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:
two kinds of table radishes,
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 amazing...it 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?