Archive for the ‘garden 2021’ Category

Winter is my least favorite season, and so I love looking forward to the warmth and new life of spring. During the bleakness of January and February, I’m taking a look back at my garden in 2021 so that I can start making plans for 2022.

In this post, I’ll be reviewing some of the things I learned this year, sharing some harvest data, and starting to think about what I will do for the coming growing season in my little container garden plot.

CONTAINERS – Some of the containers in my garden are from the very first garden I ever grew! Over the years, I have continued to add more (and replace containers that have broken). In 2021, I purchased some inexpensive plastic planters for my tomatoes, and they were…okay. Midsummer, I discovered that one of them had gotten clogged, and Husband was able to pull off the attached saucer, which seemed to solve the problem and allow proper drainage. At the end of the year as I scrubbed all my pots, I pried off all the saucers, so I hope that they will be better for 2022. I would love to be able to grow more varieties of tomatoes and possibly give other things a try (for instance, bell peppers??), so I’m hoping to get my hands on even more containers for this coming garden. Note to self: this will likely mean increasing the footprint of my plot!

SOIL – I was very unimpressed with the Miracle-Gro Organic Potting Soil I used in 2021. I did not care for the texture; it seemed full of large woody chunks. I also did not realize that I would need to add fertilizer so frequently (not necessarily a fault of the soil, but I guess I expected organic soil to be nutrient-rich). I’m not sure what I’ll use in 2022, but I’m on the lookout for options. I dumped all the soil at the end of the growing season, because it didn’t seem like it was worth saving (so many roots from those big plants!), and I was concerned that disease (especially from the cucumber pots) might stick around and/or spread. One of the reasons my garden is in containers is because the soil in-ground is not in good shape. I go back and forth between wondering if I should be dumping my containers “in place” to start layering a fresh start in that plot… However, I like the “fresh start” each year in containers and that I don’t need to worry about rotating my crops or dealing with soil-borne pathogens in such a small space.

Now that I’ve discussed the basics of my garden, let’s get into what I grew. Since I am a nerd at heart, I kept a spreadsheet of my produce data throughout the season. Below is a chart that shows an overall glimpse of everything I grew. It’s not very informative on its own, since the cherry tomatoes dominate the numbers.

TOMATOES – I grew Best Boy, purple cherry heirloom, and Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes this past year. My favorite of these varieties was the Atomic Grape, because the flavor was delicious, plus they were so pretty! However, the fruit split so easily on the plant (even before fully ripe!), which also meant that it wasn’t very long lasting after harvest, either. The purple cherry tomatoes (seedlings from a neighbor) were wonderfully prolific from beginning to end of the season, and the flavor was good. Since both of these varieties are heirloom varieties, I saved some seeds so that I can try growing them again this year. The Best Boy tomatoes were definitely a disappointment. They seemed flavorless, and they didn’t produce very well until much later in the season, and even then, I had been hoping for more. Part of this may have been the fertilizer situation (definitely learning a lesson there!), but it’s not the first year I’ve been underwhelmed, so I won’t be growing this variety again. I would love to try some slicing tomato varieties known for their sweet flavor. I’ll be doing some research into this!

Interestingly, as you look at the individual charts below, it seems that late August and September were when the tomatoes were in highest production. I would have guessed it would have been a bit earlier, but I need to remember this in the future to have appropriate expectations for my harvests.

CUCUMBER – As I mentioned in a few of my monthly updates, I was extremely disappointed in the cucumber situation in my 2021 garden. I had intentionally planted more containers with cucumber vines, and I think this was the worst year I’ve ever had in terms of cucumber production. As I mentioned in the August summary, I first had issues because the soil needed more nutrients, and because of my past experience with other potting soils, I didn’t expect to have to add fertilizer! The graph below shows that the most cucumbers I got on any given date was five, and that was an anomaly! I don’t know what sort of disease or blight got to my vines (I tried looking things up, but nothing quite matched what I was seeing(, but it was devastating. I love cucumbers, so I’m hoping that I can do better in 2022.

