Container Garden Week One 2019🌿

So today is the 6th of May and things around my area are just starting to look and feel like spring. A couple of weeks ago an appointment took us close to one of our favorite plant nurseries so we stopped and yes–we ended up purchasing most of my container garden plants early. I say it every year to myself that I’m going to wait until closer to the end of May but never ever do.  Because of this, I am needing to baby them/keep them alive inside quite a bit until weather permits me to have all the plants outside both day and night. Day temps are 50-65 degrees right now with overnight 35-40 degrees. Sun has been rare for the last two weeks–we’ve been having mostly cold, damp, rainy, and windy weather. I would say most years we buy early and I keep them inside for almost a month. This year I have a grow light and that is helping a lot. I have learned at least one thing so far this year and it is this—- be very careful when you buy baskets that have several plants already planted in them. I paid $34.00 for the only red geranium basket left at our favorite nursery and it’s now pretty much DEAD. There are 5 geranium plants packed in this basket and one or all of them are either root bound or have root rot. When I picked it up I looked as closely as I could to make sure the plant was healthy. By day two 25% of the leaves underneath were turning yellow. By day 4 50% of the leaves were yellow and none of the flowers were opening. I’m extremely disappointed but lesson learned. I have cleaned up the plant, removed the dead foliage and flowers, and will be replanting what I can asap.

My budget every year for my container garden is $150.00. Though I have never harvested more than $50.00 worth of food from it since year one, I still look forward to planting and caring for my container garden all winter long. Most years all I want to achieve is to grow my own herbs– which I always do (I have fresh rosemary and thyme for cooking/roasting all winter long), grow flowers for the bees– which is always pretty successful, and grow a few tomatoes. My budget amount includes new containers if I need them, soil, fertilizer, and plants. This year I have purchased—

  • two bush tomato starts
    two patio tomato starts
    one purple Cherokee tomato start
    thyme
    rosemary
    lavender
    a geranium plant (34.00)
    strawberry plants
    purple cow activated potting mix (32.00)
    purple cow tomato grow (16.00)

As you can see the potting mix and tomato gro take up a big chunk of my budget, but it is the only potting mix and compost that works for me–and I trust and love it. Remember –my container garden is really up against all odds as it is north facing with little shade and lots of wind. Temperatures in the summer on my deck can reach 110 degrees and though tomatoes like heat they don’t like dry, windy, scalding heat ALL day. So the soil I start with has got to be good.

Another happy and sure sign of spring around here are our birds have all arrived back. For several years we’ve been feeding finches and hummingbirds. For around three years we’ve also been feeding Baltimore Orioles. Right now we’ve seen one hummingbird and two orioles and many many finches. The finches arrived first! We were getting worried about our orioles and hummingbirds but they are slowly making their way here. All of them bring my husband and I great joy. We have fresh water, syrup, and jelly out on our deck from mid-April until late August –usually until after each bird has brought their babies to the feeders and they begin to fend for themselves. We give everyone a great start and lots of energy for their flight away from us again come late fall. There is a lot of cleaning up I must do every day to keep the area clean and replenished but the bird song we hear as their way of thanks is definitely payment enough.

One last thing before I go–last summer an idea came to me about finding an easy plant to split up and replant giving me plants at the ready for sharing with co-workers and friends. I had never done anything like this before but wanted to try my hand at it. While shopping last fall I discovered some pretty beat up, almost dead, Sansevieria at both Walmart and Home Depot. Having never cared for this plant before I was hesitant but the price was right. I bought 3 huge plants for a total of $22.50. Once home I replanted all of them and ended up with 15 new plants. Now a few months later most already have new stalks and babies growing. Already I’ve given nine plants away–here’s what I have left!

