How Does Your Garden Grow?

Yeah, yeah… blog break. I’m back. I’ve been (surprise!) working (not buttseks), and I got behind on the things I like to write about, such as reading books and watching television. Plus, you know, the weather was annoying. But not today! It’s preschool spring break and I’ve been living it up. I have put together the framework of my container garden, and all I need is three more containers to call it started.

Last year I basically had garden fail. I:

1. overplanted the hanging tomato container with tomatoes and peppers and herbs.
2. planted the wrong kind of tomatoes.
3. failed to fertilize.
4. failed to protect plants from baby hands (I lost just about all the green tomatoes that formed).
5. had sucky tropical weather.

I got some nice cilantro growth and the basil put on a good show (although I think even that didn’t grow like it was supposed to), and the green onions did great. This year I’ve made some changes:

1. I am underplanting the hanging tomato container.

I was all set to plant three or four plants, but Stepfather talked me out of it. He ended up talking to a gardening person at a nursery and came back with a five to ten gallons per plant number. Blah blah blah. I still wanted to plant three in the container, but because he was helping me and he kept saying things like, “Well, do you want to grow tomato leaves or tomatoes?” I went along with it. It is a good point. I will buy bigger pots for the two tomato plants I have left to go. Maybe I’ll even buy paint buckets. Is that tacky? Maybe that’s too tacky.

2. I still put basil and oregano in the top of the tomato planter, but I only planted one row of each and I’ll space them better. I don’t expect to have more than a few plants, but if they grow nice, big leaves it won’t matter. The ones you see all bundled up like flowers at the grocery store are beautiful, and mine last year were so tiny. Now I know why! And I’m growing one pepper plant and some cilantro, so maybe this year I can get the salsa garden I’ve always dreamed of.

3. I moved everything to the part of the patio outside the baby gate. Sure, kids are older now, but we are raising an imaginary bunny on our patio and the bunny gets a lot of imaginary food. What with all those pots and pans we have for the playhouse kitchen, I’m not tempting fate. My kids aren’t stupid. They have all this fresh food growing within reach, they’re going to give it to the bunny. Duh. The bunny will probably bug them about it every single day as it is.

4. I pruned the roots of the grape vine. This vine is amazing. I received it in a tiny pot as a prize at a bridal shower in 2003. It sprouted four tiny grapes that summer, and then sort of did nothing. When I moved, I repotted it, but almost never watered it for a year or two (I didn’t have the habit then of going onto the patio, or a watering can). It was frail. I’d almost given up on it last year, but right at the end of summer I got some growth, and took pity on it. I repotted it, removed a third of the roots (as recommended) and let it sit all winter. I can’t believe how vigorously it’s growing right now. It’s got those curling tendrils and everything. I even had to buy it a trellis! I still don’t really expect grapes–the leaves aren’t even large enough to wrap dolmades–but it is pretty. Maybe you can use more than one leaf when you make dolmades. Perhaps I’ll find out for myself.

5. I started earlier. Last year when I went shopping for tomato plants, everything was picked over. I started it all from seed several weeks ago, so I got my pick of varieties. I didn’t really know the difference between determinates and indeterminates (and still don’t, but know enough now to investigate), but I knew that the “Better Bush” tomatoes were probably too large of a variety for the container that I had. I went with smaller this year. Romas were my original plan, but I also bought some even smaller varieties.

The word “heirloom” on the seed packet for the “Red Currants” caught my eye, and I saw that it was a little fruit, so I went with it. I didn’t realize that “little” meant half an inch across. That’s pretty small. I’ve got one hanging upside down and one growing straight up. The one growing straight up is already flourishing; I hope the upside down one isn’t too small to find sun. It’s sticking out perkily from the bottom but I’m nervous.

Spoon Not Included

Spoon Not Included

I also have yellow pear tomatoes, which I chose for their color (they look pretty) but also because I think they are the size of grape tomatoes. I’ve got one of those upside down (it’s a much bigger seedling) and I’ll put one upright as soon as I get a pot. I don’t usually like the little tomatoes, but maybe I will if I grow them myself.

High, high hopes. Especially if my replacement composter (gah! That’s an annoying story) arrives this summer. The compost we managed to get together before we were told to cut the power lines by the customer service people has been sprinkled into the tomato plant mix and on top of the soil of the tomato that was already in a pot. There are recipes online for something called “compost tea” that I might try as fertilizer, but probably all the plants in the house could benefit from a repotting with some of this dirt.

What’s kind of exciting about starting from seeds is that I had so many going I could give them away to friends. Preschool got one of each variety; Amanda got a few; Mari and Dennis will each get some pots; Lauren will plant some in her yard; JT took one home; Stepfather has one in a pot on his patio (which inspired him to get more stuff)… it’s a nice little experiment. If someone, somewhere gets some fruit off of a plant that I started, I’ll be happy. I’ll be happier if it’s me.

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