Miracles

So it only took me four years to finally learn how to grow a full-sized tomato in a container, but I did it!

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December 16, 2015

Yikes!

I can’t believe its been three weeks since my last post! So many things going on with the holiday season gearing up, so I’ll give you the highlights! And try to get some photos in here soon!

  • IMG_0693The tomatoes I direct seeded during the summer are doing super! The plant is heavy with fruit and I’m still panicked that we’ll get a freeze and I’ll lose them all, but it’s 75ºF out today so I guess I’ll try to relax. If they’d just hurry up and ripen!
  • I’m still picking cherry tomatoes. They’re actually doing a ton better than they did all summer.
  • I’ve got broccoli, beets, collards, kale, mustard, lettuce, and baby bok choy looking happy as clams in the garden!
  • I’m finally getting delicious and crispy radishes!

And now for the bad news …

  • IMG_0453Property management is cracking down on what they’ve termed “excessive plants.” I don’t know if my little garden will be around come spring. I’ve talked to management, but it looks like two different managers are at odds about what is deemed acceptable and what is not.
  • The skinny, little, white cat someone dumped near our building is now fat and healthy … and using my garden as her own personal litter box. Except for the wooden box filled with bunching onions. She sleeps there.

Who knows what spring will bring? I’m still anxiously planning what to grow in next year’s garden even as this years continues to thrive. I’m thinking about growing a lot more tomatoes. Maybe I can hide them on the roof.

Garden Porn

‘Tis the season for garden porn! I got my first new seed catalog in the mail last week and another this week. Usually, I tear into them immediately and stay up past my bedtime reading about all the different varieties of  veggies and dreaming of spring. Not this year.

The problem is, it is very “spring-like” here. I know, some of you may think I’m trying to say fall, but no. I have memories of fall. The cold creeps in about late September, but definitely by Halloween. We dig out winter clothes and jackets, gloves, scarves and ice-scrapers. Leaves on trees turn brown (we don’t get much red in the desert southwest), and icy winds blow them away.

South central Texas is a bit different. It cools down a bit in October (80’s), the a bit more in November (70’s), the refrigerated A/C cycles on and off less frequently, everything that withered and died in the heat comes to life again. We have “green” for the first time in months. In my garden, I have tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash that struggled through the heat coming back to life. My little patio garden is still very much in full swing. Some things are even doing better now than they did in summer. In other words, it’s too early for my to get excited about next season when this one is still rollin’ right along!

Not to worry, though. The last two nights we had a “freeze” scare. It dropped down to 35º. Northerners, please stop laughing. I promise you I will get the last laugh when I am wearing shorts on Christmas day. And then we’ll probably get some freak winter storm for New Year’s Eve and someone’s mobile home will blow on to Interstate 10… okay, go ahead and laugh.

Anyhow, I long for a cold winter day in January, all bundled up on the couch with a hot coffee and a stack of seed catalogs. Many are a thing of beauty with wonderful photographs, delightful seed histories, and the promise of a new day, a new season, a new beginning.

If you’re new to gardening, I can tell you that there is a reason I call seed catalogs “garden porn.” I doubt I am the only one. I haven’t even put away the 2015 catalogs. They’re all over my home, the nightstand, the coffee table, the dining table … the “library.” I stay up late reading the history of beans; I make my family look through them and make suggestions on things to plant; I study plant heights, thinning distances, nutrition requirements, drought resistance, disease resistance, and days to maturity. I do a little dance every time I find a new catalog in the mailbox. I become a woman possessed.

A few of the 2016 catalogs have already been released. A quick Google search will give you a list of companies putting out seed catalogs. Many of them are free. Some seed companies have a live catalog on their website. One of my all-time favorites is Baker Creek Heirloom Seed online catalog. Talk about some awesome photography! Some, like Seed Saver’s Exchange share wonderful histories of the seeds they offer.

Here are a few more:

High Mowing Organic Seeds

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Park Seed

Bountiful Gardens

Burpee Seeds

Botanical Interests

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds

Kitazawa Seed Company

Seeds of Change

 

Autumn… briefly.

The change in weather has brought changes in the garden. The tomatoes and peppers that languished through the height of the summer have now taken off. I must have a dozen new bushsteak tomatoes now that the weather has cooled and over thirty new cherry tomatoes. The peppers that became few and small through August and September are now flowering and fruiting with abandon. The scraggly looking mint that had to be given a crew cut is now lush and green. Lack of pollinators seems to be a major problem with yield in the garden, but the heat didn’t help anything. Even self-pollinating plants suffered until it cooled. I wish I could be thrilled with all the good stuff growing in the garden this month, but, truth be told, I’m a little pissed about their horrible timing. Our average first frost date here runs about November 26. Is it just me, or does winter sneak up on everyone?

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

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!