Archive for the ‘tomatoes’ Category

At the beginning of August, my broccoli and cauliflower sprouts were getting big enough that I thought they needed an “upgrade” from their yogurt cups to some larger containers.

broccoli and cauliflower in yogurt cups before transplanting to larger containers

I decided to try out making newspaper pots (as found in Plant Grow Harvest Repeat by Meg Cowden <–aff link). I got some full sheets of newspaper from a neighbor and folded up six to try. It was fun to fold them, and I think they are a nice size. I might try them again in the future as I start seeds!

broccoli and cauliflower after transplanting into newspaper pots on August 3, 2022

After transplanting they went back under the grow lights for a few more weeks.

broccoli and cauliflower under the grow lights, August 3, 2022

At the end of the month, I started “hardening off” these seedlings to prep them for planting out in the garden… but instead of getting them ready for cooler temperatures, I wanted to prevent them from being shocked by the hot weather and sun! I started them under our deck umbrella the first day, and then I gradually increased their time in the sun.

Starting to harden off the broccoli and cauliflower, August 30, 2022

Meanwhile, the outdoor garden continued to flourish.

The asters bloomed! It was so interesting to watch them progress to full bloom. The petals start almost white and clenched like a fist, and then gradually the unfurled petals reveal the color of the flower.

pink aster bud, August 10, 2022
purple aster starting to bloom, August 10, 2022
pink aster mid-bloom, August 10, 2022
pink and purple asters on either end of my garden, August 15, 2022
bright pink asters, August 15, 2022

Somewhere or other, I read or heard that asters should be pruned back at some point before they bud to encourage fuller growth and more blooms. However, I heard this information far too late for this season! I am hoping to plant them again for next year, so I’ll need to remember to read more about that for the future!

The marigolds continued to bloom and the plants grew into huge bushes!

marigold blooms, August 10, 2022
marigold bushes! August 15, 2022

I need to remember to plant them into bigger containers next year. They were definitely too crowded in the low, long planters I used, and they ended up being top-heavy (more on that in September’s post). I really should plant just one per container. It would make them easier to move around the plot, as well.

I let my oregano and mint go to flower, since I wasn’t really using them as much in my cooking.

mint flowers
oregano flowers

I don’t have photos of the parsley and basil, but you can be sure I was using them! Parsley is probably my favorite herb, and I probably used it at least once per day! I love being able to step outside and clip some stalks to cut into my meals.

In preparation for cooler weather (whenever it comes! August was HOT HOT HOT!), I planted some peas on August 6 that I’d saved from my Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea plants in the spring.

Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas ready to plant, August 6, 2022

Since the container in the spring seemed small for one plant, I chose a longer planter for fall. I was excited to use some of my first batch of compost from my tumbler! I think it was ready, so I took it out and used it under the layer of soil from the smaller pea container.

using part of my first batch of compost under my fall pea planting! August 6, 2022

By August 11 (five days later), all three peas had sprouted! I am delighted that my seed-saving was successful! The peas grew fast. I’ve positioned them at the shadiest end of the garden so that they can have as much relief from the heat as possible.

We watched eagerly throughout the month to see the watermelon grow…

Jubilee watermelon plant, August 10, 2022

…but it didn’t grow quite as much as I hoped/expected! I was hoping that it would be ready before school started, but I don’t think it’s ready yet… Check back in September!

I was delighted that fertilizing + some vigorous pruning (learned from The Rusted Garden on Instagram) seemed to encourage the Beit Alpha cucumber vine to start producing again. I also learned about the possibility of succession-planting cucumbers, so I want to give that a try next year.

harvesting a Beit Alpha cucumber, August 12, 2022

I was also excited to see peppers forming on the plants I grew from seeds saved from Costco peppers! They were a complete experiment, and so I’m looking forward to seeing what the fruit is like (the original peppers were probably hybrids, so I definitely have no idea what to expect!).

Costco experimental peppers, August 27, 2022

My Most Beautiful sweet peppers continued to grow– I was impressed with the amount of fruit on the plants! I harvested a few while they were still green because I needed them for some recipes, but for the most part, I am waiting for them to turn red (I assume!) to harvest. The fruit is thin-walled and tastes good! They are much bigger and irregularly shaped than I was expecting!

“Most Beautiful” sweet peppers on the plant, August 24, 2022

We went on vacation in August, and I experimented with an idea I heard on a Joe Gardener podcast– I punched a few tiny holes (with a thumbtack) in the bottom of a milk jug so that it would slowly drain into the pot– leaving the cap on as suggested so that the water wouldn’t drip too quickly. I forgot to take an “after” photo– but it didn’t work that well! I should have left a little more ventilation at the top. Water did drip out, but eventually, such a vacuum was created inside the jug that it just crumpled on itself! There was still an inch or two of water at the bottom, even after a week!

milk jug drip irrigation experiment

The harvests were the biggest of the season this month– both in overall volume, but also because I set some personal records!

