Interlopers

When I dismantled the garden last year, it didn’t make sense to throw away the used potting soil. And the internet seemed to be pretty much in agreement that reusing potting soil wouldn’t be a problem so long as I didn’t plant tomatoes in the same soil next year.

I figured I’d do a little composting over the winter to replace whatever nutrients I could and add plant food during planting in the spring. In fact, that had kind of been happening already; whatever tomatoes that weren’t harvested in time ended up as fertilizer in other pots. So all the plant matter–stalks and roots and leaves–from the garden ended up in a Rubbermaid tub along with the soil in late November.

Fast-forward to spring. All the old soil had found its way into pots with new seeds, and I went out of town for a couple weeks. When I came home, seeds had sprouted Even in pots and planters that I hadn’t planted anything in yet. And in ones growing alongside different sprouts. Like, I knew for certain what carrot sprouts should look like and the little green things growing in the carrot bucket weren’t them.

I plucked the foreign sprouts from the otherwise occupied pots; curiosity led me to let them continue growing in one with last year’s soil but no new seeds (yet). I suspected they might be parsley since that had kept growing in the Rubbermaid compost bucket for a month.

I figured out what they were after about a week. Some were marigolds, others parsley, and others tomatoes. The first and the third I found interesting because the seed packages make it seem like they’re so finicky to grow.

While I can foresee weeding these interlopers from other planters for a good chunk of the growing season, seeing these sprouts grow from last year’s plants has actually been a good thing in terms of saving money. It means that harvesting seeds at the end of the year is both feasible and could very well mean not having to buy seeds again next spring. It’s a little thing, but I’m excited to move closer towards being self-sufficient.

Project Salsa: the Beginning

Growing flowers requires pretty much no preparation. Got seeds? Got soil? Got a pot? Combine and then pop that sucker in sunlight (and remember to water it every couple days,) and it’s good to go.

Growing vegetables is a bit more complicated. At least it is when I’m looking to produce a usable amount of vegetables rather than having the occasional handful of cherry tomatoes to snack on. Vegetables require research and planning. What kinds of plants will do well on my patio? How much space do they need? And how many plants should I plant to get a usable yield (so I can actually make salsa)?

My research has given me an idea of what I should be doing, and I’ve come up with a list of what I want to plant. The next step is figuring out planter sizes and how to best utilize my patio space. Other than the garlic (which probably should’ve been planted in the fall), nothing needs to be planted until late March, which means I have time to figure those things out. And that’s good because I’ll be planting a lot of different seeds.

Here’s a rough list of what I’ll be planting this spring:

  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Carrots
  • Strawberries
  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelon
  • Cantilope
  • Marigolds
  • Red Sunflowers
  • Wildflowers
  • Forget-Me-Nots

And all of that will hopefully fit on my itty, bitty patio. It’s … going to be an adventure.

Another Garden Update

Last year’s garden gave me unrealistic expectations about this year’s garden. No, scratch that. The only things growing in my garden last year were flowers, and the flowers are currently doing fantastic.

The vegetable garden is a different beast. Watering, or accidental lack thereof, plays a huge role in their growth with the brutal summer heat. And so do pests. F-ing pests.

It would be fair to say that the vegetable side of my garden has kept life interesting.

Productive Survivors

Tomatoes ~ My eight tomato plants–stuffed into two planters– are faring better than expected. I didn’t realize how sensitive they are to heat, but they bounce back well when I finally remember to water them. The first harvest produced in the neighborhood of 15 tomatoes, and the second harvest is looking to be just as fruitful.

Carrots ~ The full-size carrots I harvested a few weeks ago are in the neighborhood of two and three inches, and I must’ve ended up with ten. They taste… okay. I’m convinced that I haven’t scrubbed all of the dirt off them yet or just need to cook . Once I picked that first batch, I planted a second one.

Parsley ~ These suckers are so easy-going. When I forget to water them for a day or two, it doesn’t seem to do lasting damage. They shrug it off. They also bounce back quick from when I harvest the leaves. Now I just need to find more recipes that require parsley.

Basil ~ The two basil plants in my garden refuse to die. One of them was literally knocked off its shelf during the storm, came out of its pot and was put back in a day later, and the asshole is still alive. And no matter how many times I forget to water them and the leaves shrivel up, they still go right back to normal after I get the watering can out.

Unproductive Survivor

Cucumbers ~ I pretty much considered the cucumbers on their way out when every single leaf started turning brown. Yet the vines stayed healthy, so I kept watering them. The leaves at the tops of the plants seem to be holding their own. Plus it’s been producing bright yellow flowers for a couple months now; but the cucumbers that start growing just look… weird. Like one end is far fatter than the other. Or the skin has turned an ashy green. I’m not holding my breath.

Casualties

Pumpkins ~ Losing these plants bummed me out. They were doing so well, the vines hanging over the edge of the pots and off the side of the shelf. But then some f-ing pest decided to burrow into the vine. And not just a little bit either; they turned the insides into pulp. I got wise to them after the first pumpkin died and bought powder that’s supposed to repel insects. It did just that… where I put the powder. The f-ing pests started burrowing farther down on the vine and ultimately killed it.

Peas & Peppers ~ I take about half the blame for these guys not surviving. The rest of the blame I place on whoever designed the decks in my apartment complex. Rainwater streams straight down through the boards on my upstairs neighbor’s deck and directly onto the vegetable shelves. Since there’s no drainage in the pots, the plants ultimately ended up with about an inch of water atop the soil after each storm. I ultimately gave up on draining the pots by hand.

I’m glad that I took that leap of faith in the spring and started a veggie garden on my patio. And I’m absolutely going to do another one next year; I’m just going to learn from this year’s mistakes and maybe scale back my expectations a hair.

Doing the Thing: Garden Update

It’s been a little over a month since I wrote about my garden on here. And as happens when plants are watered on a pretty regular basis, they’ve grown.

There have been casualties: a couple pea plants, parsley, and the lettuce. But I consider those to only be partially my fault; I forgot to put drainage holes in the bottom. I also blame spring thunderstorms leaving an inch of water atop the soil.

The flowers have absolutely flourished. Even the marigolds–which I was hesitant about planting because they need a whole lot more light than what my patio gets in a day–have done fan-freaking-tastic. Every single marigold plant is in bloom, and the wild flowers are providing a pop of color amidst all the green of stems and leaves.

As for the vegetables, the ones that didn’t get their butts handed to them by the storms are doing so well. I’ve already harvested a few radishes (and then quickly realized I don’t like them), have found that the carrots are indeed growing, and am pretty close to picking peas. There are also clumps of little green tomatoes on the tomato plants. They still have a way to go, but they’re definitely looking like tomatoes.

I’ve also added cucumbers, peppers, and pumpkins. The cucumbers have already gotten so big that I’ve had to tie them to bamboo stakes, though the peppers have yet to sprout. And while I’m still not sure how the pumpkins are going to like being in pots long-term (this type of seed isn’t meant for my version of urban gardening), they’re about an inch and a half tall at this point and seem happy enough. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have pumpkins ready to carve come October.

I’m going to finish this post up with a picture of the garden a month ago and what it looked like on Friday, 6/15. I’m proud of what I’ve done with this eclectic garden. I also can’t wait to see how the veggies taste.