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.

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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.

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?

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 !

 

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!!









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.