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So here's how it is at the 2/3rds point of my foray back into… - It seemed like a good idea at the time... [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Sep. 1st, 2011|11:37 am]
So here's how it is at the 2/3rds point of my foray back into gardening for more than just looks. To recap, all in pots. The deck gets the best sun and I didn't want to commit to commit to a raised bed anywhere else, plus I clustered a grouping of herbs in pots on the front yard and liked the way it looked.

The drag to a pot garden, which I didn’t take into account, is the watering. Nearly every day in the height of summer. But on the other hand, pretty much NO weeding at ALL.

My gardens are organic. And lazy organic. My pest management strategy consists of squishing the little bastards and relocating ladybug larva and preying mantis that I find elsewhere into my garden. Did I lose some stuff? A little, although not much. Predator/Prey will sort itself out if you’re patient and you join the ranks of predator yourself. Did I get bitten on the shin by a grasshopper? Yes. I dunno, that’s a new one for me. I’ve been bitten by more things than I can count. But now I can add one more. And, if you’re afraid of spiders, you need to stay away from my garden. I, of course, think that there’s no higher amusement than sitting on the deck, glass of wine in hand, glancing up from my book from time to time, watching the spiders pounce on and wrap up aphids. Ha! Take THAT aphids, my army of spiders will conquer you, one by one!

You grow up, but you never really leave D&D behind, do you?

The Tomatoes. Four pots of tomatoes, a Roma, a traditional tomato (Better Boy, Best Girl, Adequate Hermaphrodite...I dunno, the tag was a casualty at some point) a Patio tomato, and a cherry tomato. All got slammed with wilt so by early August it was a race to see if the tomatoes would ripen before the plant died right out from underneath them. They spent the early season separated and the plants in the spanking new pots and soil got infected just as quickly as the used pots/soil, so go figure. The Roma and the Cherry were the most productive and would grow them both again in an heartbeat. The patio had better foliage, and resisted wilt for longer, but was relatively unproductive compared to the traditional tomato.

I also made the mistake of having them share pots -- basil in some, parsley in others, after all, there's all that extra space that just begged...yeah, not so much. The basil died outright in one pot, struggled in another, the parsley was okaaay but not thriving in one pot and in the other developed the kind of leaves that it usually develops in the second year when it bolts. Basil planted alone THRIVED. So, no more sharing space for the 'maters.

You may remember that I had the Captain build me a tomato enclosure because resident squirrel Gerda and her beau Skippy have developed a tomato obsession. While I'm not averse to sharing, pulling it off the plant, eating a chunk and then pulling ANOTHER one off the plant and running up the tree with it -- that's just greedy and wasteful. Including the cost of new pots, plants, soil and the enclosure itself...my tomatoes probably cost me $10/lb. Were the Romas and regulars any better than the ones I picked up at the Farmer's Market? No. Were the cherries? Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I will try some different varieties next year, stake earlier and include some flowering plants in the enclosure so that I can be sure that I get enough pollination for the tomatoes. Ah, the balance between big enough for pollinators, but smaller than a squirrel's head. The answer to that equation is 1" mesh. But for next year, I'll encourage with additional blossoms. In their OWN pots. Bastard non-sharing tomatoes.

My big pots of celibate squash...de nada. Oh, until this past weekend, when I wanted to abscond with the smaller of the pots to pot up a tropical plant I was adding to the Pyrate camp at Faire and just as I grabbed the second squash plant to pull it out, there, dangling, a tiny yellow squash. Ah, so threatening the plants with frying all their blossoms wasn’t the right...LEVERAGE. Next year I threaten them straight off with being pulled up by the roots for more productive plants. Also, I did get a small raised bed on wheels thing, that holds water underneath. I may give squash and peas a try in that.

Peas in a pot…I got a few, but I planted late, not thick enough and didn’t stake early enough. One more shot with an early/early planting next year.

