Jess Dee wrote:Jarret - I am quite intrigued with your tomato circles. This would solve a couple of problems for me (what to do with greywater from the kitchen sink, and also growing tomatoes, as we don't generally water our garden, and they don't do well for us because of it). Can you elaborate on your technique? Thanks!
I actually experimented with the concept before I even knew what permaculture was, because I had found an old trampoline frame at the landfill and figured I could make it work as a trellis. The first circle was just tomatoes planted about 8 inches apart and everything was mulched within the trampoline space - there was no pit involved. That was a great year overall with a bumper crop of all produce, so it's hard to draw conclusions from that year.
The 2nd time I tried it this year though, I made some smaller circles that were 3 feet in diameter with some kind of junk garden fence I found - it's a little stronger than chickenwire. I dug a hole 1 foot deep and put some "paper" logs (those that are very decomposed) in the middle. It's hard to say if this recent changes to the circle were better or not for Tomatoes, because of a freak hail storm on July 10th that pretty much flattened everything. Before that point I was sure I'd be enjoying peppers and tomatoes by the start of August as fruit was already forming.
Jess Dee wrote: How many tomato plants do you put in the circle?
The 1st year I planted about 40 of them, but by mid-season there were 20 big ones crawling all over each other. I also added potted tomatoes in a few spaces, but they did not perform nearly as well as the ones in the ground.
The 2nd year for some reason I didn't grow many tomatoes, so I think only 8-10 got planted into each circle.
Just to note: It's interesting that in the article a very important stat isn't mentioned, which is mentioned in the PDC videos by Geoff Lawton. An Australian University compared the production of conventional rows of Bananas found in plantations vs that in Banana Circles, and the Banana Circles were 81(?) times more productive when you consider inputs and outputs. But then again, that's in a climate that's best at growing bananas, and Sask is not the ideal place to be growing Tomatoes outdoors. If I ever get the chance, I'll try a Tomato Circle in a greenhouse.
Jess Dee wrote: Do you plant a root crop similar to the taro in the article?
You mean within the Tomato Circles? I probably would try carrots, but I struggle to grow them for whatever reason - Hutterite carrots are fairly cheap and good tasting anyways. Remember that the Banana Tree is huge and can reach far out for nutrients which leaves enough space for the taro to grow in. I feel as though many root crops would just compete with the annual tomatoes in our already rough conditions, but experimenting never hurts.
Jess Dee wrote:What else do you plant in that patch?
Tried herbs last year such as marjoram and basil, but they didn't seem to work well because of the way tomato circles grow they end up getting shaded out. I'm going to be planting a lot of parsley this year as it was one of the few plants that was unharmed by hail, loved being in the natural soil (unlike most herbs which need pots) and is reasonably shade-tolerant. I'll be trying fennel this year as well, so we'll see how it goes.
Jess Dee wrote: Do you rotate crops in the circles (or would you?) or keep the same plant set there each year?
I'm not sure what to think of crop rotation, though with most of the above-ground veggies I still do use the technique, so yes the circles are moved each year.
But, my guess is that my 2nd year hugel which I'm using for potatoes will work out fine for years to come, so I see no reason why any plant should have to be moved around each year as long as the microbes in the soil are in a good balance.
I still have a few years of testing to go before I can say anything concrete about the "proper" settings for Sask Tomato Circles.
I have started to do ground-level, densely planted potatoes in recent years - talked it here
. This may seem counter intuitive-based on what you originally explained, but the results I was getting from the traditional method were piss-poor at best. Note that I do not baby any of my plants at all once they are in the ground. Ex. The hugel potatoes got watered 4 times last season, but it was a real drenching/deep-watering.
I take our increasingly changing weather patterns seriously and am trying to prepare/adapt accordingly.
Monty Loree wrote:This dry weather is going to make it so that it will take many years to learn basic gardening, and how to deal with dry...
The one thing that I did well last year:
I planted 50 tomatoes... and by each tomatoe, I put in a 6-8" length of weeping tile... - 4 " perforated pipe. So I was getting water right by the roots..
I cut 50 pieces of this pipe... and it worked well for the tomatoes... I was watering 1 hour per night... which got to be tiresome.. but the tomatoes were well watered...
I will probably have to do something like this for the rest of the garden...
Good work, as it takes a lot of dedication to water every few nights.
Watering is something I hate spending so much time on, but I'm also trying to use the least amount of plastic possible. I have 100' of drip irrigation and lots of scrap 3' pipe laying around I could use, but my goal is to create a food production system anyone can use without having to buy a lot of stuff. Of course I had to suck it up and admit that the use of some plastic is unavoidable here.
Doing the different types of earthworks as you mentioned before (hugels, swales, etc) seem to be a necessary starting point for any Sask gardener though.