NASTURTIUM – I loved having nasturtium in my garden. The leaves are such a pleasing shape, and the flowers are absolutely beautiful. I don’t care as much for the taste of them, but their visual beauty is enough for me! Midsummer was quite hot for them, and I probably should have been fertilizing the soil that I used in my containers last year, but the plants were spectacular as the summer came to a close. I collected and saved a number of seeds, and I’m hoping to grow them in addition to the leftovers from the original seed packet.

MARIGOLD – Marigolds were a surprise hit for me this year! I remember growing them when I was little (often for a Mother’s Day gift in Sunday School or something like that), and feeling fairly ambivalent toward them. The marigolds in my garden were a gift from a neighbor, and I just loved the color they brought! And they were huge! I also was delighted to watch all the different insects they attracted to my garden. I have plenty of seed saved up from the 2021 plants, and I will definitely be planting them again. I am considering adding multiple containers and even having some of the containers outside the perimeter of my garden as a wildlife deterrent. If the containers are smaller, they would be easy to move for lawn mowing.

HERBS – Quite possibly, my 2021 garden was the “herbiest” I’ve ever had! I grew basil, parsley, dill, and chives, as well as lavender. It was not a surprise that I LOVED having these fresh herbs available for my use, and I definitely intend to grow these herbs again in my 2022 garden (I even saved dill seeds from the 2021 plant). I’d like to figure out how to make my parsley more prolific, because of all the herbs, I use that in the largest quantities. I never did figure out how to propagate my lavender, and I would really like to know how to do that. I will admit that I just left the chives and lavender in their pots outdoors all winter. I am interested to see what happens, since both could be perennials. It is my hope to have a lavender bed in another part of my back yard. I just love the scent.

I’m already checking out container gardening books from the library and dreaming about the types of vegetables I’ll be growing in 2022. I’ll be checking my local extension office’s documents about seed starting dates and gearing up for the next growing season as soon as I can! Here’s to a prolific 2022!

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It’s January and I’m dreaming of warmer weather…and my garden!

I thought this would be a good time to wrap up my garden posts for my 2021 container vegetable garden. In today’s post, I’ll cover October 2021 and how I took it all apart for the cold season. I’m planning one more post to summarize the harvest data, as well as a summary of what I learned and what worked (or didn’t!) in preparation for my 2022 garden.

I was surprised at how long my garden lasted into October. Here’s a comparison looking down the plot on October 1, October 14, and October 25.

left to right: the garden on October 1, October 14, and October 25, 2021

Throughout the month, I had harvests of tomatoes– and even one more cucumber! I took the opportunity to make a batch of fresh salsa. The purple cherry tomatoes gave it a depth of color that was lovely.

The nasturtiums started blooming more prolifically (likely because the weather was cooling off), and I absolutely loved it. I took some photos of the different colored flowers that opened because were all so beautiful.

As the flowers faded, I began collecting the seeds left on the stems. I left them on my counter to dry so that I can try growing them in my 2022 garden.

In addition to saving nasturtium seeds, I also collected a whole bagful of marigold seed! Throughout the month, and especially as I was dismantling the garden (more on that below), I pulled off the dried flower heads…

…each one contains a whole sheaf of seeds!

I collected so many by the end!

top to bottom: the garden on October 1, October 14, and October 25, 2021

Throughout the month, the sunlight became increasingly angled, and with less light, the garden faded fast. On October 28, I finally decided it was time to dismantle my container garden and get everything stored for the cold season. It had been getting progressively chillier, and rain in the forecast for the next day made me want to take advantage of the sunshine and warmth I was having!

As I took everything down, I noticed a few issues that had been hiding from me:

First, on the nasturtium leaves, I spotted all these black specks. I did a quick search online and discovered that these are likely black aphids (black bean aphids). I’m not sure when they first appeared, but it was certainly late in the season.

black aphids on the underside of my nasturtium leaves

On my basil plant, I spotted this mass around one of the stems. I don’t know what it is– I didn’t exactly know what phrases to search.

not sure what this is on my basil plant!

