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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Container Vegetable Garden

I'm slowly trying to get things set up so that all the vegetables I want to grow will be in containers. I think I'll have more control that way--I can move the plants to wherever they'll get the proper sun exposure and hopefully they'll be less vulnerable to certain pests.

I'm doing this on a very limited scale already. I've been growing mesclun, spinach, tomatoes, and carrots in containers. I also have a couple sweet peppers and a couple Roma bean plants in containers too, although they're not doing too well so far. Today I pulled out the last of the spinach, which had bolted, and replanted the same container with more mesclun. I also sowed some more Round Romeo carrot seeds around the perimeter of the container where the berry plant is growing.

I'm trying to find whatever information I can on what varieties of vegetables would grow best in containers and I think I found a great resource: ContainerSeeds.com. They offer an impressive array of vegetables that are well-suited to containers, along with information about the size of container that is best for each plant. I think I'll be placing an order soon.

I also did something yesterday that will probably turn out to be very smart or a waste of money. I bought a small (quite small) greenhouse on ebay. It's a plastic-covered, 5-shelf structure that's roughly 6' tall, 2' wide, and 1.5' deep. Hopefully, it will be just big enough to keep some lettuces going year-round and get an early start on spring seedlings. Including shipping, it's $55. If it works out, it should pay for itself in a couple years.

Mystery Plant Identified

After seeing the little yellow blossoms on my mystery plant, I couldn't help but think that it looked an awful lot like an abutilon. So I did a little Internet surfing and I think I finally have a name: Abutilon theophrasti (common name: Velvetleaf). Most of the sources I found identify it as a noxious weed in many parts of the country, particulary in cornfields where it steals water and nutrients away from the corn. But others indicated that, although it can reseed freely, if you collect the seedpods you can control it.

So now the question is: Do I yank it, re-locate it, or just leave it?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My First Carrot

I harvested the first carrot today. These are Round Romeo carrots from a packet of Renee's Garden seeds. I realized today that it had been more than two months since I sowed the seeds (April 18th) and the seed packet says 60 days to maturity. So I plucked out the tallest of the greens and found a nice round, orange globe more than an inch in diameter.

Because I only pulled up the one carrot, I didn't bother to cook it, just cleaned it and chomped it down. It was really tasty--nice and sweet.

I'll give the rest of the batch (which was not very big to begin with) another week or so, then harvest all of them together. They'll be really delicious steamed with butter.

These are a really good option for container planting since you don't need a very deep container. There are still a lot more seeds in the packet, so I'm looking forward to growing many more of these babies.

Blossoms on the Mystery Plant

The unknown plant that I described in my last post now has some small yellow flowers, shown here.
I would really love to find out if this plant is friend or foe. Any ideas? Anyone? Please?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Can You Name This Plant?

Let's play this oh so fun game once again!

This volunteer plant seems to be very happy, sending up large, thin, heart-shaped, slightly hairy leaves. The plant is about 12 inches high now. I don't see any buds yet. Oh, and the whiteflies are enjoying it.

I did wonder if it was a melon plant because last year I planted a melon vine just a few feet from this spot and I thought a seed might have gone astray. But I can't remember exactly what those leaves looked like and I don't see any sign of this plant vining yet.

Can you name this plant?

Monday, June 19, 2006

First Salad

I forgot to take a picture of it, but yesterday I was able to harvest enough of the mesclun and spinach to make salad for two. It was delicious with walnuts, feta cheese, dried cranberries and a simple dressing of olive oil and balsalmic vinegar. I meant to add some nasturtiums but I forgot.

I checked my postings to see when I planted the mesclun seeds, but it looks like I forgot to mention when I did it. To the best of my recollection, I planted them around May 18th, which means it was a month from seed-sowing to harvest. I want to keep track of that because I want to see if I can keep them growing year-round and I'll need to know how often I need to re-seed.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Ultimate Seed-Saver

Just when you thought that all the various countries of the world couldn't agree on anything, they suddenly do agree on one thing--that the planet's future is so precarious that we need to build a gigantic storage facility in the Arctic to stash the millions of varieties of seeds that produce the world's food. Check out this article by Rick Weiss in today's Washington Post: "The World's Agricultural Legacy Gets a Safe Home".

