first garden: weeks 21-30

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2015: photos and updates from the third quarter of the container garden’s life, plus a spring retrospective.

Things I think we got right:

  • The “potting soil” mixture. I spent countless hours in front of the computer researching how to make your own potting soil. There was loads of conflicting information, and I ended up meshing together three or four different “recipes” to come up with my own: 45% compost, 30% dirt, 10% sand, 15% perlite. I lined all the bins with lava rocks – not sure I would do that again, because they were rather expensive.
  • Sowing all our seeds early. I had everyone in the ground by March 15th. There was one unexpected cold snap that everyone survived. Sowing early meant we were getting harvests as soon as early as the first week of April.
  • Building my own tomato/ pepper trellises. This saved a lot of money, and with diligence the plants trained onto them very easily.
  • Crops we planted the perfect amount of: arugula, snap peas, cilantro, parsley
  • Cultivars we loved: Chioggia beets, French Breakfast radishes, Romaine lettuce, Tom Thumb lettuce, Sugar snap peas, Bright Lights rainbow chard

Things we will do differently:

  • Succession planting. At first, I planted all our seeds in one day. This led to some days where we were harvesting more lettuce than we knew what to do with, and other days where there was nothing to harvest at all. I was so eager to kick things off that I did not consider succession planting. In the fall, that will certainly be a planning priority.
  • Inter-planting different crops. In the spring, I pretty much stuck to one crop per bin. This summer I mixed things up. I’m no pro on companion planting, but the plants do seem pretty happy. Inter-planting allowed big tall plants to provide shade to the little guys too. I also find it more visually appealing.
  • Crowding plants. Andrew noted this one. I definitely admit to crowding plants, particularly carrots, radishes, beets, and turnips. Not gonna lie, I was a bit confused by thinning information on the seed packets. Also, lettuce was planted so close that it never had a chance to form proper heads.
  • Treating soil for leaf miners. Leaf miners destroyed all my spinach, kale, and spring chard crop. Unfortunately, once you have these guys its impossible to get rid of them. Luckily they are only an issue in May and June. Next spring, I am going to treat/ culture all the soil where I plan to plant leafy greens.
  • Try a true potato can. I grew taters in a trash can, and we harvested about 20. I want to try a potato can, where you start with just a few inches of dirt in the can, let the taters come up, cover the green tops with soil, let them come up again, cover, etc until the trash can is full.
  • Crops we planted too much of: turnips, lettuce
  • Crops we did not plant enough (some of this due to limited space): spinach, radishes, carrots, kale, potatoes, beets
  • Cultivars we were not impressed by: Plum Purple radishes, Thumbelina carrots, Red Oakleaf lettuce

week 21:

it was hot and dry, compounded by the fact that all the containers sat on concrete which radiated heat and was baking the roots. everything stopped pollinating and fruiting, except habaneros.

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i was learning to put things up. i made tomato sauce with our san marzano tomatoes.

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starting drying some herbs.

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and made pesto with the abundant basil harvest.

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week 22:

mid-august full on drought. i cut back or removed everything leafy (i.e. everything except peppers and tomatoes). i have no idea why i didn’t harvest the green onions? also, my chives came up – i still have this same pot of chives.

week 23:

i was preparing for my interview for my current position – i put in over 40 hours getting ready for it! no time to garden. this one random assemblage of plants was doing well in mushroom compost, though.

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week 24:

worm bin turned three months old. i did a lot of things wrong but learned from it. first, i was stingy on the bedding. then, i added too much food and moisture. eventually i got it right, and this colony made a lot of awesome poop. tomatoes started producing again, and basil is beautiful. i started noticing that heavy watering and summer rains were likely leaching tons of nutrients out of the containers. i was fertilizing almost weekly. eek.

week 25:

tomatoes are nasty and done. habaneros win most productive award. also, the okra did really well. we were picking this much a day!

week 26:

planned the fall garden. okra grew so funny, all tall with no leaves but somehow still producing fruit. the thyme i tucked into the landscaping in the front yard was very happy. i loved that varietal of marigold, it seemed so autumnal.

week 27:

gratitude: i am grateful for all this fresh, homegrown food … for the dirt under my nails … for crisp mornings and flannels for working in the garden … for a tall glass of clean water with lemon to wake up the body … and most importantly, for the opportunity to grow things, to learn from the earth, and to share my love with others.

week 28:

i was featured on One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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week 29:

it started raining again! i planted my first brussels.

week 30: … it rained for 11 days straight. i made my very first jelly – habanero jelly!

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