Monday, June 15, 2015

Container Gardening

A Gerber daisy in a kettle.

I finally got around to planting in my containers.  I put container gardens (each container is its own mini garden) on my wrap around porch and scatter containers around the yard.  Anything sitting around for too long is fair game to plant in from old cement mixers to enamel pots, and chicken feeders.  Antique stores sometimes sell tubs, bucket, barrels, etc. that are rotted on the bottom at discounted prices.  I love finding a deal to bring home to plant in. Make sure to nail a couple holes in the bottom of your containers if there is not a way for water to drain.

I like variegated leaf color. Remember these were just planted so they will fill in a lot.

I reuse my potting mix each year.  If you are looking for a good potting mix I recommend Black Gold.  I only want potting mix no time release fertilizers.  To the mix I add a couple handfuls of bone meal.  That's all the fertilizer they seem to need.  Fish emulsion can be used if a container seems to be struggling.

Dump mix from last years pots in a bucket, add bone meal and mix up loosening any compacted soil.

Before planting in containers used the previous year you need to loosen up the compacted soil.  I dump containers one at a time in a bucket, add the bone meal, and mix everything up.  Replace the mix in your pots,  soak it good with water, and plant your plants.

A broken water can, chicken feeder, and hanging baskets lined up to be replanted in.

I love going to the nursery and choosing plant combinations.  I like at least one plant in the pot that will creep or hang over the side.  A few good choices are:  sweet potato vine, marjoram, verbena, nettle, loblia, and wave petunias. (This list is by no means complete) 

My favorite geranium in a water bath canner.

Herbs and certain vegetables can be attractive in containers.  Kales including both ornamental and the edible varieties, chard, lettuces,  ornamental peppers, mints (chocolate mint is a must) and my favorite pineapple sage.

Mix a handful into your potting mix.

Be aware of how much sun each container will receive.  Certain containers because of color or the material will heat up more than others. Try to plant in the same container plants with similar sun requirements. There are beautiful options for shade tolerant plants. 

My own starts.  Many herbs and annuals are easy to grow from seed.  You decide if its worth the effort or easier to purchase them.

Watering is important in container plants.  I use our rain barrel water which makes for very happy plants.

This is one of my favorite containers- an old wast tub.  It's on stand. Wash tubs also make great fire pits. 

Everyone should try chocolate mint. The leaves smell like mint truffles and smelling chocolate adds no pounds on your waist. Mints are best grown in pots because they are so aggressive. This is an old enamel water bath canner which eventually warps and can then be used as a container garden.

 We have one wooden rain barrel.  They are beautiful but more expensive.  The wood swells as it fills with water to make it water tight and you need the wooden cork to fill the barrel.  Most of our barrels are old pickle barrel with a spigot on them.  Not as charming but more functional and affordable. 

All of the containers pictured were planted today. I've included a link to last years container gardens to give ideas for containers and plant combinations and show you what they look they at a more mature stage.  I would love to hear your ideas for containers and favorite plant combinations!  Gardening is an art and a creative endeavor so enjoy!
Antiques are great for yard decor.  This old spring bed is now a flower bed.  Sweet peas are starting to grow up it.
I'm tempted to plant in the bed of this army truck.  It's been sitting around for quit some time...... 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June Harvests: Greens, Berries, & Cherries

May is a busy month for the serious gardener.  There is so much to plant, endless weeding, flower beds to revitalize along with harvesting.  Depending on the weather these chores can extend into June. One of my goals is to eat year round out of my gardens.  With careful planning this can be done.  The purpose of this post is to show you what you should be harvesting, how to harvest, varieties to try, and early summer chores. 

June is the month of the super greens.  I start most of my greens from seed indoors in February and put them out in late March or April depending on the weather.  They don't seem to mind the chill and unpredictable spring weather and now are giving us nutritious and delicious harvests.

Loose leaf lettuces give you an extended harvest.  You  only pick the outer leaves as you need them.  When I harvest, I lightly rinse them and put them in a large Tupperware container.  All greens including mache, spinach, sorrel, and lettuces store well this way. The picture above includes Bronze Arrowhead, Black Seeded Simpson, Merlot and Rosa di Trento.

  This is Mascara is a loose leaf lettuce with unique shape and beautiful color.  The color is not only stunning in a salad but means that it is packed with antioxidants.

Bronze Arrowhead is a beautiful loose leaf lettuce.  The leaves are oakleaf shaped and the color is green bordered with maroon.  A good crisp lettuce.

Merlot is probably the deepest red lettuce.  It's gorgeous!  I interplant onions with lettuce to ward off aphids.

Sorrel adds a lemony zing to salads.  It is a perennial.  I plant it in partial shade since I have hot summers.  It is harvested the same as spinach by individual leaf.  It is great in an omelet with Swiss cheese.  Yum!

Kale is the all star of the super greens (at least for now)  I grow a variety of kales.  I harvest individual leaves until the heat sets in then leave them alone until the cooler fall weather comes.  I always add a variety of greens to every salad, but I do enjoy a kale salad.  Massaging the leaves with oil is a great way to tenderize them for the salad.  Pictured are  Blue Curled Kale, Redbor (which is milder in taste),  Red Russian, and Nero di Toscana. My goats and chickens love kale so I harvest through the summer for them.