I can't decide whether I'm depressed to think that we're so close to doomsday that this kind of facility is necessary, or relieved that someone is making plans to survive it. Probably the former, but maybe I'll feel better after a little gardening...

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Salvaged Garden

One person's trash is another person's ... garden.

I went to Urban Ore in Berkeley a couple days ago and went home with two great finds. One is a white-and-rust metal hanging planter. My plan is to let it get completely rusty and use it as a centerpiece in the area that is now my vegetable bed. In the fall I plan on re-doing that entire bed and I think that this planter mounted on a pole or post of some kind in the center of the bed will look great.

My other find was a blue metal store display rack of some kind. It caught my eye because it's such a terrific shade of blue, but I knew right away it would make a great trellis for the mystery berry plant I was going to pot and re-locate. Here it is happily soaking up the sun in a new redwood pot.

Bye-Bye Tomatoes

Yesterday afternoon I began the tomato relocation effort. After scrounging a couple dozen 5-gallon and 1-gallon plastic pots (thank you, Magic Gardens Nursery) and purchasing three big bags of potting soil to be mixed with compost, I began digging up and potting some of the biggest plants. After putting three plants in 5-gallon pots, I realized that it was going to cost me a fortune in potting soil to pot all of the tomato plants--and then I'd have to find homes for most of them. Forget it. I decided that the rest of them would make a lovely addition to my compost bin and I began yanking them out with something I can only describe as glee.

The result was a nice orderly bed with room for the plants I really wanted. The sweet peas, about 8 or 9 inches tall, will now get the sun they need and hopefully a growth spurt. The poppies will have a little room to spread too. A couple liriope have started to make an appearance and there are a few mystery plants as well that I left in place until I can identify them. Then I was able to add some newcomers. In the far left corner of the bed I planted a small climbing shell vine that I'm hoping will grow up and fill the lattice work of the fence to give a little privacy. And I planted two angel trumpets, which I want to train into tree-like shapes, also to give a little privacy along that fence. And to fill in the empty spots, I sowed some crackerjack marigold seeds.

I dare the tomatoes to come back.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tomato Surprise

Funny things happen in the garden when you turn your back. After detailing all my edible plants in my last post, I went out in the yard to discover that I'd overlooked a few things growing in the long narrow bed along the fence. This is the bed that I'd cleared and seeded about six weeks ago with sweet peas, shirley poppies, iceland poppies, snapdragons, and violas. The sweet peas are coming in a bit slowly but are now about 8 inches tall. But there has been a lot of growth that I assumed was the two types of poppies. They had distinctly different types of leaves, but I'd never grown these kinds of poppies before, so I just shrugged and kept watering. Yesterday I happened to brush up against the leaves and caught a whiff of that telltale scent--tomato plants!

Yes, I should have realized that was what they were. I've had volunteer tomatoes come up in the same area where I'd planted them the previous year, but I've never grown tomato plants in this bed. And I never would have imagined that so many volunteers would sprout--there must be between one and two dozen plants. They've actually come up more successfully than the seeds I planted there myself! I can only assume that it is the result of racoons having late-night picnics in my yard.

Today I spent an hour or so potting up a berry plant, two roma bush beans, and two bell pepper plants. But in the next few days, I'll be digging up all of the tomato plants and potting them up. I guess I'll keep a few and try to find nice homes for the rest. As if there isn't enough to do in the yard, now I'm running an adoption service for vegetables!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

In Pursuit of Farm Fresh Produce

I don't think the local farmers or grocers need to worry about competition from my little garden, but this morning I had my breakfast yogurt topped with a few strawberries from the new Ogallalla strawberry plants I got from Gurney's this year, and it was sweet. Actually, the experience of growing the berries may have been sweeter than the eating, which led me to do a mid-season review of whatever edibles I'm growing right now.

Strawberries

With somewhere between 60 and 70 everbearing strawberry plants now, I would have expected to have a bit heavier and a bit more consistent harvest. But so far the strawberries are trickling in. The Ogallalla berries, which are in two strawberry pots, are the only ones that have ripened so far and overall, they are not nearly as sweet and not even as big as the Quinault. The Quinault, however, have been very slow to come in. Usually, I can start picking berries in March, but there are only two Quinault berries that are even close to ripening. I think the spring rains and my overhaul last month of the strawberry bed has slowed them down, but I'm hoping they'll kick in soon.

