Sunday, January 4, 2009

First Starts, Garden 2009

Meet our 2009 kitchen salad bar!

We hope to actually get a few things into the ground on the lot next door this year. But of course we'll continue using our containers to grow things, too. If you've read this blog at all in the past, you're likely aware we use 5 gallon buckets for a lot of the plants. Recently, I found these...

Buckets, meet bins.

There was a sale at Home Depot.

There are now fewer bins there to meet the public demand. They were too good to pass up, being that they were CHEAP, durable, deep, and much wider than, say...a five gallon bucket. Yes, I'm guilty as charged...

Jack is the green thumb around here, and due to his persistence and attention, we've still got a lot of buckets going in Bucketville. In fact, if anything bites the dust, in the time it takes for a brief moment of silence to give tribute to the casualties of our learning curves, he's usually stuck another start, seed, or volunteer plant back into the bucket as a replacement. He's enjoying the discovery of how satisfying it is to nudge little green things into a good start in life, and I enjoy seeing all his successes!

I'm getting my shot at planting a little bit right now...usually Jack is the master gardener. Who doesn't love playing in the dirt, I ask you??

Today, the bins got planted with:
leaf lettuces,
komatsuma greens,
two kinds of table radishes,
red kale,
and red chard...yum :)

Oh yeah, and a big thick horseradish root!

(and elsewhere, some empress nasturtiums and mammoth sunflowers... stop me, I'm outta control...)

As far as the salad plants in the bins, I planted them a little thickly so the initial ones can be thinned for baby salad greens and then the others can mature into some cut-and-come-agains for salad. Now for the waiting to see the little babies emerge :)

I started this blog journal in 2006 (hard for me to believe!) and that summer I tried growing a few tomato plants in pots, a couple of eggplants and peppers, and some lettuces in flats.

Here is a pic of those first tomatoes...(2007 brought a new camera...these are with the old one)

I experimented with different repurposed containers -- everything from milk crates lined with paper grocery bags, old boxes, box tops for flats, basically anything that would hold soil...with mixed success.

Even though a job change commenced and the lettuces and tomatoes limped along, even this small amount provided us with a fresh salad everyday and the tomatoes...not any fancy varieties, but mixed multicolored ones...outdid anything we would have normally turned to in the supermarket. The difference in tomatoes alone was made us WANT salad :)

In 2007...well, it was an overwhelming year in some respects. When we decided not to grow a seasonal garden, I turned more to kitchen and household experiments, and Jack kept bringing home throwaway 5 gallon buckets, cleaning them, mixing up soil stuff, and putting his hand to different other outdoor leanings. The birth of Bucketville...

We made a concious decision last year not to put in a seasonal garden, but to experiment growing longer-growing things such as baby trees, tree seeds, some individual this-and-thats to see how well they'd do in our zone, and some multi-use plants we need to experiment with on a small basis to see if they're something we want more of. We also started with some herbs.

We moved on to plants indigenous to this zone worldwide...many that were native here, in fact, but have lost popularity due to convenience produce markets. We're exploring ethnic markets when we can, trying to learn different uses for the different parts of plants we'd assumed there was only one use for...experimenting with our own tastes and health needs. This has been fun!

It goes to show, we're only as limited as our imaginations most times. Things WILL grow in buckets (even ugly old paint buckets, ha!)

This year, we're back to wanting to grow some seasonal things and expanding a bit further.

Lessons learned with the container planting so far?

1. don't try to grow two tomato plants per pot (definately!),
2. boxes disintegrate quickly (which can be bad or good depending on how we're using them,
3. it pays to have good soil, and for containers to have a soil mix that drains well
4. we need a good source of compost and natural fertilizer,
5. many plants need some sheltering from our hottest sun exposure,
6. water EVERY day (here),
7. there are going to be invasions of plant-eating bugs so we need to know how to work with that, 8. it helps to have a supportive spouse,
9. if you place heavy containers right on the soil, you'll have to plan on moving them frequently to mow under them unless you've put down a barrier,
10. always place a barrier under the pot between the soil and holes in the pot or termites might decide they've found their Hilton
11. native plants are a good fit usually
12. keep roughly to our recommended planting zone
13. repeat #9 until you finally get reallllyyyyy tired of moving heavy pots back and forth
14. clay pots are expensive. we realize if we can garden on the scale we want there will be nothing on our lot but house and garden...a longer term plan must be decided upon
15. some things just aren't going to do well. Others will. We try to optimize and go with the ones that seem to grow well despite the abuses of weather and climate

Back to January 2009...

We've debated about putting in raised beds, etc, but since we're situationally up in the air with some circumstances and don't know if we'll have the house on the market in the near future, we're having to keep the lawn area more conventional rather than digging it all up (which is what we'd do if we were going to be here longer.) Blah blah blah, anyway we want reusable containers for now (that we could take with us if ever the need be), and containers can be expensive. That's why free used 5 gallon buckets filled the bill so well last year. But at over 100 of them now, my girly self is craving something more aesthetic and more surface space.