Spinach is a spring favorite.  I love Strawberry or Raspberry Spinach Salads.  I also add spinach to our fruit smoothies in the morning. Harvest individual leaves.  As the weather warms spinach tends to bolt.  So enjoy it while you can.  Seeds do not germinate as summer weather sets in.  This is one green that I always sow directly in the garden. Bloomsdale Longstanding is a deeply savoyed leaf and a reliable variety.  Other good varieties to try are Space, Giant Noble, and Scarlet.  These are a smooth flat leaves that are very tender.

Storing greens ensures you always have something on hand for a salad.  I lightly wash them, put them in a large Tupperware, and refrigerate them.  This works great with fresh greens but not store bought greens. We eat a lot of spring salads.  I include a little of all the greens I grow.

With head lettuce the entire head is harvested.  I grow Cos or Romaine lettuce and Butterhead.  Most people are familiar with Romaine lettuce.  It does come in some beautiful crimson colors.  The entire head of both these lettuces are harvested.  Butterhead lettuce is a gourmet lettuce and so tender and delicious.  It is a little harder to grow but worth it.
 A cos and Jericho head lettuce.
 Silvia Red and Paris Island Cos
Merveille Des Quairte Saisen as Romaine lettuce

Swiss Chard is great sauteed in oil and garlic and added to pasta dishes.  It is very healthy juiced but a little goes a long way.  You harvest the outside stalks both the stalks and leaves can be eaten. The stalks come in a variety of colors including shades of red and pink, orange, yellow, and white.  This is also best direct seeded in early spring.

Cilantro, parsley, lemon balm, winter savory and oregano are the spring herbs that we harvest.  Oregano I cut down leaving a couple of inches.  I put some in the dehydrator, infuse some with oil, and freeze some in olive oil in ice cube trays.  Cilantro, which is pictured above,  is one of my favorite herbs.  I love the smell.  It's great in salads, rice, and of course salsa.  I harvest the outside leaves.  With the heat it likes to bolt.  The seeds of Cilantro are coriander.  To have a continual harvest succession plant cilantro.  


I love fresh peas.  I grow both edible pods and shelling peas.  Snow peas have flat edible pods that are great as snacks, in salads, and stir fries.  I planted Oregon Sugar Pod this year.  Snap peas have edible pods but are not flat and sweeten up as they fatten up.  Shelling peas are removed from the pod.  They can be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen.  The heirloom varieties I plant are Canoe, Dakota, Telephone (which is 4-5' tall), Avalanche, and Iona Petit Pois.  Planting a variety extends the harvest because they mature at different times.  Peas need a trellis and can be planted in early spring when soil temperatures are 45-50 degrees.  I planted in early March. The tail end of the harvest will be allowed to dry on the vines and saved for seed.

These are Telephone peas.  They grow 4-5' and need a sturdy trellis.

Radishes are a quick crop that can fill in holes in the garden.  I actually plant them as a companion crop around squash and cucumbers.  I allow them to flower.  The above picture includes Watermelon, Purple Plum, and White Icicle. 
This little ruby is a Nanking Cherry.  These can be pruned as small trees or shrubs.  They are great in landscape, hedgerows, or windbreaks.  The small cherries can be eaten.  I make Nanking Cherry Jelly and syrup with them.  They produce an abundant crop and are easy to pick. They give you an early June harvest.

I have the day neutral Tristar and Ever bearing Ozark Beauties.  Both start producing in June.  The berries become larger as the season progresses.  For info on planting a berry patch here's a link:

Nothing goes better together than strawberries and rhubarb.  The outside stalks of rhubarb can be harvested in early spring.  Give the the plant the summer off and then in fall you can harvest again.  As flower stalks develop remove them.  If you plants are spindly then next spring while dormant you need to divide your plant.

While not ready to harvest, there are other cool season crops in the garden including broccoli, cauliflower and a variety of cabbages.  Chewed leaves are a result of caterpillars.  Leaves that droop in the afternoon are probably suffering from thrip damage.  These are very small insects that suck juices from plants they rarely kill a plant but stress the plant.  To deal with these pests mix Neem oil and Spinosad in a sprayer and spray in evening or early morning.  Be sure to get the under side of the leaves.  You can also hand pick off the caterpillars but they are good at hiding.

 This is Chinese cabbage interplanted with broccoli and onions.

This is celery interplanted with cauliflower and onions. 

 Artichokes interplanted with marigolds and cauliflower.

Kale and cabbage with onions.

Early Summer Chores:
  • Mulch around all plants
  • Reseed beets and carrots where they did not germinate.  You can also seed a second crop.
  • Be sure to provide even moisture
  • If a plant is struggling, give it fish emulsion and kelp
  • Finish planting all warm season crops
  • Share your extra harvests with your neighbors 
  • Enjoy the sunshine and beauty of your garden