My patio garden is winding down–my tomatoes are all hanging from the vine, waiting for the right temperature to ripen, and then as they do I’ll come along and gladly pick them to eat for b’fast, lunch, and dinner. Forty in all which isn’t bad for five plants that are producing. Both of the pepper plants died from being battered around in the wind–so they’ll be none of them. But the wonderful herbs, esp. my rosemary right now, more than make up for it. Our butterfly bush is full of beautiful blooms and we’ve seen many butterflies on it these past few days. Another year of gardening and feeding the birds has almost come to an end. We still have a few orioles and also their young, as well as all colors of finches and their young. We’ve gone through two cases of food feeding them and oh the hummingbirds–they’ve really loved the homemade syrup I’ve made for them all spring/summer. Each year around this time it is almost as if the hummingbirds take a mental picture of our deck, saving it somewhere in their senses, so that they remember who will feed them again all next year. They will have such a long, long journey to travel to get away from here for winter and then such a long, tiresome journey to get back to us. This spring when they first arrived all the birds looked so haggard, but now they look happy, healthy, and restored. It makes my heart very happy to see this year after year.
Our first tomato!
Our butterfly bush–
Farmers Market Hauls–
That’s all for now–Happy August!!
I’m three months into my container garden and a total of 4.5 months working on and caring for this year’s garden. Here is what happened in the last 2 weeks–
I cut back the peony and the peony bush grew back better than ever.
I’ve spent three storms on my deck getting drenched tying up bush tomato plants.
I’ve harvested zero tomatoes but so far have about 40 green tomatoes of various sizes.
My petunia and my smaller geranium plant died.
I have harvested oregano, thyme, and rosemary four times now. I’ve made soup, roast, and spaghetti using fresh herbs this past week.
I’ve got four large tomato plants –two of which look dead. I’ve got two small tomato plants, and by small I mean 2 ft tall, and one (there was two) pepper plant that looks promising. My succulents were cut back and they look fabulous. I bought a tropical plant at Walmart that is growing like crazy, as well as my butterfly bush which is four times bigger than when we first bought it. The butterfly bush is definitely this seasons biggest winner! I visited a lavender farm a couple of weekends ago and bought a small lavender plant. I believe it is the most expensive single plant I’ve ever purchased- $10.00, so I am really babying it 🙂
Until next time- be well!
It’s all about the tomatoes for the past almost three weeks!
As you can see my tomato plants are setting fruit–all various shapes due to varieties. I almost can’t remember what is what. I still have the markers in each container but no longer can get to them due to foliage. Five of my tomato plants are almost as tall as I am and each one of them has many flowers and several small tomatoes. I have two newer plants that started at 8″ on my deck and are now a foot tall. I also have one heirloom plant that hasn’t produced any flowers but I’m holding onto it just in case. I have been feeding my plants every 4-6 weeks, watering them twice sometimes three times a day, shading them, and now this past week tying them to or up against trellises and tomato stakes.
The last two weeks have been muggy, wet, partly cloudy, and windy. All total we’ve had six days of thunderstorms with high winds. I learned this week that tomato plants are pollinated by just two kinds of bees -bumblebees and sweat bees. We used to have mud daubers, carpenter bees, and hornets flying around all the times on our deck. For the last few years its been mostly yellow jackets if we don’t pull the jam quick enough. My plants are pollinated by sweat bees, though I have self-pollinated plants throughout the years. I haven’t seen a bumble bee around here for years. Every day I watch the sweat bees land on the Thai basil, and then fly up by the lavender, and then before they fly away altogether circle around one last time and visit my tomatoes. Ten years ago when I started growing tomatoes on this deck I used to swat sweat bees believing them to be nuisances–that’s how truly clueless I once was about growing food and pollination. I feel ashamed sometimes to think just how arrogant I was about so many things to do with gardening and bees.
Everything else I’m growing is doing just fine. I have harvested basil, lemon balm, thyme, and oregano. All my flowering plants are doing well, but my lavender seems to be on its last leg. Maybe too muggy? Maybe the soil is wrong or too wet? I have two pepper plants that should produce more sweet banana peppers–I harvested one last week and there are several flowers on each plant. If they’ve been pollinated and all things go well I will take pictures of them when they start producing. There are no noticeable signs of blossom rot yet so I must have added calcium at just the right time. Fingers crossed.
That’s it for now. Here’s hoping all the gardens out there are bountiful this year!