First: I think this is the largest tomato I have ever grown in one of my gardens:

Marmande tomato, August 9, 2022
quite possibly my biggest tomato that I’ve ever grown (so far…)

And I had a huge harvest of Sungold tomatoes:

biggest one-day harvest of Sungold tomatoes for the season, August 30, 2022

And an enormous harvest of purple cherry tomatoes! I’m surprised at how late this bumper crop came, but I am definitely not complaining!

look at all those purple cherry tomatoes waiting to be harvested! August 30, 2022
biggest one-day harvest of purple cherry tomatoes this season! August 30, 2022
purple cherry and Sungold tomatoes harvested August 30, 2022

In addition to the “records,” I just love seeing the variety of colors and textures!

harvest, August 2
harvest, August 4, 2022
harvest, August 9, 2022
harvest, August 10, 2022
harvest, August 15, 2022
harvest, August 24, 2022 (after a big prune following vacation)
harvest, August 30, 2022

We enjoyed the bounty, too! My daughter was on a mission to cook and bake as many recipes as she could from her personal cookbook library, and as often as possible, we used garden produce.

caprese pasta with chicken, August 4, 2022

I was so excited to finally get to make fresh salsa with tomatoes and a jalapeño from my own garden!

fresh salsa with tomatoes and jalapeño from the garden

And of course, we indulged in caprese as often as possible. The perfect summer lunch accompaniment.

caprese with garden-grown Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes and basil

I discovered this big toad in my garden one morning while I was weeding! I thought he was a rock, and then he moved– it was quite startling, I think both for me and him! I was glad to see him there the next day, too, so he must not have been too frightened.

toad, August 6, 2022

Three weeks later, I found him dug into my primrose pot!

toad, August 27, 2022

I made a better effort to get some photos of myself in the garden this month (my daughter helped me!) and this is one of my favorites:

Last but not least, how about some comparison views of the whole garden throughout the month:

The garden flourished this month, and I was out almost every day working to keep it pruned, tidy, and healthy.

Stay tuned for the September update!

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I’d planted Jubilee and Sugar Baby watermelon seeds in June, and all month long, I was hoping that one of them would grow. Just before we left for travel at the end of June, one of the Jubilee seeds finally popped up (I’d all but given up!), so I quickly filled my big plastic bin with soil and transplanted it from the tiny yogurt cup where I’d started it. I wanted it to be in a larger volume of soil so it wouldn’t dry out so easily! When we came home, I was surprised to see two watermelon seedlings growing in the bin (the other seed sprouted and grew like gangbusters while we were away!). I clipped off one of them, because I don’t think my bin was big enough to support two huge watermelon vines!

one Jubilee watermelon seedling, July 1, 2022

It had been a while since I’d done maintenance on my tomato plants, so I also spent time in the morning (before it got too hot!) pruning and tying my tomatoes to their stakes.

after pruning, July 1, 2022
tomato plants after pruning, July 1, 2022

The cucumbers started the month happily climbing the trellises at the end of the garden.

lemon cucumbers (left two pots) and Beit Alpha cucumbers (right pot), July 1, 2022

…and there were baby tomatoes forming on all five varieties!

Roma tomatoes, July 1, 2022
Sungold tomatoes, July 1, 2022
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, July 1, 2022
Marmande tomatoes, July 1, 2022
purple cherry tomatoes, July 1, 2022

It was exciting to see the other plants starting to fruit. In the case of my cucumbers, I was delighted to see so many Beit Alpha cucumbers growing. They are smaller fruits than I expected, so I will likely go back to a larger variety next year. The lemon cucumber vines had tons of flowers, but I didn’t see female flowers until later in the month.