Citrus

My dwarf Meyer Lemon tree has only a couple not-quite-ripe lemons on it right now, but quite a few buds, so I'm hoping that it will continue to produce well (given its size). I'm considering getting a couple more citrus trees (perhaps a ruby red grapefruit and either a navel orange or a Satsumi tangerine) this fall to espalier along the fence in between the roses.

Berry

The mystery berry (raspberry? blackberry? black raspberry?) I found growing under the delphinium and moved to the new compost bed is doing OK, but I've decided to move it to a pot. For one thing, that will enable me to re-locate it to an area that gets sun all day. Also, since I plan on reworking the area where the compost beds are in the fall, I'd have to move them sooner or later anyway. I found a good, deep redwood pot yesterday and weird but interesting and functional metal store display thingie that will work well as a trellis. I hope to get it repotted in the next few days.

Herbs

The only herbs I've planted so far are mint and lavender. The mint was planted last year and is doing great. I planted three lavender plants six weeks ago and although all three are growing at different rates, I think they'll all do fine.



Lettuces and Greens

Two wood pots of mesclun lettuces are sprouting away and I think I'll be able to start harvesting in a few weeks. The spinach I planted in a container is doing great, while the spinach starts I transplanted to the compost bed withered and died. (I've come to the conclusion that the compost I had delivered may have included a heavy proportion of pine needles and chips and therefore may be rather acidic.) I've also started a few cabbages from seed, which I will transplant to pots when they're a bit bigger. One of the great things about having these in pots is that I can keep the lettuces cool under the pergola on the deck and out of the path of nibbling pests.

Beans and Peppers

I have two Roma bean plants that I started from seed and two Bell pepper plants I bought that are currently in the compost bed--and looking rather sickly. Again, I think this compost is just too acidic, so they're going to get transferred to pots. Hopefully, they'll perk up. I also want to start more of the Roma beans--I hope to get enough beans to freeze and I know that two plants won't produce that much.

Carrots, Corn, and Potatoes

The Romeo carrots I planted from seed in a container are doing well. I'm not sure when they'll be ready to harvest, but they're definitely growing.

I've also found one thing at least that is happy to be in the compost bed--corn. I planted seeds a couple weeks ago and they're already a few inches high. After I take out the beans, peppers, and berry plant, I'm going to replant that bed with more corn, plus I'm going to build one more compost bed and seed that with corn as well.

I also took a chance with some baby dutch yellow potatoes that I bought at Trader Joe's and planted some of them in the compost bed as well. They should be OK with the acidic compost, and although I know it's recommended that you only plant certified seed potatoes and not the potatoes you buy in the grocery store, these potatoes were so delicious I thought I'd just give it a try. So far, nothing's sprouted, but I'm hopeful.

Conclusions

I know the extremely small scale of my farming efforts may be laughable to some, but I think things are working better this way than in past years when I've planted fewer types of vegetables, but more plants and gotten bumper crops that were hard to keep up with. Given my small gardening space and the fact that I'm a one-person household, I think I'll do better with smaller, rotating crops and an effort to keep something edible growing year-round. I've learned some tips from other blogs, especially The Path to Freedom Journal, that with the right techniques (container and vertical gardening, in particular), it's possible to get a good output no matter how big your gardening space is.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Clematis

One thing that's definitely looking good in my garden at the moment is the clematis (Clematis viticella 'Mme Julia Correvon'). I planted it late last summer so it didn't have time to do much then. But this year, it's on a roll.

This is what it looked like on April 6:


But just two months later, it has reached the top of the pergola and is starting to wrap over the top. It has filled out beautifully and is loaded with gorgeous magenta blooms. Now this is progress!

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Ruth Bancroft Garden

Today I went with a small group from my landscape-hort class to tour the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA. Brian Kemble, Assistant Garden Director, led us through the three-acre collection of cacti and succulents. The garden is designed as an example of water-conserving landscaping, but water conservation is not what was on my mind as I wandered through this garden. All I could think of was how stunning the plants were, with spectacular blooms and endless variety in their form and structure. I've never been that enthusiastic about succulents before, but I think I may be a convert now. Of course, I had to make a few purchases--an aloe, an aeonium, and a sempervivum.

I couldn't remember most of the plant names, so I've just thrown up all the photos without identification. My camera and my photography skills do not do these plants justice. The colors were much more vivid than they appear here.
















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