Before tossing the basil (it was looking pretty wan!), I did clip off a small, healthy-looking piece to propagate indoors during the winter.

The garden dismantle began with a mass-harvest of any visible tomatoes, as well as all the seeds I mentioned above.

Once they were collected, I moved on to removing the remaining plants, dumping the soil (it didn’t seem worth saving), and scrubbing out my containers. I use a weak solution of bleach and dish soap in water and use rags to scrub off any clinging soil.

I filmed a series of time lapse clips as I worked, and I put them together here to show an overview of my dismantle process.

Of course as I cut down the tomato vines, I discovered more green fruit hiding amongst them, and so here is a look at the final harvest:

I laid these in a flat cardboard tray on my kitchen counter, and the green tomatoes did ripen for another month or so!

One last little note. I dump my soil at the back of our property, and I just couldn’t bear to truly dump my nasturtium plants. They looked so happy! After all the rest of my soil was in a pile, I pulled out the nasturtiums+roots+soil from their planters and just sat them down on top. They continued to bloom there until the frost! I have a sneaky little hope that they dropped their seeds and I’ll spot nasturtiums growing in that spot this spring.

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I didn’t take very many photos of the garden in September. I think for most of the month, I was simply in maintenance mode, especially as school started and I got more involved in other activities. I didn’t even go out to water as often as I did during the height of summer.

The cucumbers really started failing this month, with only the Ferry-Morse vine staying alive– I harvested one more good cucumber from it, and at the end of the month noticed two more growing.

The intrepid Ferry-Morse cucumber vine on September 16, 2021
I spotted two cucumbers growing on the vine; September 27, 2021.

We had a fairly steady small harvest of tomatoes every few days, which kept us supplied for our meals. I started harvesting when the fruit was a few days shy of ripe so that I could get it before the bugs did.

one of our September harvests; notice I also cut a dill flower that went to seed so that I can save it for planting next year!

The nasturtiums really perked up this month– the leaves grew lush and full. There were only a few flowers, and I finally gave them and the leaves a taste. Boy, are they peppery!! I don’t know if they’re something I will eat regularly, but I do just love the way the look and smell. I think the flowers smell a bit like roses!

While the nasturtiums were lush, the tomatoes have started to look a bit more tired. Perhaps I should have added more fertilizer, but it seemed more likely that they are just ending their season. The daylight hours were noticeably shorter and the sunshine is coming from a more oblique angle. That being said, there were plenty of green tomatoes on the Best Boy plants at the end of the month– a promise of fresh tomatoes even into October.

Here is a comparison photo for the month of September:

I will have one more monthly update coming for this year’s garden. I have been keeping a spreadsheet of my harvest data, so I’d like to do a wrap up post with that, as well! Stay tuned.

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As I went through my photo catalog to put together this August 2021 garden recap, I noticed that I can compare photos from each section of my garden throughout the month, so let’s get started with my cucumbers!

Recall that at the end of July, I added fertilizer to my tomato and cucumber pots. I could see a difference within days! I had such high hopes for these pots of cucumbers. I had nine vines (three in each pot) because I wanted enough to enjoy on salads, etc. but also extra to try some pickling. In the photo below, you can see that at the beginning of August, the cucumbers seemed to get healthier once I’d fertilized them. However, at the end of the month, the vines (mostly the Burpee vines) were diseased and dying. We had just returned from vacation on the 21st, and when I went out on the 22nd to inspect my garden, I had to aggressively prune away all the dead and dying leaves and vines. I was hoping that clearing away the bad stuff would give the new growth room to flourish.

comparison of the cucumbers on August 3 (top left), August 8 (top right), and August 22 (before and after pruning, left and right on the bottom)

I’d say the other big disappointment of August was that my lavender started failing. I don’t exactly know what happened; I think it must have gotten some sort of disease or fungus because it’s so humid here. I was trying to make sure not to overwater. At some point in August, I actually moved this container to another location behind my house, because I’d dreamed of having a bed of lavender in that spot. I tried to trim some of the healthy stems and root them, but all my attempts failed.

