Gardening 2012: April Update

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So, last we heard, I had only sketched up my plan for my garden this year.  Now, I actually have the plants.  I purchased a bunch of new ceramic pots for my plants, along with dirt and fertilizers.  I actually took a ruler along to make sure the pots I got were deep enough.  Surprisingly, the pots that I reached for first were all too small.  That could have been a contributing factor to my previous failures.  I also switched to all ceramic, as my experience with plastic pots has been bad.  The plastic gets destroyed by my climate, and they always seem to have a “water saving tray” which ends up just a home for spiders and filth, as well as a great place for root rot.

I tried to avoid terra cotta as much as I could.  I have a touch sensitivity that makes it uncomfortable to touch things like chalkboards (ironic since I have to teach at a chalkboard), slate tiles, and certain other rock like surfaces that are both smooth and rough at the same time.  It’s not debilitating, it’s just uncomfortable, and I can force myself to work through it.  Terra cotta triggers this as well.  So, when I can, I try to get glazed pots.  But I can’t deny that terra cotta is not only effective, but it’s also a very cheap option, which glazed pots are not.  (With soil and fertilizers, everything came out to almost $300.  I justify it by saying I won’t need to buy new soil or fertilizers for a few years.)
7106206761_e07df12502_oThe plants were acquired the same day at my local farmer’s market.  I didn’t ask if the plants were organic (remember, I value local over organic.)  I’m also actually avoiding heirloom plants right now.  Heirlooms are great, and I believe they should be preserved, but I’ve also heard that they’re finicky for newbie growers, and not very many varieties are great for containers.  While I was at it, I also re-potted all my indoor plants, as they had been in cramped plastic containers for some time.

These pictures were taken just after everything had been planted.  Unfortunately, we’ve had strong storms lately, so the poor things have gotten rather beaten.  One of the tomatoes is barely hanging on, and the herbs are turning yellow.  I’m not sure if it’s wind damage right, over/under watering, or just too much sun.  The temperatures have been mostly mild, though it’s been cool the past couple days, which has caused some concern, since most of the plants are heat loving.
7106207995_d2f9a12de2_oAll I can do right now is keep watering, maybe a little pruning, maybe a little fertilizing.  If they get a little too hot out front, I can move them to the back.  They won’t be as pretty, and the birds tend to attack them more in the back, so I’ll have to put up netting.  I’m hoping not to have to do that, but we’ll have to just wait and see.

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Garden Plan for 2012

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Ok, so after the bombshell that was my last post, let’s go back to normal topics for this blog.  Every spring, I get the itch to grow things.  It normally doesn’t start until after the farmer’s market opens, where many of the farmers offer young plants, enticing me with their fresh green leaves.  The last couple of years I’ve overextended myself.  I tried to grow more kinds of veggies than I normally like, herbs that I’d never used fresh, and just not keeping up with the maintenance.  This year I decided to try and keep it simple.

Above is a sketch of what I’d like to do for my “garden” this year.  I don’t have a backyard, so it’s all in containers that will be by the front and back doors.  I’ve limited myself to tomatoes and herbs mostly.  The spillers are probably going to be a small pickling cucumber plant (for homemade pickles!), and maybe a strawberry plant or two.  The cucumber will depend on if I can find a container friendly variety from the local nurseries.  Now, I may end up overextending myself again.  I’ve never grown cucumber before, and my success with strawberries has been, well, non-existent.   But I wanted to try and make the pots look nice (as they’ll be sitting next to my front door), so I needed some more ideas.

The formula for making a pretty container is to use “a thriller, a filler, and a spiller”.  A thriller tends to be a plant that is tall and catches attention.  A spiller falls over the side of the pot.  And a filler bridges the space in between.  Now, you don’t have to follow this, of course, but I thought I’d try.

The mint is in a separate pot for three reasons.  First, mint can take over a container very quickly, so it’s best to give it a boundary.  Second, it will add a different point of visual interest in that pot, mainly because…Third, last year my basil plant got huge!  It just kept growing and growing, and got taller and taller!  I couldn’t eat basil fast enough to keep up.

The rosemary pot I will be keeping in the back.  I’m going to try and shape it into a topiary.  Supposedly rosemary is very good for that, and the spilling thyme around the base will make it look not so sad while it’s being shaped.  Plus, thyme and rosemary like similar environments, so putting them in the same pot makes sense.  The stevia and the lettuce may need to be in separate pots.  Last year, it got so hot the lettuce really couldn’t survive outdoors, even in the shadier back area.  Stevia, on the other hand, loves the heat.  So I may need to have my lettuce pot indoors and leave the stevia on its own outdoors.

The other thing that I’ve learned over the past couple years is that the plastic pots are awful here.  They get blasted by the sun, and all of them have that awful “water saver” thing that just ends up grimy, gunky, and a home for spiders.  So this year I’m throwing out all my plastic pots and getting some in a different material.  Probably terra cotta, even though I hate the feel of it.  I’m also getting fresh potting soil, as my stuff is at least three years old and is probably full of weed seeds, diseases and who knows what else.

So that’s my plan.  We’ll see once April gets here how well it goes.  What’s your plan?  Do you have a green thumb, or are you like me and tend to kill plants?