Container Gardening Week– #7













Week 7 has been a busy week- suckers to pluck off of tomato plants growing fast and the first of the potato bugs.  Even in a small garden, there is work and diligence needed. I was shocked to see a potato bug–we’re two stories up?  So at this time, I have removed two of them and the leaves they were sitting on in case that is where they laid their eggs.  I have a total of 40 tomatoes on three tomato plants at this time. I purchased my potting soil, tomato gro and fertilizer from Purple Cow Organics and I never ever want to plant another garden if I can’t plant it using these products. Wow, what a difference organic soil and organic fertilizer make!

Right now I am mounding dirt around my potato plants because tubers will only grow in dirt that is around 65 degrees. So it is a must to keep the soil and pot and plant cool. The opposite is needed for tomatoes to turn red. They need hot 75 to 85-degree heat both on the plants and in the soil. Last year I stopped watering my plants for two to three days at a time and all my tomatoes ripened. Tomatoes will keep ripening even when the plant looks half dead.

Our week started out with a trip to the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. This was a trip we had planned for a couple of years and we really enjoyed seeing the Seed Savers Exchange gardens, fields and visitors center. We stopped at a few other favorite places in Decorah and then made our way back to Wisconsin. Of course, we had to stop at Bauer’s Marketplace in La Crescent, MN because they were having their buy one pot get one pot of flowers or herbs free. We purchased 6 large guinea impatiens and 4 geraniums and paid just over $20.00 for all. Fabulous deal and they had fresh asparagus to boot.

Everything in our container garden has grown double in size in less than two weeks. Plants we thought were going to die haven’t and plants we re-potted from Walmart potting soil, which had fungus gnats in it, are doing way better than we thought. Our garden looks great this year! I’ve harvested two small bouquets of lavender, more to come, and of course we had over a dozen salads from the lettuce. I also crushed the chocolate mint after I dried it and made tea from it. Best tea ever. I will share the recipe next time.  A little over a week ago I planted pumpkins and zinnias which are both up and doing well. My next project is to make some homemade salve or lotion using my lemon thyme. I am hoping for good results and I will share pictures here if successful. That’s all for this week–until next time be well.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

This past Saturday our morning plans included picking 12# of fresh strawberries. We were out in the local strawberry patch just before 8am and picked 12# in about 30 minutes. Once home I followed the instructions on the Sure-Jell package and after approximately 1 hour I had 12 containers of various sizes of fresh strawberry freezer jam. The recipes called for 8 cups of fresh fruit–and here’s an important step>>but the instructions stated 4 cups of liquid (once strawberries crushed). Eight cups of fresh strawberries yielded way more than 4 cups of liquid so I refrigerated the rest. So- once you crush the eight cups of strawberries take 4 cups of strawberries crushed and their liquid, three cups of sugar and one box of Sure-Jell. I did two batches of it at a time. So in saucepan #1– three cups of sugar, one box Sure-Jell, and one cup of water. Bring to a boil, stir for one minute. Remove from burner and add 4 cups of crushed fresh strawberries. Stir for one minute until blended. Pour immediately in clean, freshly washed with boiled water and dried containers (I had various sizes of plastic containers). Put the lids on containers and let sit for 24 hours room temperature to set.

This was my very first attempt at making homemade jam and it was a success! Pardon the pictures I am trying a new photo editor and they may appear too bright on your screen.

Until next time- be well!~

Grilled Aspargus

Fresh green asparagus is usually the first vegetable of the season for us. Personally, I don’t like asparagus, but my husband loves it as long as it’s cooked, or grilled right. All summer long I grill food for my husband and I. I’ve even been known to grill late fall/early winter. Most of what we grill is grilled in packets–so fast meals like salmon, grilled corn (I parboil it first), asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, and sausage. My secrets to successful grilling are a good hot grill, butter or a good marinade and patience.

Depending on my husband’s preference I either grill the asparagus for him or steam it with some salmon. Paired with tiny red potatoes or the seasons first fingerling potatoes and we’re enjoying the first home grown (almost) meal of the season.

Marinade- just before asparagus is done, whether grilled or steamed I drizzle lemon, lemon zest, parsley, and salt & pepper on it.

Our Grill– a Weber Spirit Gas Grill

Bon Appetit!

Container garden at five weeks!!

I’ve got a whopping eight tomatoes on my plants already. It was kind of hard to show in pictures, but they are there. Tiny 6″ tomatoes plants are now giants. Two plants are planted in a large pot and each one of them is about 14″ tall and fill the entire planter they are kept in. I had two other tomato plants in separate containers that both received frost– one was thrown and the other I kept and have tried to take extra special care of. All of his frost burned foliage fell off and new has replaced it, but he is awful spindly. He stands approx. 2 ft high in the planter he is in. Because of my mistake planting potatoes in too shallow of a pot, I joined five good plants and then used the extra dirt to mount them in one pot. If the plants were growing straight up they would be a foot tall. My shrubs that I bought for downstairs by my front door are growing instead together in a pot on our deck. Currently, they are almost filling the diameter of the pot they are in. Everything looks great and I still attribute that to the soil I planted all of them in–Purple Cow Organics. Plus this week I gave them all a tsp of Purple Cow Bio-Active all-purpose fertilizer. The package says- Purple Cow BioActive All-Purpose Fertilizer is an organic 4-6-4 granular fertilizer which has been inoculated with Mycorrhizal Fungi. These fungi may improve nutrient and water uptake by plants. Safe for pets and kids too!
If I make container gardening sound easy it is anything but–it requires trial and error, patience and constant tending. Instead of relying upon mother nature some of the time for water, I must water my garden almost daily. For me that means carrying pitchers of water through the house to the deck 6-7 times a week. I also use condensation from our air conditioner that drips into a pail on our deck to water the flowers. This year we had to adjust the weight of items on the deck to not place too much weight on it. Two of our small trees were taken downstairs by our front door to assure the weight of our container garden was safe. We are on the north face of the building so we get hit with a lot of wind and sporadic sun.
Most years everything survives, but often most don’t thrive. I keep at it because it is good therapy and I want us to learn how to grow our own food. I’ll be back tomorrow with grilling tips!












My container garden at one month!

First off let me just say– Thank you Purple Cow Organic Potting Soil and Tomato Gro! This year’s container garden is really growing fast and looking fabulous 🙂 Our container garden is in its fourth week.  Everything on our deck made it through three touches of frost… Frost burned the leaves on my tomato plants, but they bounced back with a vengeance. They look full, beautiful and full of flowers.  My potato plants are absolutely huge and are so beautiful. I did notice one big mistake I made when I planted them. Three weeks ago I planted six potatoes with eyes cut in half into Purple Cow organic potting soil. Unfortunately, one of the pots I put them into is not deep enough.

I found out about my mistake while talking up a local farmer who told me–in order for potatoes to grow the soil they are in must stay at around 65 degrees. In order to keep the soil that temperature, in the heat of summer, one must mound the dirt up against the potato plant. He also filled me in on several tips and tricks to avoid every conceivable pest and problem that can and usually does happen when growing potatoes. I never knew growing potatoes could be so difficult. No wonder everyone I mentioned my growing potatoes to thought I was really really ambitious. We shall see I am ready for whatever they want to throw at me. I learned quite a bit from this website about growing potatoes and it also has faq section.  I harvested a sixth lettuce crop, so two salads a week for three weeks, and first cuttings of my chocolate mint plant and lemon thyme plant. I found a neat site with chocolate mint recipes here.





That’s all I’ve got for today. Stop back next week, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to grill veggies to perfection!