Let’s move on to something with positive growth! First up: the nasturtiums. For most of the summer, after a couple (and I actually mean literally two or three total) blooms in June, the nasturtium plants looked to be on death’s door. I wondered if perhaps I’d planted them in containers that are too shallow. During the month of August, they did start perking up a bit and growing new and bigger leaves. I had a brief exchange with a gardener I follow on Instagram, and she suggested that it was perhaps too hot for the plants. I noticed that when the weather was slightly cooler during parts of August, the nasturtium looked happier. I think it was a combination of heat and lack of nutrients. I can’t believe that I didn’t think to add fertilizer to these containers when I fertilized the cucumbers and tomatoes in July! I added some at the end of August, so you’ll see how much improved they became in September.

comparison of the two containers of nasturtium on
August 3 (top photos) and August 22 (bottom photos)

My herbs also kept on flourishing during August.

basil and chives : August 3, 2021 (top) and August 22, 2021 (bottom)

In the background you can see the “miracle” tomato plant. The fertilizer worked wonders for all my tomatoes in August. I think that this was the biggest mistake I made this year: assuming that my potting soil had enough nutrients. I really wish that I had fertilized earlier.

comparison of the cherry tomatoes (orange pots) and the Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes (light colored pot) on August 3, 8, and 22 (top to bottom)

You can see in the comparison of the small tomato varieties above and the Best Boy (larger) tomatoes below that once the fertilizer kicked in, the plants grew into a jungle! The difference was especially dramatic for the Best Boys, since those plants were looking so pathetically spindly!

comparison of the Best Boy tomatoes on August 3, 8, and 22 (top to bottom)

In fact, the growth was almost too much! By the end of the month, I decided that a big prune was necessary.

August 30, 2021: before (above) and after (below) a BIG pruning job on my tomatoes

The prune was very necessary. After all that pruning, this was my harvest.

Almost everything I chopped away was leafy growth, and I think the streamlined plants produced better and had better airflow to keep them healthy.

The surprise hit of the garden for me this summer was the marigold container! I had always been sort of ambivalent toward marigolds, but I hadn’t grown them for years (probably since Sunday school Mother’s Day gifts when I was in elementary school!). I was so thankful for their gorgeous color and the way they attracted butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

I will definitely plant marigolds again next year– hopefully several containers! (Yes, I’ve been harvesting seeds. ;-))

Speaking of harvesting seeds, I am giving tomato seed saving a try. I went very simple with this first attempt, rinsing and drying seeds from the two heirloom varieties I had in my garden this year.

Overall, August was a good month in my garden! Below is a comparison collage throughout the month.

Comparison of the garden through the month of August (top to bottom): August 8, 13, 22, 30-before pruning, 30-after pruning.

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Continuing my retrospective garden updates…

At the beginning of July, I discovered that the rightmost (back row) Best Boy was drowning– somehow the drainage of the pot got blocked. I carefully untied the (still spindly) plant from its stake and Husband helped me tip the pot to drain the excess water and pull off the attached saucer. You can see in the photo below that the foliage was yellow and drooping. Thankfully, simply removing the saucer seemed to be enough to fix whatever blockage was happening, and the plant eventually perked up again. (At the end of this year’s growing season, I will remove the rest of the saucers and possibly drill more drainage holes in these pots to prevent future issues like this.)

Best Boy tomatoes on July 4, 2021

July was when I first really started seeing fruits start forming and growing on my tomato and cucumber plants. Mouthwatering potential!! It’s always such a wonder to me, especially when starting a plant from seed: this tiny, tiny thing has grown up and is producing these beautiful fruits.

young fruit in my garden, July 12, 2021
Best Boy tomato, July 21, 2021
heirloom purple cherry tomatoes, July 21, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, July 21, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato ripening on July 22, 2021

I made some of my first harvests in July! I started keeping a spreadsheet of each variety’s harvest (number and weight) so that I can compile some data at the end of the season.