As I drool over seed catalogs, renting a tiller and planting a green manure crop for some tilth and mulch to plant into calls with its siren song. How DOES one trim a wish list from three pages to one?? ;-)

We're SO new to this...WHEN to plant, WHAT to plant, what not to do. Hopefully this year we'll work out some of the kinks.

Any advice for the new kids? I know so many of my blog-0-sphere buds out here have years and years over us in experience. What's your advice for the likes of us newbies?


Mrs Flam said...

LOL , I love it , I have plants going everywhere at this point , and seeds just Started. My garden must fit on my porch , which isnt very big , we have a town home , and we plan on moving to a house before the harvests , so EVERYTHING is/will be in containers , right down to a single radish or beet in re purposed veggie cans , sub irrigation pop bottle planters , Formula can cabbages and Extra long formula can carrots , Under the bed Baby green salads , Tiny mandarin orange cans with marigolds , hanging baskets of strawberries and tomatoes in hanging baskets , we still have onions from last year in plastic pots , we plan on trying garlics and shallots this year as well. The pepers , tomatoes as well , a couple of storage container cucmbers and beans , window box planters are just the right size for pea's. Nurmmmy in my babies bellies this year. We may even go so far as to attempt a handfull or blue hopi maize this year .I have also had my eye on a tuber called Oca as well.
One day I wont have to jam everything in containers and my neighbors will be happily overwhelmed with produce i am sure.

Sorry to jabber. I just wanted to share.

Thank you for your wonderful blog and the bits of you that you share with the world.

warren said...

We're still trying to figure it all out too but we plant by the signs. The local Ace hardware has a free calendar that tells when to plant everyting. I suppose it is pretty generic but it gets us pretty close. We plant by the signs because...why not. Anyhow, I have no idea about how to trim your wish list down though...if you find out, gimme a holler!

fullfreezer said...

I am so jealous. It is 15 degrees and icy here. I long to be able to plant anything outside, even in containers. I do have my little lettuce plants in a window box in the basement under lights and we have our trusty jalapeno pepper in a pot that we have moved in and out for several years. It even has one lonely pepper on it. Thanks for helping me think about spring. Judy

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Hooray for this post! We are planning a row of containers for tomatoes this year, and I was totally dreading winging it. Thank you for two years of experience I don't have to suffer thru! For example, I wasn't even thinking about putting a barrier betwixt the container and ground. THANK YOU! :O)

Anonymous said...

I've got experience gardening in your climate, so all I can say is I am soooo jealous right now. You're planting. In January. You're planting!!!! *dreamy sigh*

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

I really need to grow some veggies. I don't even harvest my herbs yet. I've been here gardening a few years now, and just getting the hang of things since we purchased it from our landlord a year ago. But seeing how things are going economically in this country, not to mention the safety of foods; I NEED to do this!

Anonymous said...

We are newbies too but we've found worm composting takes up very little space and creates great compost. You can also check Craigslist for free or really cheap compost and manure.

Can't wait to see how your garden does this year!

hickchick said...

Thanks for sharing all your experiments--it's good to see that gardening has a learning curve and just takes practice. Sometimes I don't do things because they won't be perfect. Everybody around here are such experts! 'm still trying to get my family off chicken nuggets and rice-a-roni! Kris

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Great post! I read all about your containers and was just about to ask, "why don't you plant in the ground" and it was like you heard me! You proceeded to explain exactly why you aren't! lol (dang, you're GOOD!)
I love how your garden continues to grow (not just in plants, but in container style and gardening methods) as your interests and knowledge do...
Looking forward to shots of the first seedlings! :-)

Howling Hill said...

Regarding number 7 "there are going to be invasions of plant-eating bugs so we need to know how to work with that".

Here's what a friend suggested to me. I have not tried it but I'm thinking I will.

Build a chicken moat. Basically a chicken moat is a patch of land, about 6 feet wide, fenced in around the perimeter of your garden. Your garden must already be fenced in. This creates a six foot space where the chickens can walk around and eat all the tasty bugs. This won't eliminate the bug issue but will put a big dent into it.

We have a couple containers we use also. Usually I plant herbs in the containers thought pole and bush beans both do very well.

Paige said...

What is the barrier you put between the bins and the ground? It looks like you used the plastic lids?? Are they sitting on anything to raise them off the ground? How did you keep tomatoes watered enough in clay pots without splitting skins?
Thank you! Paige

I had herbs in containers and two tomatoes plants last year (only the bush cherry did well) This year my plan is larger (I want to plant lettuces, beans & tomatoes plus herbs), but still all container since we have the house on the market. Any advice including great soil mixes/mixing would be appreciated. I have not yet finished reading all your back posts!

Robbyn said...

Wow, I can't believe I haven't answered comments here yet...sorry!