Swiss Chard. Here’s a winner. Got several meals out of a mere eight plants. I will forgo the mixed rainbow varieties in favor of the traditional white chard, though. In the variety mix, that one was way more productive than the “pretty colored ones” and traditional is pretty enough for me. Financially speaking, this was way cheaper than buying it.

Basil. I topped/tipped them a lot to use in recipes. The tiny leaved (used to called Globe, spicy, now seems to be called “boxwood”) was definitely more robust than the large leafed. On the large leafed, rather than taking a little bit off the top all of the time, I should have really taken a hard harvest in late spring, so that I got better branching lower down the plant. I think I would have wound up with more robust growth for the rest of the year. Now, if only I hadn’t used a good part of the harvest making pesto with freaking Chinese pine nuts that gave me pine mouth and thus had to throw OUT the pesto. Which hurt me deep in my thrifty Yankee bones. Nonetheless, I should be able to get one more large harvest so I can make enough basil simple syrup so that I can enjoy Basil Juleps all winter long.

Mint. Oh, how I love you! My variegated got buried. It’s so tender, next year it gets a big pot, all to itself. I only use as garnish and in flower arrangements, but it’s so damn pretty and makes lovely blossoms for pollinators. I didn’t do right by it this year. The Corsican mint is completely useless (tiny, tiny leaves, it makes a bubbling carpet of mint, but is essentially unpickable) but it’s ADORABLE. I chose a smaller Guy Wolff pot (here’s where the garden geeks stand out from the rest of you. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you Google. If you don’t OOOOH, keep it to yourself, I’d like to think better of you.) with a rippled edge and stippling, so they look fabulous together. Yes. I struggle to dress myself, but have fabulous plant/pot style. Go figure.

But the rest of the mint I was smart (or thirsty enough for mojitos) to harvest hard in spring, so it came back gangbusters and I’ve got a nice little fall harvest to make mint syrup to hold me through several mojito parties.

You know some people have flower gardens, or vegetable gardens, or scent gardens or...I have a cocktail garden, don't I? I've already made rosemary syrup for a gin and lemonade cocktail experiment and lemon verbena syrup, I'm not sure for what, but I'm thinking some spiced rum and...I'm going to have a whole freezer full of cocktail syrups, aren't I? Plus a dead cat. I'm not going to use him in cocktails, though.

Good King Henry. I gave that a try. It always seemed to tough to use in salads, so I’ve been tossing it in mixed sautéed greens. In researching, I’ve found that it can have a mild laxative effect on children. Well, that explains a lot. Although I’m not a child and I wouldn’t say that MILD is accurate. But it’s pretty and sturdy, so if it makes it overwinter, I’ll hang on to it. For amusing dinner party stories, if nothing else. (Listen to the scritching noises as past dinner guests make a note to avoid the greens next time around.)

Scented Geraniums. Ah, these were lovely. I have resisted picking anything, but I’m nearing the point where I start to pick a little to flavor some sugars. But they’re mostly destined for simple syrups. Cocktails and baking. But they will be back next year and I’m sure I will add to the collection, because these guys LOVE being in pots and with a mix of foliages and some strategically placed ivy geraniums and other flowering annuals, that grew up between them and splashed all of those lacy and fluffy and skeletonized and green and green spattered with white and green edged with cream leaves with various pinks and lavenders...I smile every time I get home and see them.

And THAT, my friends, is worth the time and effort and everything.

[User Picture]From: ginger_rose
2011-09-02 11:49 am (UTC)
I love Swiss chard. Brings back memories of when we grew that in out garden growing up. We'd grow ROWS of it (and beets -- my mother loved beets; I only like the beet's greens). I never got tired of Swiss Chard.

And we have something of a cocktail/herb garden too. It's always makes me smile when anyone is cooking in the kitchen and Quislet says, "you know that this needs?" and dashes outside for five minutes, only to return with a bushy bouquet of fragrant and delicious fresh herbs.
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[User Picture]From: giantsloth
2011-09-02 12:14 pm (UTC)
Cocktail garden? I'll be right there.

(I wish.)
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2011-09-06 03:07 pm (UTC)
Me too.
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