First, the herbs: We cut small bunches of chives and clipped parsely leaves to put on our suppers. I LOVE having fresh herbs as a finishing touch! Some of my lavender started drying on the plant, so I began cutting those stems off to put into a sachet. The basil grew like crazy, and I cut a whole bouquet for my Husband to make into pesto.

Spicy Globe basil bouquet, destined for pesto. July 13, 2021

I harvested my first couple of cucumbers (these are from the Ferry-Morse vine).

first cucumbers: July 21, 2021

We also started getting small bowlfuls of purple cherry tomatoes:

I LOVED watching the Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes ripen and change color. Since it’s an unusual-looking tomato, I had to really learn when to harvest them. They split very easily (sometimes long before they are fully ripe), so I eventually learned to harvest them a little early so that they could finish ripening on the counter, where if they were split, they wouldn’t rot or attract pests.

first Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato, July 25, 2021

I did have some more hornworm challenges: there was (at least) one plaguing my purple cherry tomato plants, and it wreaked quite a bit of havoc before I managed to find it.

hornworm damage woes, July 24, 2021

I mentioned in the June post my 10th tomato (unknown variety) that had fallen over and gotten quite damaged. I was not sure that it was going to make it, but it turned into a wonderful comeback story. I was so glad to to see it putting out new shoots– and even flowering again!!

July 22, 2021: comeback tomato (unknown variety)

Ending on an artisitc note: mid-month, I participated in a photography challenge within the Simple Scrapper membership to play with macro photography. At first, I didn’t know what I would photograph, but as I was watering my garden one day, I realized that there was such a variety of pollinators visiting my garden! I decided to get out my camera to try and capture some macro photos of them. I used both my kit lens and my zoom lens (some of the insects were too shy to be photographed up close!). These are my favorite shots from that little session:

comparison of the garden on July 12 (left) and July 31 (right)

Throughout the month, although I was beginning to harvest cucumbers and tomatoes, I started noticing that the plants got spindly and increasingly sad looking. I didn’t really figure out what was going on until the very end of the month. I’d been listening to a gardening podcast, and they were discussing garden maintenance, and I realized that my garden might need to be fertilized! My plants needed nutrients!

comparison of the garden on July 12 (top) and July 31 (bottom)

In my previous years’ gardens, I’d used “regular” not-organic potting soil that had added fertilizer, so I’d not come across this obvious lack of nourishment before. This year, I’ve been using Miracle Gro Organic potting soil and I have to say, I haven’t been impressed. I don’t like the texture of it (it seems too dense) and I didn’t expect to have to add fertilizer. (Admittedly, that is probably from inexperience using organic potting soil.) Thankfully I had some fertilizer on hand from several years ago, and I added some to all of my large pots on July 30 (I choose to err on the side of too little, since I was afraid of burning the roots). I definitely saw an improvement quickly at the beginning of August. I’ll write about that in my next update post!

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June started off with a new tomato plant in my garden plot! This brought the total number to ten, so I was dreaming of all the tomato recipes I’d be able to make later in the summer! A friend gave it to me, and I couldn’t find the variety name anywhere on the tag.

June 1: new tomato plant added to the garden!

Unfortunately, later that week we were out of town overnight. When I got home, the plant had tipped over and had broken in a few places. I should have known better than to leave it in its original pot (much too small, and a wimpy cage). I did some damage control– transplanting it into a bigger pot, trimming off all the broken pieces, and removing many of the green tomatoes (too heavy for the poor thing to support). I staked it and tied it up as best I could.

June 8 – a few days after the rescue attempt. This little plant might make it… but it needs a lot of gentle care!

