My Patio Garden | Patio Gardening 2019 Week 2 & 3🌿🍅🍅

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

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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–

Planning a Potager

You may be asking yourself when you read the title of this blog–what is a potager? Potager is french for kitchen garden. When I plant my garden I always include herbs and pretty flowers. In a sense that is the concept behind a potager. A kitchen garden is usually right outside your kitchen door where you can easily access it to pick flowers or vegetables. Your kitchen garden should contain, at the very least, ingredients from which you can put together a pot of soup or stew.  This link will teach you how to properly say potager. It took me a couple of tries but I finally pronounce it correctly. This year my potager, which will actually be grown in containers on my porch, will contain red geraniums on the outer edges,  a potato plant, 5 tomato plants (different heirloom varieties), a pepper plant,  beet root, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and lemon balm. I have one decorative pot I will be planting with a lime green leaf coleus and three dahlia plants.  Among all of my plants I plant companion plants like sugar snap peas, chives, and mint this year. I am going to try cucumbers and mini pumpkins as late crops in containers once one of my tomato plants or the pepper plant is done producing–I’ve never had luck growing mini pumpkins so fingers crossed this year. On my deck I can only have so much weight, and my space is limited to 10′ x 5′ so as soon as one plant is done producing another plant will take its place in a pot. All of my plants are bought from Bauer’s Market Place in La Crescent, Minnesota. I’ve tried a lot of other places throughout the years, and even though Bauer’s is over an hours drive from home–it’s worth the trip. The prices and quality of their plants cannot be beat.

The soil I will be using is Purple Cow Organic soil along with their bio-active fertilizer. I had such a wonderful container garden  last year thanks to their gardener’s product line.


It’s hard to believe that this is what it looked like 9 days ago here!

Here’s a gardening tip that has proven invaluable to me as a tomato lover and tomato plant grower- never ever let the leaves of your tomato plant get wet. I trim off all bottom leaves –the little suckers and leaves that grow on bottom. These leaves when wet can rot the plant and can deliver a fungus to your plant and cause blight. Also–never ever water tomato or potato plants from above. Always stick the hose or watering can by base of plant to water. Cucumbers and melons also don’t like to be watered from above, their leaves will develop a fungus on them that is a white powdery substance. To produce tomatoes keep the soil warm, and to produce potatoes keep the soil cool.

A reader prompted me to look into more information regarding bottom watering–because as we know Mother Nature doesn’t water from the bottom. I also pondered this when I began to water from the bottom. Garden documentary after garden doc I saw bottom watering, drip watering, and self-watering. Most urged gardeners not to get the plant or fruit wet before the sun hit because the water can then burn your plant and fruit. Why Mother Nature can water your plant and fruit and not cause burn? That may forever remain a mystery, but, if you water at dusk or dawn no worries. Watering and then letting the sun hit=worries. Many gardeners deal with blight. Just two years ago I was the only one among many gardeners in my area not hit with blight. Some asked me what I did different. I never let my leaves or fruit get wet, I watered from the bottom, and I pinched off all the suckers on my plant including the ones at the base. My tomato plants have nice clean stalks up to the main branches, and I use soil that drains well, and I cover the soil with an environmentally safe weed barrier (that helps to keep my soil warm). Here are two sources I gleaned information from regarding bottom watering.

Houzz

Dengarden

Permaculture

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about permaculture lately, and like I, wondered what on earth is all the buzz about? Initially, I’ll be honest –all I saw when I looked at the word was culture, and I immediately thought it was a new group to join.

So what does permaculture really mean? Permaculture is defined as an agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings.

So how do we integrate human activity with natural surroundings?

Whether on your homestead, property, or in your garden everything created- food scraps, plant waste, and animal waste is all put back into the soil, hence composting, creating a closed loop system of farming/gardening. Nothing is brought in from the outside–you use everything that is already available to you from the resources you have on hand. Thus creating zero waste.

In essence, you collect waste, you compost the waste, and then you return it to your soil. In your soil, you grow your food, and if you have livestock you grow their food too.

By doing things this way your operation is considered sustainable, as well as efficient, less costly to operate, it’s environmentally safe, as well as safer for you, your family, and anyone that eats what you produce–nothing from the outside is being hauled in that may be contaminated with chemicals, bacteria, or other pollutants.

In closed-loop farming, you try to use everything such as:

  • Table scraps are composted- all scraps even bones and meat scraps.
  • Lard is rendered from pigs
  • Animal hides are tanned and turned into gloves, vest, jackets, and so much more.
  • Garden scraps–any and all safe plant scraps
  • Animal waste is composted.

By the way, this isn’t something that is new in farming, gardening, or homesteading. I grew up this way in the 70s, and know many hundreds of people that grew up this same way too. I grew up on a farm, but even most of the city kids I knew had compost pails under the sink. All kitchen scraps were thrown in the garden, and/ or fed to the chickens and pigs. Chickens scratch the ground–they are natural compost tillers. I found a great article about this here.

