Don’t Fall Down on the Job – Spring Starts with Autumn Soil Care

Sharing this from Dirty Little Secrets. It’s probably not exactly the same for container gardening, but definitely something I think I’ll look into. For the area along the back fence I’m guerilla gardening (until management finds out) I think I’ll try a cover crop of daikon radishes. Hopefully, some of those roots can break up the clay to make room for a sunflower garden next spring! We’ll see how it goes…

Get spring gardens off the ground with simple autumn soil care. Soil building starts in the fall.

Source: Don’t Fall Down on the Job – Spring Starts with Autumn Soil Care

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CaptureYay for rain! My plants are thrilled… that is if they haven’t blown or washed away!

We just can’t do anything in moderation here in Texas.

Prayers for those in Texas and Mexico dealing with flooding right now.

Thinking About Spring

Dreaming of spring
Dreaming of spring

Today I planted a few more cool weather veggies: radishes and carrots and lettuce and turnips and such. I feel a bit foolish, if truth be told. I feel like I’m battening down the hatches against a winter storm while wearing shorts and listening to the refrigerated air kick on again. I have to remind myself that everything is relative at times like this. The laughably mild winter we get is our gift for not dying from heat stroke over the summer. I’m also reminded that I have to make notes for next spring.

Some of the good things I’ll need to repeat next season:

  1. Plant more natives… like cowpeas and okra.
  2. Easy on the high nitrogen fertilizer. Lush foliage is beautiful, but not always the goal. Veggies are the goal! Also, aphids love chewing on fast growing, but not necessarily healthy, plants.
  3. Plant flowers and herbs and anything else that looks yummy to bees and butterflies. I saved some seed from a beautiful flower that attracted tons of butterflies. I don’t know what it is, but it is now labelled “Butterfly Noms.” Maybe I should look into that.  🙂
  4. Replace more of the smaller containers with the largest containers I can find.
  5. Utilize companion planting.
  6. No chemical pesticides! I have a family of anoles and a lot of red wigglers I’ve grown very fond of.
Some things I’ll have to work on next season:
  1. Fertilizer. Containers leach nutrients quickly, especially in the heat. I must remember to regularly and frequently fertilize my plants. Organic fertilizers would be best, but we have to remember the rabbit poop incident of 2014. My fellow apartment dwellers were not happy about that! No harm in light applications of a “complete,” slow-release granular fertilizer…
  2. On the subject of fertilizer, compost is a wonderful thing, but it is heavy and can reduce drainage in potted plants. Think I’ll be looking for some perlite or something to help lighten things up a bit and improve drainage.
  3. Watering. This year I figured I could skip two-a-days during the summer because I had larger containers. Yes… and no. The plants did not seem any worse for wear and I did not have any issues with blossom end rot this year. Funny thing, though, when I pulled some spent plants recently, the roots had grown through the drainage holes and into the ground below, and the soil in the container seemed strangely dry. I thought only worm castings dried to stone. Next season: two-a-days.
  4. Focus. I’m thrilled that I’ve gone from killing all my tomato plants to having moderate success with a few. Next season, I want lots of tomatoes! I don’t want to ever buy another tomato at the grocery store, at least not during the summer. Next season: production!
I can’t wait to see what winter has in store, but I’m already dreaming of spring!

Pretty Things

Malabar Spinach

Warm-weather spinach substitute #2.

You might wonder for a moment about the poor timing of my warm-weather greens posts this week. This is definitely not the time to get anyone excited about planting this stuff, but this has been the best time to take photos!

The cooler weather has made way for the Malabar spinach to flower and produce these dark little berries, or seed.

Malabar spinach, like the Magenta Spreen lambsquarters in the previous post, is not actually a true spinach, but it works well as a substitute. They both thrive in heat and can be eaten both raw and cooked. I am a little biased towards the Malabar spinach, though. This stuff I can eat straight off the vine; it’s so crunchy and clean. It works well in stir fry, too. It actually holds up better than true spinach. It does have a mucilaginous texture somewhat similar to okra, but I never really noticed it when used in stir-fry. When eating it fresh, straight off the vine, it takes about five or six good leaves before I notice it. Doesn’t keep me from continuing to eat it. A Vietnamese neighbor told me that he used it to thicken soups.

A word of warning, though. It really does thrive in the heat. It loves it… and plenty of water. This crazy plant grabbed on to the patio posts and started taking over my neighbors balcony. I’m definitely growing this again next year, so I’m saving the seeds from the little dark berries now. Good stuff!

Warm-Weather Spinach Substitute #1

I haven’t really had too much luck growing spinach in containers. Maybe its another one of those things I underestimated. When I did get a bit growing in the spring, it was quickly destroyed by pests. The few leaves I did harvest and eat were delicious, but I never did get enough to even put together a salad.

A few years back a friend gave me something she called wild spinach and told me to make sure I planted it in the ground. I was a little wary of digging holes in the common areas of my apartment complex, so I gave it a nice five gallon bucket to live in. It was beautiful. It grew to about five feet high, had a stem streaked with red and a purple “powder” on its newest leaves. She explained that it was a spinach substitute, and while the tender leaves were edible, both the taste and texture were less than appealing to me. The powdery feel on the tongue was a bit strange and the flavor was a bit metallic.

IMG_0548
Flowering Magenta Spreen lambsquarters

It took a little research to find what I had in that bucket was lambquarters. It is considered a weed by most standards. It withstands many different climates, it roots deeply, and it self-sows. This particular plant is a semi-wild cultivar of lambsquarters known as Magenta Spreen. Tender, new leaves can used from the plant at any time, but the whole, young plant can be used when it under a foot tall. Alternatively, they can be kept cut back and will continue to grow new, tender foliage.

Maybe I never really gave it a chance, but I did let the thing grow and it hit about five feet tall when it flowered and produced hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny seeds. From my research, I learned that these seeds could be used as a grain and cooked like porridge or turned into flour. I’m fascinated by the possibilities and the resilience of this plant, but I must admit that I’ve not yet tried to use it since the first disagreeable taste test. I saved that seed, though, and a few dropped to the ground and just sprouted where they landed. One of them found a nice spot by a potted plant and enjoyed a nice, consistent watering schedule. The darn thing is now about ten feet tall and has begun to flower. Now I get why one of its common names is Tree Spinach.

It’s beyond time for me to give this plant another chance. Maybe a little porridge this winter? Some baby greens next spring?