Resist labour day tomatoes, sow a living mulch instead! ⋆ Edible Backyard

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toms and melons hardening off
Summer crops hardening off – its too early to plant!

Game on! It’s the great summer-crop wait out. Are you feeling strong enough to resist planting tomatoes? Can you hold off on planting pumpkin and courgette seedlings another week or so?

Last nights low was 6 degrees and my soil is only 14 degrees! Far too chill for these heat lovers … I’ve got a wee way to go before reaching the tomato, pepper, pumpkin, bean etc happy place.

If night temperatures are less than 13 degrees at your place, and the soil feels cold (or is less than 18 degrees), my best advice is to wait.

Buckwheat greencrop

I have a cool mission to divert your tomato planting energies. Sow a living mulch on your summer cropping beds – it’ll take them next level. Your soil, your crops and your life (less hassle by far) will be better served.

Marigold living mulch with greenhouse peppers
  • Nectar rich flowers like phacelia, buckwheat or mustard are honey for bees. Sow them now in the pumpkin/ squash/ zuchinni beds and watch pollination rates go right up.
  • Sow marigold, phacelia, buckwheat (separate or together) on the tomato bed. Nasturtium is awesome too.
  • Sow crimson clover on the corn bed for a nitrogen fixing groundcover to beat weeds and save on mulch.
Crimson Clover

Sow your living mulch this weekend and it’ll get a head start on the crop. When the weather and soil temperatures align, plant summer crops amongst it – just break bits off and make holes.

Tomatoes with a living mulch of phacelia, nasturtium and beetroot

New seedlings love being cosy together, you just wait and see. The living mulch gives valuable protection from uncertain weather until roots and canopy establish. Better still, now that you have a broader range of roots as opposed to just one type – a broader range of soil life comes to play.

As the crop grows, keep the way clear by breaking off bits of greencrop/ living mulch. Leave enough to keep the soil covered + plenty of flowers for nectar close to hand. The closer this nectar is to the flowers that need pollinating the better.

Meantime move seedlings into bigger pots and keep them undercover until spring breaks.

tomato seedlings

Don’t forget that there are plenty of cool things that can go in now – beetroot, carrots, radish, salads, leafy greens, lots of companion flowers and brassicas if you can bothered dealing with cabbage whites next month.

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