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?

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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!

Seasons of Change

Just one more day and fall is here. Where we live we can tell when the season is changing by the changes in our local traffic. Also the upper edges of the bluffs in our area start to show their fall colors and the produce at the market changes from tender sweet fruit and vegetables to the kind better stored in root cellars and processed into canning jars. While there are still green beans at Farmer’s Markets, they’re not as tender as they were in June. Our last haul included half a dozen acorn squash and several zucchini with the last of summers cucumbers. This growing season marks the second year of our seasonal only eating. What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating means purchasing and eating food around the time the food was harvested. Which for us means, we eat asparagus in the spring and then will not eat it again until next spring. Same for tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet corn. I have processed and frozen green beans, zucchini, beets, and squash to eat this winter. The reason we do this is two-fold: for one we want to eat food that is freshly harvested and preferably very local to us (grown within 50-60 miles of us), secondly we find this is a wonderful way to support our local farmers. Essentially they grow it and we are there come harvest to buy it and eat it. And we buy a lot of it. We eat as much sweet corn as we can handle. This year that mean approximately 100 ears were eaten by two people in this household. I ate over 11 pints of strawberries (each time picked fresh that morning) and about the same amount in raspberries plus I had 35 ripe peaches and 15 ripened pears. Together my husband and I ate 5 bunches of asparagus, 10 bunches of fresh carrots, 2.5# of green beans, 15# new potatoes, 10# of fingerlings,10# of fresh beets, 12 bunches of fresh spinach, 12 bunches of fresh lettuce, lost count on the cucumbers, and 20 peppers of various color. I alone have eaten 50 tomatoes since July. Now as the season changes we’ve begun consuming apples, squash, and zucchini.

All total from the first week of June until the first week of September we spent approximately $25.00 a week (roughly $350.00) on local produce in two different Farmer’s Markets. Prices are never lower for produce then when they are being harvested. During the summer months our meals consist of lots of fruits and vegetables and very little meat (1 maybe 2 meals a week with meat), and almost no unhealthy snacking. So we save a lot of money throughout the summer.

Prior to eating seasonally we would purchase substandard tasteless produce that was not local to us all winter long. Now–we store some of summers bounty up for winter eating and then come fall we’re buying squash, apples, and zucchini that we will also enjoy all winter. Through out the winter months we will not buy any produce in the store except lettuce and bananas. No matter how bad I might want a tomato in my winter salad, I will not buy any tasteless ones out of season.

Pictured is our favorite tree on the south shore of Devil’s Lake right behind the snack shack. One or the other of us has been photographing this tree since 2005.

Like the seasons of growing and harvesting food each one of us is in a season of our life. I am currently in mid- fall where a lot of my foliage has changed color and some of it may now be lying on the forest floor. There are still bits of rare green here and there but for the most part fall has been declared.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and that perhaps you and your family might consider seasonal eating. Thank you for stopping. Below are two informative sites that discuss seasonal eating, why it’s better for you and your local community, and lastly how eating seasonally can save you a lot of $.

Eating Seasonally Food Guide

Why eating seasonally is better !

 

My Top Five Essential Oils –and why?

What are essential oils?

A-essential oils are compounds extracted/obtained from plants via distillation.

What is distillation?

A- distillation is the action of purifying something through heating and cooling or the extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something.

I’ve been using essential oils for a very long time. I bought my first essential oil a long time before essential oils became a billion-dollar business. My first essential oil was rose oil and I used to use it diluted partially with water as a face mist. My second essential oil was orange blossom oil and I used to steam it and/or put it and a bit of water in a pot on the stove and call it aromatherapy. The year was 1985 and I was experimenting with plants and oils and aromatherapy. Both of these oils worked wonders. To this day I still use them the same way I used them 33 years ago only now instead of steaming them or boiling them in water,  I use them in diffusers.

Time and money constraints keep me from buying every single oil I hear someone rave about. I don’t have the time to look into every recommendation or use, and I don’t have the money to waste trying every single oil to see if it works for me like it worked for someone else. That said there are five essential oils that I have used for a long time and would never be without. They are–

  1. Lavender essential oil- my husband uses this to fall into a deeper sleep at night and by using it and falling into a deeper sleep he is better rested and snores way less.
  2. Copaiba- helps me to manage pain caused by arthritis.
  3. Frankincense- Frank loves the skin and I use Frank on my skin.
  4. Lemon Balm- I use Lemon balm to help me manage PMS, inflammation, and upset stomach.
  5. Bergamot- this oil is so good–smells wonderful and mixed with mandarin orange is the perfect cologne.

**I use fractionated coconut oil as a base to apply all the essential oils listed above to my skin**

Recipes for my five favorite oils:

I put 10-15 drops of lavender in a roller ball and fill with coconut carrier oil. I roll this oil on my husband’s big toe (underside) every night and roll a bit on his pillow an hour before bed.

I mix bergamot with orange oil and use as a cologne. I put 10 drops of bergamot with 10 drops of mandarin orange oil in a roller ball and fill the rest of roller ball with coconut carrier oil.

