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Winter’s Onset

Just as I was feeling down about the end of the growing season, my ranunculus began peeking their heads through the soil. I had kind of forgotten about them! I also have a pot with a bunch of pink tulip bulbs. This is my first attempt at each, but hopefully they will both bloom in the spring. I was worried about the quality of the bulbs, but it appears there’s some life in them at least.

I totally forgot about my ranunculus

I got tired of protecting my coleus from the cold so I let it go, but my snapdragon seems fine with the weather. My Sweet 100 soldiers on despite my neglecting it for months. It’s really quite amazing. Imagine if I had been more attentive?

Snapdragons
Would someone please tell my tomatoes it's November?

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Current Plants

I have left my Sweet 100 and my rosemary from the summer, but aside from that all the edibles have been disposed of. I still have my coleus and my snapdragon (which is blooming all hot pink with yellow throats!) from the seeds I had this summer. I let the coleus get a little leggy, but that’s ok. I think I’m going to pinch it back a lot and see if it recovers or not. In the meantime I am bringing them in for the cold nights and returning them outside and will do so until it’s too cold during the day.

My houseplants are in to stay for the winter. I repotted almost everything – my hoya is in a 12″ hanging basket to go in the kitchen and my jade move up to the old hoya’s pot. I’m not too sure what I want to do with my succulant garden because it has a hole where one plant died last winter. Maybe I’ll replace it with a new plant at some point, but that’s low priority.

I went out to buy that hanging pot this weekend and got sucked in to getting this cute little philodendron for $2.99, which I had to get a new cute pot for. I wish I could have more houseplants, but one of my cats is young and very persistent and my apartment is not very sunny, so I have to work carefully to fine places to put them. I wish I had an aerogarden for herbs to compensate for this, but those things are just too darn expensive. Maybe I’ll splurge and get one with my Christmas money. Hmmm…

Plans for Summer 2009!

I’ve been researching what I want to grow next summer and already have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to plant.

Tomatoes!

They grew so well this year and were so tasty, so I am going to make them the central crop for next year. Though the three varieties from this summer performed well, they were small fruited and less suited to my cooking needs. After lusting for all the fancy varieties at Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants and TomatoFest, I decided on four varieties that I will start from seed next spring.

  • Sophie’s Choice – A very small, bushy plant that produces very early. Fruit are regular red globes, 8-10 oz.
  • San Marzano – Semi-determinate plant that make lots of red, plum-type tomatoes that ripen mid-season. These are good for sauces and tomato paste.
  • Black Sea Man – Satisfying my desire for a unique looking tomato, these are dark burgundy with green shoulders and are 12-16 oz a pop.
  • New Big Dwarf – This was the only beefsteak kind I saw that is a determinate, making is better suited for container growing. As with all tomatoes it’s size it ripens late in the season and gets 1 lb+, but the plant only gets about 2′ tall.

I’m very excited about this variety and I’ll let you know how they perform. If my ambitious seed-starting program doesn’t go very well I will get starters at the farmer’s market again, probably another Sweet 100, a Better Boy and an Early Girl and maybe something else. They aren’t as specially suited for container life, but I think they will be ok.

Peppers

No jalapeno and bells next year. I want poblanos for stuffing and pepperoncini for pickling. The poblanos should be no problem to find starters for, but I’ll have to grow the pepperoncini from seed.

Salad Greens

They grow while it’s still cool, so I’ll buy a long trough and have them both in the spring and fall. I imagine I’ll buy a mescalin seed mix and call it a day, but it is hard to resist the urge to try more interesting things like swiss chard and kale.

Snow Peas

Not sure what kind yet, but I can direct sow these also while it’s cool. I love these raw and in stir fry, but they can be expensive at the store and I hear they freeze well.

Flowers

I’m the most undecided here. I’m pretty sure I want morning glories to trellis up the dividing wall between our deck and our neighbors, maybe poppies, maybe some columbine. I will probably decide on a whim at the last second depending on the selection.

Herbs

Basil again, for sure. And probably catnip for the cats and maybe some spearmint? I’d do more, but space is at a prime.

Lessons Learned

It was sad these last few weeks getting rid of my summer vegetables, but overall it was a good season. I learned I can get things to grow and produce for me, but there are a million things I will do differently next year. In fact, I’m leaving most of the crops I grew this year behind because I think I could get more out of other things with the particular set up I have now, though I will probably pick most up again when I have a yard to plant in.

