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?

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2018 Container Gardening – Week Two

We are slowly pulling the container garden of 2018 together. I am trying to savor every moment of the month of May. Earlier this year I found myself looking forward to May and realized I am always hurrying every spring along to summer. When in fact, I don’t really like summer. Why? Hot weather, bugs, and high a/c bills to name just a few reasons summer can be kind of frustrating. Because of it, I’ve realized that spring has probably been my favorite season for many years. So, back to the container garden. I went a bit over budget buying the lavender topiary, but I could not resist. I tried and tried to find red geraniums and finally had to settle on bigger plants already planted in containers. I really wanted to find some 6″ geranium plants and fill pots with individual ones and place them along the edge of our deck. This past Saturday hubby set my french cart up and I put it to use right away getting some of the sun lovers up off the deck floor. Weather-wise it has been cloudy here for days and days–the lavender, believe it or not, seem to love this. Though I know the lavender to love the sun. I’ve included a picture of an evergreen tree we have had on our deck for a few years. We bought two of these about four years ago. The second winter both turned completely brown and dropped all of their needles. So, I went to work trying to coax them back alive. I shook them until all their dead needles fell, sprayed them with warm water, watered well, even replanted and fertilized them. Needless to say one of them wasn’t coming back. For the last two years, I have completely babied the one that seemed to have survived, even though two winters ago he turned extremely brown again and appeared dead. All of last year I continued trying to help him survive and alas all new growth–he is doing fabulous! I wish I could say the same for my beloved tomatoes–one of my worries again this year are my wilting tomatoes. The sun hits the deck at 3pm and by 5pm, whether I’ve watered them or not, they are extremely wilted. I’m going to need to look into sun shades for them. We are happy again to host our favorite birds on the deck for yet another season. Currently, I am feeding twice a day–male and female finches, male and female Baltimore Orioles, and our much-loved hummingbirds. I’m also setting out peanuts and sunflower seeds for the nuthatches, woodpeckers, and I guess, though I’m not a fan of them, red-winged blackbirds!

Until next time–

2018 Container Gardening– Week One

My budget this year is tight and my container garden will be smaller than years past. There are two reasons for this- 1) the first one is the lack of space/wt. that our deck can hold is limited. Every year there is just too much out there and it takes weeks to clean it all up. 2) we plan on moving from this apartment by next spring so right now we are organizing, and downsizing everything in our life in preparation. I have $80.00 in my budget to buy plants for my container garden. We are in zone 4 and overnight lows are in the 50’s.

So far I have a container filled with Hens and Chicks that I got early for Mother’s Day ($12.96 Walmart), two tomatoes plants (local nursery $8.00 ea), one pepper plant ($2.00) one heirloom tomato ($3.00), one cherry tomato ($2.00), one coleus ($4.99), three ranunculus ($10.00) one lavender plant ($5.99), and one prairie grass perennial ($8.99) –all bought at Home Depot. Soon I will buy some red geraniums and all the money I have budgeted will be spent.

Right now I am taking things I have started inside, that I had seeds, dirt, and containers for, and planting them outside in soil–like my nasturtiums and some sugar snap peas soon. I’m also getting everything cleaned up on the deck and welcoming back the hummingbirds, orioles, and finches to the feeders.  I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before but I am in love with Floret Flower Farm. I asked for Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein last fall for my birthday, and for Christmas, I asked for the Cut Flower Garden Monthly Planner. I ordered both from her website and couldn’t have asked for an easier transaction. My items arrived quickly and well packed(with a free postcard) both times. For Mother’s Day I asked for the gardening notebooks (these are almost full-size notebooks, not the little notebooks one often sees) and they also arrived quickly and in time for Mother’s Day. I love love love all the pretty pictures and information Erin so freely gives. I have attended several of her online gardening tutorials.

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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.

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Happy Earth Day

This year my container garden is going to be dedicated to herbs and tomatoes. On earth day I went to our local nursery and purchased my tomato plants. Because our apartment does not have much sunlight coming in I am forced to buy mature tomato plants for my garden. I am growing other things from seed– nasturtiums, zinnia’s, cat grass, sweet peas, and lettuce. The snow is officially gone here–10 inches has melted in less than a week. So, this week is planning and buying and soon..putting it all together. Happy Earth Day!!

My love affair with heirloom tomatoes

To be truly honest with you when I was growing up I’m not sure what kind of tomato we were growing. I suppose they could have been heirloom? Maybe they were started from seeds grandma saved? There was no Walmart’s or Home Depot’s back in those days, so our only source besides seed saving was purchasing plants from local greenhouses.

I’ve loved tomatoes since I was eight years old and never throughout the last forty-five years has my appetite for them waned. Up until a few years ago, I’d never had a home garden. Which meant any tomatoes I would be eating would either come from a grocery store or a Farmer’s Market. I never enjoyed grocery store tomatoes, but I ate them nonetheless. Because (ahem) I love tomatoes.

