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 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!

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.

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!