In June, it became necessary to start pruning and tying up my tomatoes. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the “t-shirt yarn” (just old t-shirts torn into strips) that I use to tie the tomatoes to their stakes. The containers I bought this year didn’t have a central hole, so the stakes are outside the pot. I’m not sure how much I like that… It makes the plants look sort of strangled right now. I think/hope they will do okay after a few days to reorient themselves. In hindsight, I should have planted them toward the side of the container next to the stake! I’ll have to remember that for next year.

June 4, 2021 – I started pruning and tying up my tomatoes today.

I made a conscious decision this summer to do minimal pruning, after reading and listening to some podcasts that discussed the pros and cons of pruning. With ten tomato plants, I was really hoping for a bountiful harvest, so I wanted my plants to grow as much as possible (without them getting too crowded). I also learned that the trimmed suckers can be rooted in water, so I tried it out!

I was able to share some of these rooted cuttings with friends, and I hope that they grew well in their gardens!

It was so exciting to start seeing blossoms on my tomatoes, specifically the smaller-fruit varieties.

purple cherry tomato blossoms on June 8, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato blossoms on June 8, 2021

Even more exciting: to see the fruit forming!

baby purple cherry tomato on June 14, 2021
baby Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, June 20, 2021

On the subject of blooms, I had my first marigold bloom…

marigold flower, June 4, 2021

…and I was delighted to observe nasturtium buds forming– and the first bloom. It was raggedy, but still beautiful!

nasturtium bud on June 14, 2021
first (raggedy) nasturium bloom on June 16, 2021

I was excitedly watching the cucumber plants grow. The warm weather helped!

cucumbers (and nasturtium plants) on June 14, 2021

The lavender grew in leaps and bounds this month, and I was delighted to see the pollinators visiting it, including this white butterfly:

a butterfly visiting my lavender on June 23, 2021

I started trimming some tiny bouquets of lavender (I’d read that it was best to cut it when the buds were not quite open) so that I can dry it for sachets. I tied it up with some crochet thread and hung it to dry in my craft room.

June 23 bouquet of lavender

Speaking of herbs, the spicy globe basil has taken off!!

Spicy Globe basil, June 23, 2021

The month was not without some problems in the garden. First, I started noticing blossom-end rot on some of my Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes. I cut those fruits off the vine and tried to keep my watering more regular. After this time, I thankfully only saw a couple other fruit in the garden that were affected by this particular malady.

blossom-end rot on my Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes. June 23, 2021

The grossest issue for me was when I spotted this devastation to one of my Best Boy plants. They’d already been fairly spindly looking, but this was adding insult to injury! Especially since this plant was the smallest of them all! The cuprit: Tobacco Hornworms.

hornworm damage to one of my Best Boy tomato plants, June 28, 2021

I found five more that day, and many more in subsequent days. I hadn’t really ever had an issue with hornworms in previous years, so I was pretty horrified. The best way to deal with them is to pull them off the plant (yes, with your fingers) and squash them. They are BIG. They are SQUISHY. And they often have surprisingly good grips on the plants! UGH!!

tobacco hornworm–note the red “horn”. June 28, 2021

Despite the few issues that came up, June saw a LOT of growth in my garden, and it was so exciting! Here’s a side-by-side collage of the garden throughout the first half of the month (June 1, 4, 8, and 14). I guess I forgot to take whole-garden photos for the rest of the month!

The garden from the right-hand end: June 1, 4, 8, and 14.

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I dropped the ball on updating throughout the summer about my garden here on the blog. I’ve been doing little updates on my Instagram stories all along, but considering this blog started as a gardening record, I do want to gather all those details (and maybe a few more) here. It’s a daunting task to cover the whole season in one post, so I’ve decided to go month by month to catch up.

Last we left off, I’d just planted out the garden! I’d done the final transplant of my tomatoes into their large pots and direct-sowed cucumber and nasturtium seeds.

About a week later, I spotted nasturtium sprouts!

May 12 – nasturtium sprouts!