Well, that’s my spring update. I will be back week two to give you a garden update with better pictures. Until then be well. 🌿🌿🌿

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Buying Strawberry Plants for Dad and Spring Planting

We stopped in our local grocery store the other night to pick up groceries and I found these strawberry runners. I’ve never seen these being sold in the grocery store before. I have seen potato and onion starts but never strawberries–which in my opinion is pretty exciting. Right away Dad asked when we would be able to plant these and how long before they produce strawberries. Well, I don’t know. I planted a bunch of strawberries years ago and within 3 years had a small strawberry bed. Other than a couple of strawberries out of the blue one year, I don’t believe they ever produced much of anything. Of course, back then I knew little about soil and plant nutrition so they were probably starving and unable to produce. I told him I will try to plant them around his birthday and that we should have strawberries by early summer. Which is pretty exciting for two people who really love strawberries–my husband not so much! I’ll be planting a few different types of lettuce for him soon. Next week this time I will be starting my seedlings–heirloom tomatoes, thyme, pumpkins, and cucumbers for starters.

It’s fun when people older than me want to share their photos on the internet. Here’s Sunday breakfast frying away–photo courtesy of Dad.

Bush tomato plants & plans for 2019’s container garden

So this year I am going to be focusing 100% of my attention on growing tomatoes–bush tomatoes to be exact. I am going to use my entire deck for this endeavor leaving a small spot for herbs and a couple pots of flowers for the bees.

I’ve realized over the years that I’ve put an incredible amount of energy toward my container gardens but never really perfected the art of growing any one thing. This is the year! I will begin to grow my seedlings probably towards the end of April because I won’t be able to harden them off outside until the end of May. I will also be buying my tomato plants from a local nursery and my herbs and flowers will be from Bonnie Plants. I’ve been growing Bonnie Plants rosemary and thyme for almost 15 years and in my opinion, they are always the hardiest plants to buy from anyone around here.  I’m choosing to grow bush tomatoes because I want all my tomatoes to harvest within a month or two so that I can harvest them, can and freeze them, and enjoy the rest of my summer. Indeterminate continue to grow to several feet and have tomatoes all season long–requiring care and water throughout the growing season until season’s end.

Here’s how to grow bush (determinate) tomato plants in containers:

  • Buy good draining pots big enough for the plants you are planning on having in them.
  • Pick a nice sunny spot where the plants will receive at least 6 hours of sun. Group the plants together to help shade the root zones of each plant but not close enough to touch. Keep the plants in a wind-free area (this one is big for me because I may have to create one).
  • Use good premium soil. I use Purple Cow Organic soil and have always found it to work the best for me.  I need really, really good soil not only for obvious reasons but also because our deck is not shaded. It also gets incredibly hot and has too few hours of sun for growing.
  • Plant your plants properly buy digging a hole and covering 2/3 of the plant with soil to encourage good root growth.
  • Add your trellis or tomato stakes right away.
  • Leave about an inch of space from the top of your container to add mulch to hold in moisture.
  • Feed your plants. I mix Purple Cow Tomato gro with my Purple Cow Organic Soil mix and throughout the season use their compost tea and their bio-active fertilizer.  ***This is not a sponsored post***
  • Water regularly.

Source

That’s it for now–just blogging about this has made me feel happier and more hopeful that spring is coming.

Perfect Pumpkin

Now while pumpkins are plentiful is the time to start buying and baking–because pumpkin has so many health benefits not known to the general public.

About 10 years ago now my husband and I were in the middle of trying to adopt a greyhound. Our love and desire to have a greyhound become part of our family was huge. After most tracks in this country stopped racing greyhounds, local agencies formed to help people/families adopt the retired greyhounds. The one we were trying to get had really bad teeth (potential of hundreds of dollars of care) and she also had problems with her stomach also due to the poor diet given to racing dogs. Time and again at meetings we heard stories of how the foster families and forever families were always using pumpkin with their greyhounds. Pumpkin will bulk up their stool, settle their tummies, and boost nutrition. Unfortunately, because of where we were living at the time, which lacked the appropriate space for this particular greyhound, we did not adopt her.