What is vitally important to remember as you start your spring planting is — you need your soil to be at its very best. You need to start with soil that is alive, healthy, and thriving. Chemical-laden soil grows a chemical laden product. Depleted of its nutrients soil grows depleted of its nutrients product. Small scale or large scale you don’t need to rely on places outside your farm or homestead to provide you with nutritious resources for healthy soil. You have everything it takes to make it if you have kitchen scraps, plant and animal waste, time and space.

Here’s an article I found that teaches you all about composting.

Here’s an article about building healthy soil.

Here is a Composting 101 Guide.

Here’s a Permaculture Film.

Here’s some free online streaming of all things permaculture.

And last but never least here is a family that blogs about homesteading, permaculture, and gardens created by chicken tillers– The Rhodes Family on Youtube. You will love them and find a ton of useful information about permaculture and chicken gardens here.

A special thanks to the website Permaculture Research Institute for providing hours of rich and comprehensive information for me to consume on Permaculture.

Blueberry Buckle Recipe–and processing produce tips!

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

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!

Cucumbers and the importance of bees

I think I am like a lot of people, or at least I was, about how food grows. To grow a considerable garden you need a plot of land, a hoe or a tiller and then you till the spot and plant the seeds or starter plants and water as needed. Occasionally, especially after a rain, you weed the garden. If rain is sparse then you need to haul water to the garden and water the plants. Then magically the plants, because you weeded and watered them, appear. But there is more to it. As an adult, I’ve planted a large garden just once. But I’ve had container gardens for years, that I grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and flowers in.But, even growing my own vegetables I was still clueless as to how the whole process worked. Bees, our food grows because of bees. Honey bees and bumble bees are the two kinds of bees that I’m not afraid of. Each year I plant pots of lavender, verbena and bee balm to please honey bees and bumble bees. There are two things that I’ve learned in the last five years that may make you laugh hysterically. The first thing– I didn’t know until about five years ago that the flowers on my tomato plants, or on any fruit or vegetable plant represent the fruit that the plant will bear. I had no idea really. I thought the flowers were just part of the plant. The second thing I’ve learned just this year is that sweat bees also pollinate my fruits and my vegetables. I knew bees pollinated flowers and I also knew that bees pollinated fruit trees. But I had no idea that bees pollinated my vegetable and fruit plants.

Something very important that I knew but had never put into practice was that one must feed your plants. I had always assumed, that if I bought really good plants or seeds, I would grow really good healthy veggies and flowers. Not so. They need to be fed. I’ve been feeding my plants Foxfarm Happy Frog Organic Fruit and Flower Fertilizer. Everything is so much more filled out, rich, colorful and happy. Which makes me happy too. When I thought I was going to lose my cucumbers, because of the cucumber beetle, I quickly looked up organic remedies. I found that growing catnip plants next to the cucumbers works great. Of course, I didn’t have time to do that so I grabbed dried catnip from my cat’s stash and sprinkled that around the base. Problem solved. Unfortunately, I did this too late and lost all my plants except one. And that one plant is thriving thanks to catnip, my watering, being fed properly, and of course most importantly because of the bees!

The first picture is of the sweat bee pollinating the flower, the second is the male flower, the third picture is the female flower and the last picture is my first ever grown cucumber. (click on pictures to make larger)

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That’s all for now until next time eat good food!

Container gardening

Progress this week

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When I started my garden in April I was pretty much the first person around here buying flowers. In fact, prices weren’t even on the starters I bought when I bought them. I was anxious to start gardening after what seemed like an endless winter. I bought a small 3 ” pot with bee balm in it that held one stalk and 5 leaves. My bee balm is now a small bush that is sitting in picture 5 next to the New Guinea impatiens sitting in the orange pot. The impatiens were one small cluster of leaves and 1 flower bud. I bought a large pot with six starter geraniums. Each geranium plant was not more than a stalk and 3 leaves and the cosmos were started from seed.

All the tomato plants you see or don’t see, there is 9, have all been started from seed. They are in various stages of growth from just 4″ tall to almost a foot and a half tall. I planted kale from a starter pack of six leaves- just six leaves.  In the beginning of May I planted all the kale together and now I have a very large pot full of kale. I also started rosemary and thyme from seed and have two medium pots overflowing of that. I had one very sad cutting off a lavender plant that I just tonight re-potted for the third time that should be flowering by fall. Last but never least I have one cucumber plant that survived out of the four I started. All four of them were planted as wiry little almost dead looking weeds and again watered, given proper sun and love. Eventually, they were transplanted to a big pot and then to a bigger pot after that. All of them seemed to be doing well and then one by one wilt. Turns out I had cucumber beetles killing my plants. So I read and I read how I could get rid of them and finally found a cure I was satisfied with. On my last plant, as recommended, I placed some catnip. Albeit some dried catnip that belonged to our cat.  He wasn’t real pleased with that recommendation.  And that did the trick!

