theory.

This fall, maybe tomorrow, I will be starting my new rows for next years crops. This should be interesting because the soil is not very fertile nor has it ever been tilled. The plan is to use cardboard in lieu of newspaper, which even though is supposed to be produced with Soy Ink, still has concentrations of petroleum based ink in the ingredients. (Got that tidbit of info from one of the nations largest printers as we toured their new state of the art facility.) On top of the cardboard will be some compost that I started early this spring and then a heavy layer of straw or hay. This process will be repeated over the years until soil fertility & biodiversity is met. After we are satisfied with the soil, it will likely be straw from then on out with occasional doses of compost and maybe some specially brewed fish water / compost tea.

Wow, more than you probably wanted to hear. Good reading material to put you to sleep by.
I've done the cardboard method of sheet mulching or lasagna gardening. I found that Shredded Corrugated cardboard makes really great worm bedding in the worm bins so thought to try it for the sheet mulching too. And since we didn't get a news paper then, we would simply go to the warehouse club (like sams or costco) and while one of us would do the actual shopping, the other would take a flatbed cart and go through the rows to get the big slip sheets that go between layers of stuff on the pallets. Great cardboard for sheet mulching since most of it is large and without the slits you find in the flattened out boxes that you have to be careful to double layer. Anyway, it works great for getting new gardens started. And we get loads of mushroom compost to put over them. Straw here is really costly since they don't grow wheat in Florida and I think all rice straw gets burned or something so I've never used straw for mulch or compost. We get free wood chips though and that gets used in the pathways. If we are finding enough leaves we might use that as straw around plants but normally I just let a top layer of compost become the top mulch.

I use drip irrigation. I would never manage to grow a dirt garden without it. Our schedules are too crazy so the timer is a must. Florida is what some will call a wet desert, when we are getting rain, it is usually so hot that the plants are transpiring as much as the rain can provide (unless we get a hurricane) and then through the rest of the year it can often be really dry. I also have this strange powdery sand that seems to be able to repel water. I could have standing water 2" deep over the whole yard during a rain and a few hours later the water has drained away and I dig where the puddle was and only the top mm is wet and everything under it is powder dry. Keeping the ground covered with mulch greatly improves this situation.

We also had horrible patches of these painful sand spurs when we first moved in here. To get rid of those I simply covered those parts of the yard with cardboard and mulch. Sometimes is was just cardboard and chip mulch and other times we put gardens over them. I've so far never seen them come back anywhere that I treated and in a few areas it has gone back to grass long since.

I highly recommend the sheet composting or lasagna gardening methods for starting new gardens, especially if you don't really like digging or if the garden is more of a forest garden where tree roots would make digging impossible.

I found mushroom compost beds worked really great for me with cucumbers, squash, zucchini, broccoli, beets, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi and many more. Most of my tomatoes get grown in Aquaponics because the nematodes are pretty extreme here.

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