One of the things I enjoy most about my gardening hobby is propagation.
While I’ve been known to drop $5 to $9 bucks at the El Plantio Nursery here in Escondido for obscure, but extremely alluring exotic heirloom tomatoes, I get most of my nursery stock the old fashioned way—by using seeds from plants I’ve grown the year before for the current year’s garden.
when it comes to plant propagation, I practice ruthless Darwinism: the only thing I want in my garden are seeds or cuttings from plants that quickly produce great tasting produce in the seriously amended slay-based soil of my garden plots. In the eight years I’ve maintained gardens I’ve been able to produce 10-12 ounce beefsteaks within 100 days of planting and Zucchini in about 62 days.
But the most interesting propagation lessons I’ve learned have come from my small yearly tobacco patch. I grow Havana and Virginia long leaf tobacco. My goal has been to produce tobacco plants that mature in September and which reach a uniform height of about five feet. Tobacco cultivation
Growing tobacco isn’t a matter of just setting, feeding and watering. Once the plants flower, they need to be topped (which increases vegetative growth, the plant’s harvest height and final yield. I top my plants about twice a season, but pay close attention to make sure seed pods are in place and fully formed. I set tops from the second cutting aside and let them dry before harvesting seeds, which are very small.
One of the advantages of growing tobacco is that it’s a natural insect barrier, Although it shouldn’t be grown adjacent to unvaccinated tomatoes, it can be grown at opposite ends of gardens. Since I started growing tobacco, my tomato and potato patches have been completely free of white fly infestations and Jerusalem crickets. The hated horn worm, however, will feast on tobacco as well as tomato plants, but my solution for that is also organic: a large actively feeding herd of alligator lizards.
Because I have vagrant long tailed weasels here at Rancho Bizarro, I try very hard to avoid using Type 1 poisons to eradicate marauding gophers and most of all voles that savage my garden and avocado trees. My solution isn’t technically organic but it is effective—directed rifle fire from either my a scoped Beeman .177 pellet rifle, or my single shot .22 loaded with .22 short CB ammo. It’s been my experience that the best time to plink voles and gophers—both of which are diurnal—is early in the morning after sunrise.
Ok so my solution to burrowing rodents may seem particularly blood thirsty to some, but I’m the king of my gardens and orchard and I have a firm policy of death to burrowing rodents and if the local weasels are derelict in their jobs, I step up to the task.
Now all I need to do is find an organic solution to my peach leaf curl problem down in the orchard. Oh and find a way I can get up to the Sierra shortly after the trout opener next weekend while I’m still recuperating from surgery early this week.—Jim Forbes on 05/23/2010.