It’s been a while folks and I’m sorry I haven’t given an update. Gardening has been rough this year–I said it in my earlier posts and it is still true today–the weather has been horrible for my garden, and many others including the farmers, this year. Let’s take an inventory and then I’ll show you some photos of it!
I started several seedlings inside which all withered away and died waiting for the sun. My grow light did a horrible job and is now somebody else’s grow light. When I started my patio garden I had a Purple Cherokee, 2 Rutger’s Heirloom, a patio tomato plant, a Roma tomato plant, some hens and chicks, and some strawberries. I also bought a large geranium plant, 2 small geraniums, lavender, rosemary, and thyme. Since week 3 I have added an oregano plant, another thyme, more red geraniums, and a peony plant. Plants that have died since my last post are the large geranium plant I spent $34.00 on, the Roma tomato plant, my strawberries and after blooming beautifully my peony plant. I was given an ornamental rose plant which ended up with 11 blooms and then withered away this past week. I have provided a shade cloth for my tomatoes, watered them well, fertilized them, but yet both my Purple Cherokee and the 2 Rutger’s Heirloom are doing poorly. Every day they wither and now bottom leaves are browning which makes me think root rot for the both of them. Tomorrow I am going to check how saturated their soil is and see what I can do for them. I have purchased a total of 4 more bush tomato plants, two pepper plants, and some petunias for color. My hens and chicks are doing fabulous–they’re flowering! My oregano is about two feet tall and flowering. Also, my lemon balm is triple the size and my Thai basil has big beautiful purple flowers blooming. I am letting all my herbs flower which will affect my harvesting them to eat-esp. the oregano, but I would rather the bees have it. Bees love oregano flowers!
Going into this patio garden season I saved money by reusing dirt, using compost dirt from this past year, using everything on hand for trellis/support, and reusing pots and containers from years gone by. That said so far I have spent close to $180.00 on plants, seeds, food, and the shade cloth. Here’s hoping with more than 25 flowers on my tomatoes, bees pollinating, and my prayers they produce something.
Well, another week of barely any sun. I think we had sun on Saturday and about 30 minutes of it today–Wednesday.
Despite another week of icky weather–cold, dreary, damp, and no sun, I have a small tomato on one of my plants.
So– I have 2 Rutger’s Heirlooms-one has a tomato growing, 2 bush cherry tomato plants, 2 bush beefsteak tomato plants, and 1 purple Cherokee. I have snipped off the bottom foliage on all my plants (to prevent blight) and fed them. I recently purchased another thyme plant, Thai basil, a miniature rose, lemon balm, and a beautiful oregano plant. Tonight I made sure everything was planted in my garden, watered and fertilized. The next two days we are expecting temperatures near 80 and sun. This week I lost the Roma tomato plant and maybe soon the hydrangea? I am trying to keep it going after its blooms died but so far it isn’t doing very well. The juniper we planted this year and the two hostas we planted last year, which are growing by our front door, are doing alright. The browning and needle loss of my evergreen are slowing down–fingers crossed. This is how it all looks this week–
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.
That’s it for now–just blogging about this has made me feel happier and more hopeful that spring is coming.
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?
Gardening is very therapeutic for me. I think for most of my life it always has been, but it has taken most of my life to get semi-sort of good at. Let me tell you what I learned this year that has made ALL the difference–watering plants from the bottom. But first, you must add water the regular way, and then set the plant in a shallow pan with water. This way the entire plant gets properly watered. My overwintering of rosemary did not go well and my rosemary plant died. However, I bought two new plants and at least one will make it to the porch once temperatures warm up a bit. I have 8 Christmas cactuses alive since last Christmas, my 40-year-old Opuntia cactus, which grew little tubers out of each pad, which I later learned was the plant seeking more sun. Once I started giving it, even more, sun it has now begun to grow two new pads. The ponytail plant and bonsai are plants I am growing for my husband, and I have 5 new African violets, several succulents, ferns, and 5 English ivies. I have read that English ivy, and the ferns are poisonous to cats so they are growing either out of reach of him or in my Ikea greenhouses.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD and realized upon getting home I was ill-prepared to deal with it even though I had worked in mental health for several years. One thing I knew for sure was that I had to find something that was therapeutic–with the possibility that it would be something I could do year-round, maybe make me feel more alive? and definitely a sense of purpose other than my general responsibilities. Growing things year-round has been good for me. It’s not easy, but I don’t like easy anyways. I’ve learned to love a good challenge. The two biggest tips I can give anyone thinking of growing plants both inside and out are– water from the bottom up and don’t overwater, and always provide the recommended and suggested heat/cold, plus sunlight environment for your plants. A third tip would be to buy good strong quality plants from a trusted gardener/nursery.
My next post will be about Microgardening!
I apologize in advance for how bright the photos are. We haven’t had sunshine for about two weeks now. Today–the sun is shining. It’s bitterly cold out, but the sun sure feels good when you’re out in it. I love my seed catalogs, from my two favorite seed catalog companies. I have yet to place an order with them hence the Burpee seeds, also a favorite.
I buy all my tomato seeds from Baker Creek. You can request your free catalog here. I receive a Seed Savers catalog every year but have never ordered from them. They come highly recommended, so this year I will be placing an order for cucumbers, pumpkins, and assorted flowers. I usually buy planters and pots of flowers, but this year I am going to try growing my own. You can request your free catalog here.
So that’s my spring plan thus far. I have all my pots washed out, soil purchased and grow light ordered.
Progress this week
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.