I’ve never forgotten how much I learned about pumpkin–here’s what I know:

  • It’s rich in vitamin A
  • One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories
  • High in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic disease
  • It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C–boosts immunity
  • The nutrients in pumpkin are good for your eyesight
  • Nutrient dense, low calorie, may produce weight loss
  • Antioxidants lower risk of cancer
  • Is packed with fiber
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Versatile foodstuff that you can add to anything–wraps, salads(cooked) veggies, stews, soups and more

Some people may not know this but pumpkins are a type of squash. Pumpkins and squash belong to the same family called Cucurbitaceae.  Every year I bake up two dozen squash and pumpkin, then let cool, place in freezer bags and freeze. We then are able to eat squash every single month, almost, until the next year’s season. If one or both of us is feeling ill I will make up a pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin risotto does the trick every time. Here is the recipe–Pumpkin Risotto

I also roast all my pumpkin seeds for snacks and to add to bird food.

When you’re done with your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the garbage, where they’ll just clutter up a landfill, choose to break them up and set them out in a place where the birds and other small animals can get to them.

As we head into the season of sickness I would also like to add this article that has natural health remedies such as pumpkin, ginger, rice, and sweet potatoes that help manage diarrhea, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

Until next time– stay healthy and happy!

Putting the container garden to bed & more!

Some of my container garden is going to try to overwinter in our apartment again–

My evergreen will be kept on our deck and wrapped in a wool blanket to protect its root ball. This has proved to be a very successful way for me to keep my evergreen tree alive. I’m hoping the ornamental grass, which I think is Variegated Japanese Sedge ( unfortunately I threw away the care instructions/plant ID), will survive too. Most of the birds I’ve been feeding have migrated south for the winter. The last time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder was the first week of October. The Orioles left first and then the finches followed. I set out peanuts and other assorted nuts for about a month and the nuthatches, several chickadees, and some tufted titmouse were able to get their winter stores set up. Now they too are gone and I’ve stopped feeding until sometime early spring when a few early birds will arrive back in this area.

What’s next in gardening?

Well, I planted a packet of tulips and narcissus and those along with my hens and chicks will be overwintering in the garage–insulated with newspaper and burlap. I’ve also got three boxes of paperwhites to start sometime around the holidays.

I lost the battle with my first fiddle leaf fig because it wasn’t properly draining. Truthfully I think it was dead when I bought it as the leaves were quite pale green. This past Saturday I was in a local greenhouse discussing my luck or lack of with a local gardener concerning fiddle leaf figs. She had one that isn’t doing great but isn’t dead yet either and she gave it to me to see what I could do with it. I’m hoping to nurse this one back to full health. I’m learning every day new things about plants and flowers that I will gladly share as time goes by.

The cute blue, orange and green solar lights are something my husband picked up at Shopko when they went on sale for $5.00 and we love them. They definitely brightened up our deck all summer long.

Here is what my container garden looks like today–

Until next spring this post concludes container gardening 2018. Happy fall and winter everyone.

Looking forward to future posts, I will be posting about taking care of fiddle leaf figs, fall food storing, fall/winter food recipes, and at least one post soon on supplements I’ve been using for low-iron, seasonal depression, and also chewable vitamins and are they doing anything for me?

Squash Varieties

Fall is really here in Southwestern Wisconsin with temperatures overnight of 40 and in the upper 50’s during the daytime. I was hoping to get a lot more accomplished this month, but colder than usual early October temps have dampened my plans. We’ve been trying to take a walk in a favorite spot for almost three weeks–rained every weekend. Now for almost a month, we’ve been trying to go to a corn maze and yes you guessed it, it has rained every weekend. This weekend is set to rain all weekend so I’m assuming we’re going to have to hang up what we want to do until next year. Once November hits long duration outdoor events come to a halt. We do hike in a local refuge all winter long, but only on days above freezing. Though last year we did take one brisk hike when temperatures were in the teens. My container garden is almost gone and it’s time to clean things up. Of course, I planted the pumpkins too late again. All the flowers on the plants that came up were male so no pollination happening this year. Next year I’m going to start my pumpkins when they’re supposed to be started and that’s in June. This weekend I am going to plant tulip bulbs in some of the dirt left from herbs I grew and mulch them with pumpkin plants. Our tree and my prairie grass will both be overwintering on our deck. I’ve brought in my beautiful rosemary plant and I am planning on trying to overwinter rosemary again.