However, just over two weeks after I’d sown the seeds, I wasn’t seeing anything in the cucumber pots. Like an impatient little kid, I decided to dibble around in the pots to see if anything was actually sprouting. Out of the 12 seeds I’d put in, only one of them was germinating. I was really disappointed, because I’d deliberately planted extra this year so that I’d have enough to pickle! Therefore, I decided to plant more seeds, this time from the Burpee packet I had leftover from 2015.

May 19- the lone Ferry-Morse cucumber sprout.

I adore lavender, so I decided to buy this little seedling to add to my garden. It’s my dream to have a big patch of it somewhere on my property (or at least several containers’-worth!)

May 19 – new addition to my garden plot: lavender!!

I was delighted to start seeing cucumber sprouts within 5 days of planting the “new” (but really actually old) seeds. By a week later, almost all of them had sprouted!

May 26 – baby nasturtium plants and cucumber sprouts! Hooray!

Throughout May, I was so happy to add some more types of herbs to my garden, thanks to my local Buy-Nothing group. In addition to the spicy globe basil I’d gotten at the end of April, I also was gifted dill, chives, and three marigold plants.

It was so amazing to watch my garden grow (both individual plants and by adding even more containers of plants!) this month. Here’s a little collage showing its progress:

My garden in May 2021– left to right: May 4, May 19, and May 26

Stay tuned for the June update!

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I was very excited to try and start my garden with winter sowing, but that didn’t work out this year. I’m not sure what happened, but nothing sprouted. I’d like to try again; we’ll see… Thankfully, my garden wasn’t centered around those seeds growing. The main crops I want to grow in my garden are tomatoes and cucumbers.

Tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t winter-sowing appropriate, so in mid-March, I started some tomato seeds indoors: A neighbor gave me a couple Brad’s Atomic Tomato seeds, and I still had some of my Best Boy seeds from a packet I bought back in 2013. I didn’t have high expectations for the Best Boy seeds to germinate, but 5 out of the 6 I planted sprouted! That same neighbor also shared some cherry tomato seedlings with me (some are labeled just “cherry,” and some “heirloom cherry”– I’m not sure if there is a difference! She mentioned that they were “maybe purple cherry”– I’m excited to see what they look like! Three out of the four seedlings I received survived… so I ended up with a total of nine (NINE!) tomato plants this year. I’m pretty excited.

March 15, 2021: I moved my tray of seeds/seedlings along the mat in front of our porch door so that they got as much sunlight as possible during the day!
3/31/2021: I thought I’d killed this Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato seedling (the only one that germinated) when I stupidly thought I would “help it along.” I was so desperate eager to have one of these plants in my garden this year that when the seed coat seemed stuck on the seed leaves, I pulled it off– and I think I damaged the seed leaves. But I think there is hope!! There is a tiny, tiny true leaf starting to grow!!

But before we get to the tomatoes……

Toward the end of March I was getting excited to prepare my garden plot. I took advantage of the gorgeous weather one afternoon to clean out the hand-me-down planters I was given by another neighbor (the rectangular ones)… and I couldn’t resist direct-sowing some cool-weather crop seeds at the same time!

3/21/2021: I scrubbed down and drilled additional drainage holes into the long, rectangular containers given to me by a neighbor. I couldn’t resist sowing some cool-weather crop seeds: peas (foreground) and lettuce (background).

I had no idea if any of them would sprout (spoiler alert: nothing did!) The peas and lettuces were leftover from my 2008 garden. We’d tried starting some for last year’s garden experiment, and last year only the arugula (in the mesclun mix) sprouted. This year, nothing did! I did find evidence that a critter was digging in the rectangular containers, so that probably didn’t help anything!

In April, I began hardening-off my seedlings. I think that this year’s sprouts are the best I’ve ever had!

4/5/2021: hardening off on the back porch

This spring, I started listening to the Joe Gardener podcast, and I learned a lot about separating seedlings and transplanting them. I wonder if that is why they did better for me this year than in the past? When the seedlings were establishing their true leaves, I upgraded them to separate plastic takeout containers with drainage holes as an intermediate stage before they went outside.