  1. The tomatoes were the most satisfying thing to grow because the tomatoes themselves were so much better than what you can get in the store. All three varieties grew like champs. The yellow pear made the most attractive fruit, but they were sweet and a bit mealy; good for snacking, but they just aren’t very tomato-y. The basil and rosemary both provided us with a lot of fresh herbs that would have cost a fortune if I had to buy them in the store. The basil has been tossed for the season, but it paid for itself many times over. Next year I want more tomatoes and bigger varieties and have a second basil plant starting in July so we can both have more to harvest and so when the first bolts I can use the second until it gets cold.
  2. For the kind of veggies I was growing, one plant per pot. I doubled up with the squash and zucchini and paid for it, but they took up a lot of space and were quick to wilt anyway, so they are out for next year. I’ll definitely grow them again when I can give them the space they need though.
  3. Next year I will use the potting soil made by the excellent local nursery, though probably with amendments. I went there with my brother this fall and they were very helpful and they have a great selection of pretty much everything, but most importantly they are much more budget friendly than I had thought.
  4. I need to learn more about fertilizer. I under fed this summer, but also I’m looking into worm composting and other organic solutions.
  5. I want things that can grow in cooler weather, so I’m not just getting veggies in the back half of the summer.
  6. More flowers!

Garden Diary

June 8, 2008: I decide to plant vegetables in containers to grow on the sunny deck of my apartment. I do some research and figure out the bare bones of what I need to buy, because being a poor student does not afford me the opportunity to try anything too fancy.

June 9, 2008: I go to the farmers market and buy plants and Wal-Mart and Lowes to buy supplies and end up having enough room/money for:

  • Jalapeno x 2
  • Straightneck Squash x 3
  • Black Beauty Zucchini x 3
  • California Wonder Bell Pepper x 3
  • Patio Tomato
  • Sweet 100 Tomato
  • Yellow Pear Tomato

(I already had rosemary, basil and some houseplants.) I picked these plants because I knew I would eat them (I’m still getting over my childhood vegetable aversion and honestly cooking and gardening have been the best way to do that) and I picked plants that looked the most mature because I was afraid that I was getting a very late start. It turned out that this was not the case, but it didn’t end up mattering.

June 13, 2008: I planted some coleus and snapdragon seeds so I could have some things thriving in the fall, but mostly as practice growing things from seeds. My deck looked like this:

BeforeBefore

And my plants were starting to fruit:
Three tomatoesZucchini buds!
First jalapeno!

July 11, 2008: I watered everyday, sometimes twice in the intense summer heat. This was a bit labor intensive because we don’t have a spigot outside, but I was pretty diligent and attentive.

I fretted a lot about every small thing that might indicate a problem with my plants. After my first jalapeno (pictured above) set within a few days planting I experienced some early blossom drop and fretted about that. I fretted when my earliest tomato blooms didn’t set. I wondered why the green peppers weren’t blooming. I checked my zucchini and squash everyday and wondered if I would be able to tell if I saw a female flower. I worried if I was pinching the basil back correctly and if I was pruning my tomatoes too much or too little. I worried a lot about the Mircale Grow Moisture Control soil I used and if had too much nitrogen.

But everything was growing nicely! It was a jungle out there on the deck and hard to walk around and even though I worried, I was proud with what I have achieved. The deck looked like this:
After!Squaaaaash
Yellow Pear Tomato

August 4, 2008: Most of the things I worried about were totally irrelevant. It turns out I was just impatient, because most plants were producing well. The squash and zucchini were battling with powdery mildew though, probably as a result of overcrowding and wilting on 100+ degree days, stressing them. We got a little to eat out of them, but not as much as I hoped.
Sweet 100And by the way, bell peppersunripe yellow pear tomatoes in summer

August 25, 2008: School started, so I wasn’t giving the plants as much love as I had in the full summer, but while I didn’t kept up with jalapeno canning I got to graze heavily on never ending tomatoes. I knew I was coasting on all my hard work from the summer, but fall was not too far off and these plants were going to be tossed soon anyway. Oh, and my coleus and snapdragon lived.
Fruits of the harvestColeus in summer

Part 2 coming soon with my lessons for the season, followed by a garden update and then with my (current) planting ambitions for next year.

First post.

I never knew that I had inherited my parent’s penchant for gardening, but when I began establishing a home of my own as a young adult I felt strangely compelled to have something green to take care of. Around this same time my fiance’s cooking hobby rubbed off on me, so what began as a few houseplants became a few houseplants and a few herbs and then we moved to an apartment with a big, sunny deck and my little desire for something green has become quite a preoccupation.

It’s been an interesting time to get into gardening. As the economy worsens and the cost of food is increasing at a rate directly proportional to the amount I want to cook with fresh ingredients and try new things, I can’t help but look at the produce I buy from the over-priced grocery store near where I live and think, “I can grow this myself and it will be cheaper and taste better than this and I will have fun doing it.” This past summer I had an experimental vegetable garden in containers – my victory garden, and I saw just how possible it was.

Ultimately I would like to grow a lot of what I eat, but that dream is a long way off. I am but a mere sproutling, learning how to balance my urban life in a modern time with this desire to divorce myself somewhat from our modern food retail system. I have this journal to chart my growth.