It’s fall decor time and we’ve purchased squash (pumpkins) just as we do every year– but this year is a bit different. Thanks to someone I follow on Instagram I’ve learned how to identify squash varieties (way more than my lovely picture above) and also what each variety is good for. Usually, I buy pumpkins for decorative purposes. Not unlike many millions of other people. I know they’re food, but when they’re bought I have no intention of eating them as food. Once they look soft we chop them up and feed them to the birds. Sometimes I’ve dried/baked the seeds and fed them to the birds. This year I am going to carve one pumpkin and bake the other two for pie. I will still throw the seeds to the birds to give them extra energy for their flight south or to get ready for winter. Currently, I’m feeding nuts to a nut hatcher and several chicadees/titmice–that are storing them up for winter. The nuthatch, chickadees, and titmice live together in a small community all winter, watching each other’s backs and protecting their communal territory. Which of course I find so neat because prior to winter the nuthatch is all business/and a bit selfish and doesn’t look like he gets along with anybody. I am definitely the ant in the ant and grasshopper fable. I can definitely appreciate the planning and the storing of food/ winter preparation well before the snow flies.

Until next time–enjoy your fall and on the other side of the world happy spring!

2018 Container Gardening–Week 16

Well, this week will be almost the final week I will share this year’s garden pictures. I will put up one last photo when our deck gets cleaned and everything is put away for winter. I started feeding the birds last summer and continued through until this summer without any breaks.  We’ve been feeding birds or occasionally squirrels for many, many years. Feeding them from a second-floor apartment with neighbors directly below has been a challenge.  Birds drop seed, feeders leak, and my favorite thing–birds poop. A LOT.   My life of late has been cleaning everything up out on the deck before work, and feeding–then returning home 8,10, sometimes 12 hours later and doing it all over again. Year after year for many years especially since we moved into this apartment. So, I’m taking a break and the birds are just fine with it. We cut off the syrup early for the Orioles and Finches so they were able to find other sources of food very easily before the Orioles migrate. We feed finches all winter long along with many other little birds that stick around these parts during the cold weather.  As far as gardening goes, I started seedlings late last winter/early spring, so I’ve been at it several months now. My container garden has been growing and producing a total of 16 weeks, but my seed starters for several plants started almost seven months ago. Again, busy because I water prior to work, then water and deadhead as soon as I get home. Because of the type of plants I choose to grow, I don’t get to take days off without having plant issues (mostly wilting).  So, it is nice that things are winding down. Fall is coming fast I’m afraid. I picked up a container of Henry Blue Asters and a mum plant the other day when I was out.

Without further ado–

2018 Container Gardening– Week 15

This week my container garden is winding down. Some plants have been removed because they are done for the season while others seem to just be getting started. Lo and behold my pepper plant is beginning to produce fruit/veggies. I have one pepper that will be ready by the end of this week and possibly three more before seasons end. This week one of my patio tomato plants was removed–it’s done producing and my petunias were done as well as one of my new guinea impatiens. It’s a hot and humid week so far so my heirloom pear tomatoes should ripen up well and then that will be the end of that plant too. Still thriving are plants I bought almost four months ago–a new guinea impatien, a fuschia, a prairie grass plant, lavender, rosemary, hen and chicks, and the lime coleus plant. This week I purchased a fall plant that I have never seen before– a purple aster. So, we’ll see how that goes. I have horrible luck with mums on my deck. In my photos, you can see in one week my peppers progression. Also, my pumpkins plants are thriving, but will they do anything before the first frost? The last photo has the last of my homegrown tomatoes on the right and an heirloom–for size comparison– on the left that I purchased at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend.