Beit Alpha cucumbers, July 6, 2022
two Beit Alpha cucumbers, July 17, 2022

The jalapeño plant had lots of flowers and peppers forming, and I harvested my first one on July 15!

jalapeño plant, July 12, 2022

I’ve never had much success with peppers, so this summer, I’m hoping to change that! When blossoms started growing on my sweet pepper plants, I was delighted– I was particularly looking forward to seeing what these peppers are like. The neighbor who gave me the seedlings told me the variety was “Most Beautiful,” but despite a number of internet searches, I haven’t been able to find information about them.

sweet pepper flowers, July 12, 2022

Oh, deer. I didn’t think the deer would be tempted by the prickly cucumber vines. But apparently, they are still tasty enough to eat. The deer don’t come into my garden, as far as I can tell, but they’ve been nibbling at the edges. In particular, my cucumbers and asters have been chomped. Lesson learned: next time, I won’t have my cucumbers near the outer border. It’s so frustrating that nothing is safe.

cucumber vines chomped outside the fence. July 11, 2022

In response, I did a bit of rearranging to protect some of my plants from the deer. I gathered almost all my herbs closer to the garden entrance (but put the more tender ones further away from the perimeter) and moved the flowers away from the perimeter on the other end of the garden.

rearranged herbs and flowers, etc.; July 15, 2022

I also set up a small secondary trellis to start training my cucumbers to the inside, rather than along the string fence/main trellises. It’s something we had on hand (leftover from the previous homeowner; it’s just been living in our garage all these years), so it’s not the strongest or best option, but I wanted to make a change as immediately as possible.

small secondary trellis to start training my cucumbers away from the fence, July 15, 2022

The pea plant ended its life partway through the month. I moved it to the shadiest end of the garden to make room for the watermelon, but as it got hotter, the plant faded– but it was to be expected! We got a few pods here and there after the first harvest in June, and I really enjoyed their flavor! I deliberately left some pods on the plant as it died back so that I could save seeds to plant again for the fall!

some of the dried pea pods from which I saved the seeds for fall (and next spring) planting! July 11, 2022

I finally spotted some female lemon cucumber flowers around July 15, and I harvested my first one on July 20. The variety is named after the shape/color of the fruit, not its taste. We really, really like the flavor! It is a mild cucumber with no bitterness. We like it better than the Beit Alpha cucumbers (but we definitely enjoy all the cucumbers growing in our garden this year!

first lemon cucumber!

After that first one, the lemon cucumber vines started fruiting all over! I’ve pretty successfully trained the plants away from the outer edges of the garden. I spotted a groundhog INSIDE the garden on the morning of July 28, chowing down on the lemon cucumber vines. ::sigh:: Hopefully this isn’t the start of Groundhog War II. I think eventually I will need an actual fence.

We also started harvesting tomatoes this month!! The first harvest was two Sungolds…

two Sungold tomatoes– first tomato harvest! July 21, 2022

After those two delicious fruits, we started getting at least a handful every other day or so! We also got a few purple cherry tomatoes, but I’ve noticed that the plants aren’t quite as wild as they were last year. I’m not sure what is causing the difference (I started this year’s plants from seeds saved from last summer’s harvest). The Sungolds are wild and vigorous, so perhaps it’s good that both these small varieties aren’t going crazy!

pretty harvest: lemon cucumber, jalapeno, sungold tomatoes, purple cherry tomatoes

I also started harvesting Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes. Last year, I noted how easily they split, so I’m deliberately picking them a bit early so that they don’t split on the vine. They ripen the rest of the way on my counter and are so delicious!

Let’s take a moment and talk about how fast this watermelon vine is growing!

Jubilee watermelon, July 15, 2022
Jubilee watermelon, July 22, 2022
Jubilee watermelon, July 31, 2022

It got unruly pretty quickly, so I did trim off one of the pieces of vine that was heading over toward my tomatoes. I’d love to set up some sort of trellis for it, but I’m going to wait and see how it all works out this year to decide whether I should invest in putting one together.

I kept a close watch for flowers, and I spotted the first male flower on July 22, and there were lots more following that one. I didn’t see a female flower until the 28th–

female Jubilee watermelon flower, July 28, 2022
baby Jubilee watermelon, July 31, 2022

(I’m writing this post in the first half of August, and boy, it has grown so much more already!!)

One of the few (first?) photos I have of myself with a wide view of the garden! Goal for August: get some good photos of me in the garden!!

Here’s a side-by-side(-ish) comparison of the garden throughout July:

This month, I continued to level up my garden game–indoors!!

I started some broccoli and cauliflower seeds, and I quickly realized that there is definitely not enough sunlight coming through my back window, especially this time of year. I purchased a set of four grow lights and created the beginning of a grow light setup in the basement! For now, it’s a tiny shelf using just two light strips (this is less than 2′ tall), but I’ll be on the lookout for some more shelving so that by next spring at the latest, I can add the two more light bars that came in the set I purchased. I also purchased an outlet timer so that I don’t have to remember to turn them on in the morning and off in the evening. Another thing that I will need to consider is whether heating pads will be necessary for seed starting for next spring– it’s pretty cold in my basement!

cauliflower and broccoli sprouts in yogurt cups under my new grow lights, July 9, 2022
a bit of perspective to show how small the shelving is for my grow lights! Definitely looking for a more permanent setup… July 9, 2022

And finally, some pretty blooms on my flowers throughout the month:

snapdragon, July 1, 2022
marigold, July 1, 2022
Gerbera daisies, July 17, 2022
snapdragons, July 31, 2022

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I really love my vegetable garden.