4/29/2021: The tomatoes are basically ready to be transplanted into their final 15″ planter homes.

In the above photo, you can see the rooted basil sprig that my generous neighbor gave to me (the same one who gave me the Brad’s Atomic Grape seeds and the cherry seedlings!). I am so thankful for her generosity– she has definitely been a significant benefactor to this year’s garden!

On May 2, I decided it was time to get these plants outdoors. This year I’m using Miracle-Gro organic potting mix that I found at Costco. I started with three bags but didn’t have enough to fill all my containers, so I went back for two more to finish out the planting! I have some extra soil now, but I’m hoping to add parsley and lavender (and possibly other herbs) to my garden as the summer goes on.

5/2/2021: seeds for direct-sowing now that the danger of frost is past.

First up, I direct-sowed some seeds: Ferry-Morse Tendergreen cucumber and Burpee Nasturtium. The cucumber seeds are from WAAAAAAAY back in 2011. I used some from this packet last year and they grew well, so I’m hoping they come up this year. However, I think that I’ve started early enough that if they don’t come up, I can still try again. I bought the nasturtium seeds this year, and I scarified them (using a nail file) as the packet suggested. Hope I did it correctly!

I planted out everything but three tomato seedlings… I got more potting soil yesterday, and this morning, I finished transplanting. Here’s the lineup for this year:

Last summer, my little garden plot was such a happy place for me. I’m hoping that this year’s garden grows just as well!

P.S. I frequently post about my garden progress in my Instagram stories– you can see them in my saved highlight called “Garden 2021”

5/4/2021 : all the tomatoes are transplanted into their big pots, and I’ve direct-sowed the cucumbers and nasturtiums!

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I’m not a winter person. By the time Christmas comes, I have been ready for spring for about a month! 😉 As soon as we dismantled the garden in the fall, I was already dreaming about my 2021 garden, and I just haven’t stopped.

Recently, I saw some neighbors discussing winter sowing, which was a completely new concept to me. I did some research and I was intrigued. Basically, some seeds need to freeze+thaw and/or experience soaking in order to successfully germinate, and winter sowing is an easy way to enact that process with minimal involvement.

Here are some sites for additional reading, since I’m not an expert, but there are lots of more knowledgeable people sharing their expertise on the internet:

I particularly wanted to try this with lavender seeds that I’d received from a neighbor. She mentioned that stratification was necessary, but I don’t have the refrigerator real estate for that process. I contacted my local Extension, and they responded by saying that winter sowing would satisfy the conditions that stratification generates. They also recommended the first link that I shared above.

With this confirmation on February 15, I eagerly jumped in! While reading the comments on the Joe Gardener post, I got the idea to try germinating some (very old–the seed packet says 2011) parsley seeds that I had on hand from a previous garden in addition to my lavender seeds. My daughter took photos of the process for me!

I started by cutting open two empty (clean) plastic milk jugs; I left a small section uncut for a hinge and punched plenty of holes in the bottom for drainage.

Note: I made sure to label each carton with the type of seed I was starting. I not only labeled it on the top, but I also wrote it on the base of the jug so that if weather wore my writing away, it would hopefully still be on the bottom. In addition, I got fancy and used two colors of duct tape to distinguish the containers!

In an empty pot, I mixed about equal parts of seed starting mix with leftover potting soil, then wet it down– it’s what I had on hand! Thankfully from what I read, you don’t have to have all sterile seed starting mix for the winter sowing process.

I filled the bottom of each milk jug with the damp soil mixture…

Once the soil was in the cartons, I added the seeds on top.

these are the lavender seeds!

After sprinkling the seeds into the soil, I used duct tape to re-seal the jugs closed.

I set the jugs in my empty garden plot. The lids are off to allow for some air circulation, and they’ve weathered ice and snow. I’m really excited to see how these seeds will do!

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