I use copaiba and fractionated coconut oil in a roller ball and massage this mixture into my feet. I use 2-4 drops of copaiba and the rest fractionated coconut oil in a roller ball.

I use frankincense on my skin. I put 10 drops of frankincense in a roller ball and fill the rest with coconut oil and use on my face, neck, and hands. I also use frank on cuts and burns. Lavender is good for burns as well.

Recently I purchased a Lemon Balm hydrosol online from someone I follow and buy tomato seeds from (yougrowgirl on Instagram). I use lemon balm to help me manage PMS, tummy issues, and inflammation. With the hydrosol (yougrowgirl handcrafts her herb waters herself) I can add to water, or spray on the area of skin that has issues. So as far as Lemon Balm goes I am going to continue to buy it in hydrosol form vs. oil from here on out. I love that the hydrosol I purchased is user-friendly and so pure smelling that it’s unreal. The benefits I get from using it seems to come faster using the hydrosol vs. the essential oil.

Disclaimer- everyone that uses and sells oils or knows someone that does has a different opinion about them and may or may not use them differently than I do. In the section, prior to the recipes, I listed what my five favorite oils are used for in my family. You may or may not have the same experience as I do. I’ve been using these five oils and the rose and orange oil for a long time.  Aside from these oils, I do not use any other essential oils. I purchase my oils from a couple of companies online finding good quality oils at both companies.  Please consult your physician before trying anything new.

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.

 

2018 Container Gardening–Week 12

Finally a sunny day for picture taking–everything is doing fabulous! Gardening is amazing therapy. It keeps you on your toes no matter how big or small your garden is. And the rewards–everyday there is a reward. This year is the first year I kept not one but two new guinea impatiens alive and surprise surprise a fuschia. This year’s trick was keeping them in their original containers and NOT transplanting them into one of mine. My container garden started as a few 6 inch plants or seedlings and here it is at week 12–









2018 Container Gardening- Week 11

This past week we’ve been dealing with cooler rainy weather. Not necessarily good for what I’m growing. I can’t remember if I updated last week, but I’ve lost most of the blossoms on my pepper plant–so probably no peppers this year, though there are new possibilities. This happens they say (the experts) when temperatures are too warm. The week they dried up it was very hot here with heat indexes of 103 degrees. Last week I picked my first tomato and it had blossom rot– I know what causes this and that’s too little calcium in the soil. So I went out and gave all my plants some Purple Cow Compost tea and a few days later picked my second and third tomato and they are just fine. My peppers had this issue last year and I was too late in catching it.  My lavender is getting leggy, but my rosemary and hens and chicks plant are thriving. We trimmed the lime coleus and now have two healthy branches that are flourishing.  Currently, that geranium and petunia plant I picked up at a local nursery is filled with gnats. This happens a lot with plants and soil that sit outside in the wet for long periods. I’ve bought many a bag of big box dirt(never again) that was filled with fungus gnats. Looks like this geranium and petunia were planted in some of that stuff at the nursery. So, I will probably get rid of that plant this next week before they start flying indoors. That’s it for this week. All total I’ve been planting, watering and caring for my container garden for 5 months now– with almost 3 months of it spent outside gardening.

 

2018 Container Gardening- Week Nine

So this week things have stayed pretty much the same in my container garden. Missing are both Walmart non-smelling
geraniums. Not only did they not smell like geraniums, they basically bloomed once and died. I have since visited a nursery and purchased a new geranium plant along with a new petunia plant plus more Purple Cow composting soil. My husband and I live in an apartment complex for now. We are hoping by this time next year to be moving. A few years ago maintenance came around and planted shrubs etc. near everyone’s front door. I am assuming they felt that the tenant should thereafter be responsible for all care and maintenance of said shrubs and plants. Well, the soil these plants were planted in was all wrong, not to mention the kinds of plants planted, and the fact they were hastily put in and during one of the hottest days of the year. For over a year I watered an entire courtyard near our door and four plants right next to our front door. I also fertilized all the plants that were around our unit. Unfortunately, most could not be saved–mostly due to the fact of the soil they were planted in, they were planted shallow, they were planted late fall during a heat wave, and then come spring the area was sprayed by them with a toxic weedeater. This spring nearly everything was dead so we decided to go out and buy hostas at our own expense. I thought hostas would do well near our front door and they still might. However, the spot near our front door gets extreme heat in the afternoon and shade in the am. Hostas need warm sun in the am and shade in the afternoon. This information did not deter us, instead, we went ahead and dug holes, filled them with Purple Cow composting soil, and planted the hostas. Today I made a sunshade for both plants and will cover with said sun shade for part of every afternoon. Keeping fingers crossed. My lavender is doing well since being cut back, and so is my rosemary. Our tree is still recovering, the lime coleus continues to flower and is about 2.5 ft tall, and I have a total of 14 green tomatoes waiting to ripen. How’s your garden doing?