This post is a combo of week 2 and 3 due to delays in planting because of colder than normal weather, no sun, and lots and lots of wind and rain. Week 2 we lost the strawberry starts to lack of sun, I’m guessing? Other than that week 3 everything was planted on the deck and if you click on the link to my YouTube video you can watch me planting my container garden. Week #3’s weather has been just as crappy with 20 mph winds, rain six out of seven days, and temps overnight 40 and during the day 40-55 degrees. There has been one day of sun in ten days. The Roma tomato plant looks pretty rough and the evergreen tree that looked great in April is now three times as brown as it was after 2017-2018 winter which was really cold and windy. You would never know I fertilized and fed and protected it all winter long–it looks terrible. We replanted it this past weekend so I am praying it makes another comeback. Currently, I’ve replanted the evergreen and the new juniper bush. I’ve planted from plant start English thyme, lavender, Roma tomato plant, 2- bush tomato plants, 2- Rutgers Heirloom tomato plants, a cherry tomato plant, and a Purple Cherokee Heirloom tomato plant. I’ve also got a very large geranium that I’m hoping will rebloom, two smaller geraniums, and a large pot of hens and chicks. I’m still going to buy a few more herbs this weekend and set out some decorative items and then week 4 I will show you how it all looks! BTW–all the seeds I started inside were a complete fail even with the grow light. I’m not sure why? But they all got to the leggy stage and then it was several weeks before I could transplant them and they basically withered away and died. Maybe a later start next year or not at all. The plants I planted this past weekend had all been replanted while inside our apartment at least once due to roots growing out the bottoms of containers and wet, soggy, soil in every plant we purchased from our local nursery. Everything was planted in organic soil and our tomatoes were planted with Purple Cow Organics Tomato Gro.
Link to my YouTube video of me planting our 2019 container garden
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
a geranium plant (34.00)
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. 🌿🌿🌿
I’d always wanted to grow my own herbs, but having cats in my home for all my adult life made that impossible. Every year I would walk through the herb section at local nurseries dreaming about harvesting rosemary, sage, and thyme. I was always under the impression, silly me, that herbs had to be grown inside. I’m not sure where I got that ill-informed information. Ten years later I’ve grown many herbs–thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, lemon balm and so many more. Some I’ve had great success with– while others continue to challenge me. This year the only herb I’m growing is rosemary (Blue Spires for culinary use) and to date, this is the healthiest rosemary plant I’ve ever grown. I feel so rewarded for my ten years of learning how to pick the right starter plant, to learning how much or little to water, and finally how much light or how little light to provide it in my container garden. Today was the first harvest, and judging by how beautiful and healthy this plant looks there will be several more. All the rosemary I harvest is put in freezer bags and every week several pieces are used for my Sunday dinner of roast chicken. By spring all of my harvested rosemary is gone. I’ve tried to overwinter rosemary with zero success, but I think this year, with this plant, I may try again. Here’s a great article about choosing the perfect rosemary plant based on your location, weather, and taste.
What’s your favorite herb?
This week- a few things I did today as I enjoyed my day off!
It’s blueberry season here in Wisconsin and I just happened to have got my hands on 3 pints of fresh berries. I froze some for smoothies, so now we have fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries for smoothies this winter.
My husband purchased a bunch of beets at the Farmer’s Market this past Friday so I processed them today. Total time was one hour- I put them in a pan of water –medium setting 1-1/4 of an hour and then turned them off. I then let the water come down from a boil to warm and ran cold water in the pan and slipped the skins right off. They were put into freezer bags and we will be eating July beets 5-6 different times this coming winter. I would pickle them (my favorite) but hubby doesn’t like pickled beets very much.
There’s a story behind the peppers. About 7 weeks ago our neighbor, who travels a lot, asked me to take over her pepper plant due to her not being around enough to water it. We were at our max limit for weight on the deck so we kept it downstairs by the front door. It should be noted this plant had been planted in big box potting soil with Miracle Grow added and sold from a big box store. When I took it over it was about 1-1/2 feet tall, scrawny and dry. Thinking it would die I never did get a before picture but 7/ 7-1/2 weeks later it’s loaded with peppers of all sizes. I have grown peppers on our deck in containers–even now that I think of it I’ve successfully grown cucumbers. But it was hard between bugs and wind and limited full sun areas, neither of them do well on our deck. But hey maybe I’ll start a garden by our front door? I just cut up and take out the seeds from the peppers and freeze the cut up slices for future pizza’s and stir fry’s right away. Our first harvest yielded 7 peppers, I took 3 and I gave my neighbor 4 and plan to split the bounty with her each week to her delight.
Update- after the initial 7 small to medium sized peppers all the rest (5) which were quite small developed bottom rot. I used my soil tester to determine what was lacking in the soil and discovered the soil was severely lacking calcium. It should be noted this isn’t the first time that plants I bought from a big box store, planted in the wrong type of soil mixed with Miracle grow, developed rot on their fruit. The soil is dry even after watering because the soil mixture does not retain any moisture beneficial to the plant. So the plant is constantly in a state of over- watered or under-watered and each time you do water all the nutrients (and there probably isn’t much to start with) wash out the bottom. Hence this pepper plant was really deprived of the calcium it needed to produce healthy peppers.
Here’s the promised recipe for the blueberry buckle
Well, it’s been rough. We’ve had 7 bad storms in a 2 month period of time. My tomato plants have been through some pretty hostile rains and wind. One night during a storm, with 15 m.p.h winds, I stood out on my patio and held onto my tomato plants so they wouldn’t be destroyed. That’s how devoted I am to growing my own food.. But I can’t do that every night nor would I want to lol.
Here are pictures of the fruit on the vine.