 

2018 Container Gardening–Week 14

My garden is blooming this week–the petunias are going crazy and my pepper plant has grown another foot. The big question is, will it produce fruit? At week 14 I’ve made a very big decision regarding my container garden. I’ve been growing patio tomatoes on my deck for a decade now. Each year I drive to my favorite garden and plant nursery and I spend anywhere from $10.00-20.00 on each patio tomato plant, and then go buy dirt ($20.00), and fertilizer (12.00), and then end up with an average of 5 tomatoes from each plant all season. Some years have been more and others way less. Truthfully they don’t even have much of a taste to them. I spend about 30 minutes getting them planted and then for around four months I water them and care for them every day for an average of 5 tomatoes the size of golf balls, sometimes a tad bigger, every year. So, if we are still living in this apartment next spring I will be ordering two Pink Brandywine Heirloom plants and caring for them all season. Because life is way too short to spend the amount of time I do on growing tomatoes and then they’re not even my favorite kind of tomatoes. Pictured is one I had today because ya–my plants are done producing this year–I paid $3.99# for this beauty. My yield for my patio tomato plants this year was– 5 grape-sized heirloom pear-shaped tomatoes and 3 patio tomatoes the size of golf balls. Total cost for less than 1# of fruit–$65.00 (my time not included). You’ll notice in the photo of my pepper plants some plants popping up–those are my pumpkins. This year instead of planting pumpkins in their own pot and spending countless hours for nothing (seems like a resounding theme at times when container gardening) I decided to throw a few seeds in dirt and see what comes up. Also, you may notice my New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia are still in their nursery containers vs. being replanted in pots of mine. This is the first year I’ve done that and been able to keep New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia’s alive. I bought a pretty container to put them in and voila! They’ve done great. Until next time–Happy August!

P.S. my patio tomato plants must have heard I was blogging about them and that what I was typing wasn’t very nice. Yesterday, out of the blue,  a softball-sized tomato on one of the plants began to ripen after being green for nearly a month. In defense of these plants, I never really looked into what kind of tomatoes I would be getting growing them. They were suggested to me for their hardiness (which they are) disease resistance (which they are) and most importantly they are perfect for container gardens (which I have). One of the biggest reasons my yield is so low is that I don’t get a lot of bees on my deck. Some years I have had a lot of sweat bees, which usually pollinate both my tomatoes and my plants. But this year–almost none. I highly recommend patio tomato plants for patios, but would think twice about recommending them to people like me who are living in upper apartments and container gardening on their deck.

 

Caring for Houseplants–Snake Plants, Violets, and Succulents

This week I have pictures of my houseplants since my garden hasn’t changed much in seven days! All of my houseplants are in my home office. My home office is the only room that has a large desk that sits in front of a window with northern and western sun. We get zero southern sunlight which the experts say is best for all plants. My succulents, ferns, and English ivy grow in greenhouses bought at IKEA. If they weren’t in these greenhouses they would be dead. I have had over 20 succulents die in the last 5 years, and have never ever kept a fern alive. I tried growing the first two English ivy plants outside the greenhouses and they lost all their leaves. So I bought two more and put them in the greenhouses and they are doing fabulous. Our apartment is too dry to keep these kind of plants alive. Greenhouses=humidity. I group all of my plants together to help me efficiency water them on several different watering schedules–I have 8 Christmas cactus, 2 orchids, 9 African violets, 5 succulents, 1 ponytail plant, 1 organic wheat cat grass, 1 Opuntia cactus, 2 ordinary cactus, and 1 Nerve plant (Fittonia)also kept in a greenhouse. My last purchase is my lovely Snake plant which had 3 babies coming up shortly after I bought it. I didn’t know how to propagate it correctly so I think I killed the first two. Happily I read a bit about propagating in close quarters (the baby was growing tightly between plant and container)and was able to save the last one and replant it. We shall see how successful I was with that. This year I started watering all my plants from the bottom. I stick all of them in a wash basin with about 1-2″ of water. After about 15 minutes most of that water is gone and soaking in the plant’s root system. Watering this way has made all the difference. This week I bought 3 snake plants from our local coop and I’m very excited to find a suitable place for them to sit and look forward to taking care of them. Until next time–Happy Gardening!!