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!

Ten Things I’ve Learned So Far…

  1. Always use a bigger container than you think you need.
  2. Thinning seedlings always feels a bit cruel, but it must be done.
  3. Plants in containers need to be consistently watered, and often!
  4. That being said, plants can drown.
  5. A healthy garden is its own little ecosystem.
  6. Plant flowers!
  7. Don’t kill all your bugs. You’re really going to need some of them.
  8. Never underestimate the tenacity and perseverance of an armadillo.
  9. Soil is a living thing!
  10. Start small.

Still lots of fall planting left to do!

Fall planting is underway! It’s not too late if you’re still looking to get some seeds in the ground. Okay, so it is late for some long-growing heat lovers like ‘maters and peppers, but don’t worry, there’s plenty other yummy things that we’re just in time for!

Baby Bush Limas 08/19/2015
Baby Bush Limas 08/19/2015
  • Lima Beans: these come in both stubby bush types and vining pole types. For fall, use the bush types. These are low-maintenance like cowpeas. I’ve planted them in some bare, unworked soil just off the sidewalk to test just how low-maintenance they can be. These are Henderson bush limas. So far, so good!
  • Snap Beans: also available in both bush types and pole types. Again, use the bush types for fall planting. I’ve tried a couple varieties. So far, Blue Lake is my favorite.
  • Broccoli and Cabbage: I’m trying myhand at these this year. I’m struggling to understand how these cool-weather veggies will be able to survive an autumn hotter than most folk’s summers, but I’m trusting the process and am prepared to be either humbled or amazed, or both! I  planted a variety named DeCicco, but there are other varieties that have been recommended by the local extension service.

    De Cicco Broccoli 08/15/2015 (Wooden skewers help to deter cats.)
    De Cicco Broccoli 08/15/2015
    (Wooden skewers help to deter cats.)
  • Cucumbers: my favorite! There are so many varieties to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Check out the above link for some great suggestions. There are short-vining types, like Spacemaster, that are great for containers, but even longer-vining types can be trained up a trellis to save space. If you don’t have bees around to do the pollinating for you, choose a parthenocarpic type like Sweet Success that self-pollinates, or be prepared to “help the process.”
  • Summer squash: If you’re planting in containers look for a compact
    Dirani Lebanese Squash 08/19/2015
    Dirani Lebanese Squash 08/19/2015

    variety with a bush-type habit. Those will work in something as small as a five-gallon bucket, but don’t be fooled, it will eventually pour out of the bucket anyway and keep on going!