I’ve also got a sedum plant and a succulent I bought as starters that have doubled in size. The big purple plant in picture 3 is verbena.  My verbena plant was started from a 1″ stalk with two leaves on it that my plant supplier almost didn’t want to sell to me. Like I said I was really early to the greenhouse.  Also hard to see are our radishes that I decided to try growing in flats. I would definitely recommend growing them in deeper flats as I will be transplanting them later this week. I bought the seeds and flats and planted the radishes to see what would come up. They did come up but they were so tiny and frail. When I was trying to harden them off and especially after I’d watered them I would have to steady them back up, push the dirt around them and hope and pray they’d survive the wind. They have and they are now all at the stage where the leaves sting, feel like nettles, so it is time to replant. There’s another flat out there that you can just barely see in pic 2 that is three types of lettuce. It is slowly coming along, again started from seed.

I’ve been feeding all my plants FoxFarm Happy Frog Fruit and Vegetable fertilizer. It’s natural and it’s organic. All of my plants have been planted in organic soil and originate from organic seed or starters. My cucumber plant at the moment has all male flowers, so we are waiting for a female flower to show up. The female flower is the one that contains what looks like at first a mini cucumber under her flower. A bee comes along and fertilizes the female flower with the male flowers pollen and voila a cucumber is made. I know we learned some of this in school but can I say, I find nature to be, and growing my own food and learning how to grow my own food, such an intense pleasure, and experience.  Just in case Mr. Bee doesn’t make it to my deck I’ll have to pollinate the female flower, if she shows up, myself. For this, I will take a fine paintbrush and turn it around and around in 2-3 of my male flowers and then place the brush with pollen on it inside the female flower and pollinate her. Sounds kinda of sexy, doesn’t it? All for the love of cucumbers.  Every night I am out in my container garden getting dirty and it feels so incredibly good.

 

After harvest-preserving vegetables

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Source

Some of the first things harvested in Wisconsin are strawberries and after several types of tender lettuce, green beans.  My husband and I have enjoyed garlic scapes- we grilled those, leaf lettuce-romaine, in so many salads I can’t count them anymore. We’ve been buying tomatoes thus far for eating, but this next weekend I will be canning tomatoes for sauce and chili.  Sweet corn is just starting to be available, and even though I once was a huge sweet corn eater, I now become ill when I eat it. I ‘m not sure what is causing this but often people who suffer from wheat gluten intolerance have reactions with corn. It’s something I have to accept even though I am not happy about it.

Our goal is to fill up our little freezer as we’ve done the last two years. We drive about 20 miles every week to an organic farm and buy a lot of vegetables. Some for eating every day and others for preserving for eating throughout the winter months.  This means not having to buy any vegetables and very few fruits all winter. As of this time, we have a dozen gallon freezer bags of shredded zucchini for zucchini bread and zucchini cakes. I use this recipe for the cakes, by Sandra Lee. We have several bags of cut-up zucchini for stir-fry, I use this recipe for stir fry by Cooks.com. It’s delicious and perfect rewarmed the next day.  I think we’ve got a total of a dozen full gallon bags of strawberries.  I will use these for breakfast smoothies all winter long.  I remove the stems on the berries and lay them on cookie sheets to freeze them then I empty the cookies sheets into gallon freezer bags, lay flat and remove the air and then freeze flat.  When I pull the strawberries out to eat, I wash and drain them.  I used to make a lot of jam but couldn’t eat it fast enough and didn’t really care for all the sugar in the recipes. So instead, I buy Bonne Maman, which is way better than any jam I’ve ever made or tasted.

So what’s left? Well, let me get back to the topic of this post, green beans. Ah yes, we have a lot of green beans.  So tonight, while trying to watch Noah, I froze 7 -1-gallon freezer bags of green beans.  I wrote a Hub page a few years ago on how to freeze green beans, I’ll have to see if I can find it. Otherwise, I use this recipe here from Better Homes and Gardens.

After the green beans and tomatoes, I’ll be freezing beets and brussels sprouts and then finally green, red and yellow peppers. This fall, which is only a few weeks away, I am going to try canning apples for apple pie. I usually just slice up the apples and freeze them but I want to try something different. The reason I freeze all of our vegetables is because it is easy, I’m not fussing with tight lids and we prefer our veggies not only look fresh but taste fresh- steamed not cooked. Freezing really works well for our tastes and preferences.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. Even though it sounds like I’ve been stuck in the kitchen the whole time, I actually found time for a long hike in the woods, a delicious fish dinner by the lake (with hubby) and a great documentary on food-The Future of Food as well as Noah w/Russell Crowe, need I say more? Didn’t think so. 🙂 Have a great rest of your weekend.