Fall Vegetable Gardening by Byron Chitwood
As hot as it is right now, the last thing on your mind is planting a fall garden. However, now is the time to begin planting some of your fall garden in order for some crops to mature before the first killing frost. The first vegetables to consider are tomatoes. These can be started from seeds or if available, transplants. For either method, I am going to suggest a method that works for me.
The method is called a tomato ring. This combines a compost pile in the middle of a ring of tomatoes. First, if space is available, consider either a two or three foot diameter compost pile. Prepare the soil by tilling or turning with a shovel and raking the surface level. Then determine where you want the center of the compost pile. In the event a two inch diameter compost pile is desired. You will need about three foot of spacing around the center of the planned compost pile. Drive a stake in the point that will be the center of the compost pile. Then make a simple compass using a string that is attached to the center stake and one foot out a sharp stick or pipe is attached for the scribe end of the compass. Then go around the center stake marking the perimeter of the two foot circle. Drive five or six poles in the ground evenly spaced around the two foot diameter circle. These poles need to be driven into the ground deep enough to be firm and extend at least two foot above the ground. About 6 ½ to seven foot of chicken wire will be needed for a fence around the outside of the poles. Wrap the chicken wire around the outside of the poles and secure it to the poles with wire or heavy duty fishing line.
You now have a fence around the proposed mulch pile. Line the inside of the fence with cardboard salvaged from used cardboard boxes. However before putting the cardboard in place, cut a series of holes in the cardboard so air can reach the material to be mulched. The cardboard will easily last a season before it completely deteriorates. This cardboard can be held in place with cord or wire but it will stay in place after the mulch pile is filled with material.
Now scribe a circle that is one foot larger than the radius of the fenced in area. This will be the ring where the tomatoes will be planted. A two foot diameter mulch pile will have a tomato ring that is four foot in diameter or about twelve foot around. This will give enough spacing for four or maybe even five tomato plants. A three foot diameter mulch pile will result in a circle that is over 15 foot around so five to six tomato plants can be planted.
Add all kinds of organic material to the mulch pile such as leaves, grass clippings, garden waste and kitchen scraps. Occasionally toss a little high nitrogen fertilizer to the mulch pile and keep it watered at the same time that the tomato plants are watered. When watered or rain occurs, nutrients from the mulch pile will trickle to the tomato plants. This combination is what all gardeners love to do: grow tomatoes and maintain a mulch pile and the tomatoes will say “thank you for feeding us”.