Mrs Flam, that's incredible! I looked at your blog and your garden is just another testament to your determination to make life its best each day, with each day as a gift. I can't wait to see how your garden grows :) I'm so fascinated about your wigwam days and how you faced down some major challenges that would have really done most people in. And I especially love how you chose YOUR way to deal with the punches...we have to talk more, I have so many questions!

Warren, wow, if you could see the wish list now. Is this a documented illness I wonder?? Hey that's really good about planting by the signs...I wonder about schedule specific to our area, since there's a climate difference. I'll start looking!

Judy, lettuce and jalapenos...ohhhhh! You know, of all the things we have been able to grow, we've killed our peppers every time? Maybe this year we'll be able to hold our heads up...if we can keep at least one pepper alive?? lol (muttering about any floridian not able to grow a Enjoy your winter! YOu've got the best climate for snuggling with your sweetheart :)

SDFarmgirl...girl, you've got a lot more experience than we have..we're still soooooo green at this! The reason we use the barriers is only because of the termites, and we're not sure why they were in there to begin with. Haven't seen hide nor hair of them during the fall and winter this year. Yes, we used the boxtops as the barriers because it seemed like the easiest thing to do. I'm SO checking out your garden. I'm so short of time at the computer, but I'll be peeking... you did such a great job with your terrific retaining wall beds, woo!

Angie, yep, you're the pro, and I'm a slow, chubby, amateur with an eye for tearing up all existing lawn (wish I could!!). You are now cordially invited to come down here and teach us some gardening sense, ha!!

Brenda, you have such an eye for beauty I can totally see you getting your herbs and edible flowers into many creations, from decorative, to edible. I love how you really SEE the plants and their unique beauty, my friend :)

Badhuman, you're ahead of us with the worms! I'll post about the ECHO worm bins soon, too. We're taking things really slowly, so I hope we do have something to post about the garden. Sometimes we're so busy working to get out of debt, the garden and house are the last things standing. But we are deliberately at least trying a FEW things as we go, to keep some momentum. You're right...vermicomposting is so beneficial. I hope we get to that project before too long :)

hickchick, if we try doing everything and making every change that's on our list, it's too overwhelming, especially the things that haven't become a habit yet. The reason we're having to do things slowly is to find our comfort zone and HOW to do some of them our way. There are some things we've tried we know we'll do more of when we're not working outside the home as much in the future (Lord willing). Some of those are the more involved cooking projects, making yogurt/kefir/cheeses, putting in garden items needing trellises and other things that have to be built and maintained, canning with a pressure canner, and so on. Soapmaking has been on my list for a LONG time, but I've chosen other projects and it still hasn't happened. We also havent switched over to homemade laundry soap or put up a clothesline...we're just slow! But it'll happen. I want to enjoy the process and not stress over it. We have the same challenges wtih food, finding recipes we like that arent processed, developing some favorites and finding what works for us. I'm working on a resolution to just keep my house cleaner this year, and more organized :)

Danni, thanks for the encouragement! Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I'm not a superwoman like a lot of my homesteading friends seem to be. But I remind myself we've chosen to do things and learn things because we would be doing that anyway...we just do things slower than most...but it's so much fun! :)

HH, oooo, bush beans in containers, yumm! I love the chicken moat idea. We can't have chickens or anything else fabulous as far as fur or fowl, but we're getting close to getting our land (she says hopefully!) We had an idea to situate our future chicken house next to one of the fenced gardens so that two or three of the runs border them, similarly to what you just mentioned. Now you've got me thinking of extending them along the entire perimeter...hmmm (oh how I have that aerial plotted out in my head, even though we don't have the land yet, ha!)

Hi Paige! Wow, you've raised a lot of things in containers! We're new to it and the first year I used clay pots because I wanted the aesthetics...I love clay. I'll either grow our tomato plants (if we get any this year, the vote's still out, but I don't think I'll be able to resist...we'll see) in the plastic bins, or in the ground this year. Yes, the lids are what we use as the barriers for the things we plant in each's the first time we've tried the black bins, so I'll keep you posted, but so far the depth and width seem to be an advantage. I'm not sure how the plastic will perform in the heat compared to the clay. yes, I had to water the clay every day and really soak the pots themselves with the hose. They are really heavy to move. I'll take any advice YOU have to give ME :) I'll be glad when we're where we don't have to worry about having a lawn and can plant plant plant right into the ground! Our soil mix is whatever we have at the time, but we've learned to keep it loose, not compacted. Usually it's compost, topsoil, some peat, and some rotted "browns" to keep it from compacting. Sometimes we've had success, sometimes the compost is too fresh and not rotted all the way,and other times it does fine. The main thing for us is having plenty of it and making sure it won't compact. I'm NO expert at ANY of this, but there are tons of blog friends who are..check out the blogroll on my sidebar and you'll get lost for days! (I speak from experience, ha)