In the last three years, I started seeing Heirloom tomatoes pop up at the farm stand and a time or two at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. When I say pop up I mean scarce and rare, but it happened. I remember buying one for $4.00 about three years ago and thinking “boy that was worth every penny I spent.” But that’s a lot of money. The last two years I’ve waited patiently for the farm stand we visit every week to have them. Usually, right at the end of the season, they’ll have a half dozen heirlooms sitting at check out waiting just for me. I pay about a $1.00 a pound for these. This year the farmer saved just one big red one–the nicest one he could find just for me. I’ll take them bruised, soft, and overripe. It doesn’t matter to me. While eating the heirloom this year I vowed never to eat another tomato for the rest of my life unless it was homegrown and an heirloom tomato. No more store bought ever again.

Until you’ve tasted an heirloom tomato you have no idea what you are missing. Their taste is more than just sun-kissed, or warm and fleshy. Heirloom’s taste like the very best homemade pasta sauce you’ve ever tasted –authentic and flavorful. Nothing sold in grocery stores for the last thirty years can compare.  There are also taste differences between the different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I prefer the red ones which are quite acidic, whereas the yellow ones are very mild.

For tomatoes to qualify as Heirloom tomatoes there seed must be at least 50 years old.  I found out a lot of information here about heirloom tomatoes.

I’ve found a place online that I am going to order heirloom plants and seeds from and I am going to try to grow my own. If successful I will be delighted, and if not well–I’ll wait for the farm stand to save me a few precious tomatoes at the end of their growing season. It’s a small price to pay to be able to eat a real tomato.

Here’s an almost current picture of my container garden all wrapped up for winter!

We bungee strapped a couple more blankets around the middle of each tree hoping to keep the roots from getting cold. I read that keeping the roots from freezing is the secret to over-wintering container shrubs and trees. Fingers crossed. I brought both the rosemary bush and the last geranium inside to overwinter because both plants performed better than any flowers or herbs I’ve grown yet and I’d like them to have another chance next spring.

I’ll be sharing this post over at the lovely blog A Stroll Thru Life for Marty’s 398th Inspire Me Tuesday!

Summer Sun and Container Gardening

Sun, just the right amount of sun, is essential to a successful container garden. We live in an apartment that does not get southern exposure, and the western exposure we get is HOT, quite hot, from about 1pm each day through 6pm. Watering plants in the early am hours here does not work. Also keeping houseplants thriving without southern exposure can be quite a challenge. I have fifteen African violets that I move around in our bedroom to catch the sun from the west, and then as it creeps around the side of the building I have a shelf in my office loaded with succulents and cactus plants, not to mention my husband’s ever growing bonsai collection, trying to catch the last rays of sun before it disappears for another day. Lots to keep up with. I’ve killed way more than I’ve saved but this year I’ve actually had some much appreciated success.


Container Gardening Week– #7













Week 7 has been a busy week- suckers to pluck off of tomato plants growing fast and the first of the potato bugs.  Even in a small garden, there is work and diligence needed. I was shocked to see a potato bug–we’re two stories up?  So at this time, I have removed two of them and the leaves they were sitting on in case that is where they laid their eggs.  I have a total of 40 tomatoes on three tomato plants at this time. I purchased my potting soil, tomato gro and fertilizer from Purple Cow Organics and I never ever want to plant another garden if I can’t plant it using these products. Wow, what a difference organic soil and organic fertilizer make!

Right now I am mounding dirt around my potato plants because tubers will only grow in dirt that is around 65 degrees. So it is a must to keep the soil and pot and plant cool. The opposite is needed for tomatoes to turn red. They need hot 75 to 85-degree heat both on the plants and in the soil. Last year I stopped watering my plants for two to three days at a time and all my tomatoes ripened. Tomatoes will keep ripening even when the plant looks half dead.

Our week started out with a trip to the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. This was a trip we had planned for a couple of years and we really enjoyed seeing the Seed Savers Exchange gardens, fields and visitors center. We stopped at a few other favorite places in Decorah and then made our way back to Wisconsin. Of course, we had to stop at Bauer’s Marketplace in La Crescent, MN because they were having their buy one pot get one pot of flowers or herbs free. We purchased 6 large guinea impatiens and 4 geraniums and paid just over $20.00 for all. Fabulous deal and they had fresh asparagus to boot.

Everything in our container garden has grown double in size in less than two weeks. Plants we thought were going to die haven’t and plants we re-potted from Walmart potting soil, which had fungus gnats in it, are doing way better than we thought. Our garden looks great this year! I’ve harvested two small bouquets of lavender, more to come, and of course we had over a dozen salads from the lettuce. I also crushed the chocolate mint after I dried it and made tea from it. Best tea ever. I will share the recipe next time.  A little over a week ago I planted pumpkins and zinnias which are both up and doing well. My next project is to make some homemade salve or lotion using my lemon thyme. I am hoping for good results and I will share pictures here if successful. That’s all for this week–until next time be well.