Gardening 2020 Container Garden–Starting a garden during a pandemic 🌱🐲 🌿

I began thinking about our container garden in January when the first seed catalogs started to arrive. By March I had our garden all drawn out and then the pandemic, our current crisis, emerged. Suddenly companies weren’t selling seeds, seeds were back-ordered, plants were out of stock–every one pressed pause.

I had vowed to myself in January that all I was going to grow was herbs and flowers. I’ve been container gardening for almost twelve years and each year–thanks to climate change it gets tougher. Winds have gone from an occasional wind gust here and there to the last two years wind all the time. Heat–well our deck twelves years ago got up to 100 degrees and we thought that was hot. Now, it’s nothing to be 112 and 116 degrees at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Everything wilts–and continuous wilting =very little if any production. With the pandemic, I changed my mind and decided to order plants from online when none of the regular places had any or closed up due to regulations.

I do have to add in that finding good stock has been incredibly hard for about five years for me. Plants, at least around here, are not what they used to be. I have changed soil off and on, fertilizers, food, and hybrid vs. heirloom, even saving seeds and nothing seems to really change the awful effects of climate change.  Regular seasonal weather is bad enough between the rains and winds of spring to the scorching humidity of summer.  Let’s not forget about root rot, diseased plants, bugs, and lack of one nutrient or another leading to no fruit. Every year, for me, it’s a nitrogen problem for everything I grow no matter how much I amend my soil. This year that problem has led to no female blossoms on 3 of my tomatoes and none on my pumpkins. I’ve tried everything.

I think it’s been raining for almost three weeks–or so it seems. I hope to take photos this weekend and will add more to this post then!

2 weeks later:

I had five tomato plants in all–3 of which are pictured above. The tomato on the right in the cage has not produced any flowers–on this particular day (2 weeks ago)due to space/crowding I said–let’s just get rid of it.

Here’s what it looks like today–

It’s grown out of the cage and stands almost 2 ft above the cage top. And boy am I glad I didn’t get rid of him because he’s not going to produce. I tend to think he heard me say that, because he’s taken right off and now provides shade for the tomato plant on each side of him and the little guy in the red pot right in front of him. Without the shade he’s providing (yes my tomato plants are always he 😉 ) the other plants would be suffering afternoon wilt so much more–previous to the shade he’s providing all the plant but this plant were doing really poorly. It just goes to show–don’t be quick to get rid of non-producers–the shade they provide in hot humid times like these is priceless. I mean we’ve tried sun shades, screens, even umbrellas. Nothing has worked very well at all–until now. And my nitrogen problem has been fixed for now: all total I have over 20 tomatoes growing at this time!!

 

Drying Lamb’s ear for a decorative wreath —

Time for Farmer’s Market veggies–we gloved up, masked up, kept our distance 6+ feet, grabbed what we wanted, paid, and were on our way. We had a cooler with vinegar that we soaked the veggies in, dried them, and put them in a dry cool cooler until we got home.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to get some strawberries ( the last week for them around here the first week was two weeks ago–and then everyone shut down) at a local stand to make jam. Both of the local u-pick fields shut down this year due to low quantity and poor quality–as said it’s been raining for weeks here..

Until next time–be well.

What’s New–harvesting lemons, time for a haircut, container gardening

We got this lovely charcuterie board, featured in our cover picture, for our anniversary in February and finally I’ve found a reason to use it!  I was going to wait until we had guests around and drape it with meat and cheese, but decided to show off the lemons we’ve grown.  Every year our tree gives us a few more–this year was no exception.  I believe it’s been about eight years since we started our lemon tree from seed.

You can see our lemon tree and get a delicious Ina Garten recipe for Lemon Napoleons here  

Our friends purchased our charcuterie board at Macy’s at Christmas time –I don’t see it on the site anymore, but you can buy it on Amazon  here for $45.00  (not an affiliate link).

So let’s get down to what’s new around here, it’s been awhile.

Container garden 2020 is in–this year I have:

  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • french lavender
  • marigolds
  • bee balm
  • fuschia
  • lamb’s ear
  • hibiscus
  • tomatoes
  • pumpkins
  • green beans
  • carrots
  • peonies
  • and
  • a pepper plant
  • sunflower
  • zinnias

I’ll have to take some more pictures, I’ve been doing more videos lately than picture taking–so I’ll get them up in my next post.

Well, it’s been three months since my last haircut and though I survived just fine it’s time to venture out to where I get my hair done–less than a 1/2 mile from home, mask up and get it done. Good thing is it’s just a haircut and like everyone in the state she has guidelines to follow, to which  I know she will, and my hair which is now shaggy and shoulder-length will get a long overdue cut. Salons have been open for awhile here. I’ve just been putting it off–but with precautions taken I will be just fine. Thankfully our state is starting to come down in its numbers which is a promising sign for all of us.

Meat is still expensive–nearly 4 times the regular cost and some meat not at market at all. We cannot get roasting chickens from Just Bare–there are none to be had. The brand of lunch meat my husband eats is also not available as well as certain sausages, bacon, or ham. I still cannot find clorox wipes, but have found gloves for sale (5X reg. price) masks for sale (1.00 a piece) which for now isn’t a bad price–both at Walmart. Still to this day I cannot order toilet paper, paper towel, masks, cleaning products, gloves, or certain foodstuffs online.

That’s what is new around here–summer is almost here, the heat is starting, parks are overcrowded, very few people following any guidelines since the beginning around here, sadness all around the world in the news, and a lot of hurting. The world needs healing and I pray wherever you are you are safe and well.

Until next time here is our boy watching out over his territory–which includes birds of all kind, rabbits, other cats, neighbor dogs, and a muskrat!

Patio Gardening Summer 2019 Week 13-15

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!!

Patio Gardening Summer 2019 Week 8- Week 10 🍅

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!

Patio Gardening Spring 2019 Week 5- Week 7

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.

 

My Patio Garden | Patio Gardening 2019 Week 4 🌿🍅🍅

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–

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.

My Patio Garden | Patio Gardening 2019 Week 1 🌿🍅🍅

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
    thyme
    rosemary
    lavender
    a geranium plant (34.00)
    strawberry plants
    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. 🌿🌿🌿

Bush tomato plants & plans for 2019’s container garden

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.

Source

That’s it for now–just blogging about this has made me feel happier and more hopeful that spring is coming.

Putting the container garden to bed & more!

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?