There’s something about this little space that is soothing, satisfying, and inspiring. I love coming out here and just observing the miracle of its growth and marveling at the intricacies of each plant.

the garden on June 1, 2022

Signs of growth and future fruit were everywhere. The jalapeño settled into its container very happily.

jalapeño plant, 6/1/2022

The Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea plant climbed happily on its trellis and started producing flowers and then pods. I realized that the container was MUCH too small for the number of seeds I planted, so while I was disappointed that only one sprouted, it was probably better that way. I’ve learned my lesson: I need a larger container (and possibly multiple containers) to grow more peas.

Mammoth Melting sugar pea flowers, 6/3/2022
Mammoth Melting sugar pea pods, 6/10/2022

The garden is also a place that I go when I’m feeling the weight of stress. Back on May 10, I was having a hard day, and as I was spending time among my plants, I decided to direct-sow some more flat leaf parsley in the two huge grow bags where I’ve transplanted my Marmande tomatoes. Parsley is probably one of my very favorite herbs, and I want to make sure I have plenty this summer! The seeds started sprouting and growing this month.

parsley sprouts sharing a grow bag with a Marmande tomato seedling, 6/3/2022

I haven’t done a lot of companion planting, because I’m always concerned that I will overcrowd my containers. These grow bags are so large that I thought it would be okay, and I know that as the tomatoes grow, I will be pruning the lowest branches to keep them well above the soil. The parsley will shade the base of the stem, and I think this could be a good combination.

the garden mid-month, 6/13/2022

I’m especially enjoying watching my herbs grow this year. I have two basil varieties that started from seed:

basil. Genovese on the left, Sweet on the right, 6/13/2022

I have to admit that I don’t detect a huge flavor difference between the two. But any fresh herbs are such an amazing addition to my meals. Wow, so thankful for these.

June was the month where the first buds started forming on summer flowers and crops!!

snapdragon buds, 6/13/2022
Sungold tomato buds, 6/13/2022
Marmande tomato buds, 6/13/2022

Marmande is a much straighter stem than other tomato varieties I’ve grown! It has a cluster of leaves at the top that looks like a big flower bud. I’m always amazed at the subtle differences in leaf and flower shapes from one variety to the next.

The big new addition to my garden this month was a compost tumbler!! I’ve been wanting to compost again for several years. We didn’t have much success with the compost bin we had a few years ago, and it was badly placed — too close to our house (there are a LOT of ants where we live, and we were told that the bin’s location was problematic). I had casually dreamed of a compost tumbler setup, but the price of a new one was making me hesitate. I posted a long-shot wish on our local Buy Nothing group, and lo and behold, someone had a tumbler they wanted to give away!! It’s perfect for our little plot, and I’m so excited to make compost in it!

my new-to-me compost tumbler! 6/16/2022
my garden plot, including the new-to-me compost tumbler, 6/16/2022

Near the end of the month, I planted one of the rooted Roma tomato cuttings. As I wrote in my recap for May, the original seedling got dug up and eaten(?) by a critter, so as soon as my other Roma plant needed to be pruned, I put some cuttings in water to use as a replacement. They quickly grew roots, so I planted the most vigorous-looking one in my last tomato container.

planting my rooted Roma cutting, 6/26/2022

I forgot to add in my May post that I added some holgraphic mylar ribbon tied to some of the outer stakes in my garden, and it seemed to be effective in deterring most of the digging! Hooray!

I spotted my first jalapeño flower near the end of the month, too!

jalapeño flower, 6/27/2022

Speaking of flowers, I’ll wrap up this recap with some of the flowers and harvests we made this month!

The snapdragons started blooming, and since I had a mixed colors seed packet, it’s fun to see what colors they are! (Kim– I think of you every time I see the blooms!)

FIRST snapdragon blossoms! yellow snapdragon, 6/19/2022
pink snapdragon, 6/26/2022

My children helped me harvest the Mammoth Melting sugar peas. We only had one “big: harvest, but we continued to get a few here and there.

Mammoth Melting sugar peas, 6/18/2022

I cut our first Beit Alpha cucumber on June 27!

Here’s a comparison photo of my garden through the month of June to close out this post:

comparison of garden plot, L to R: June 1, 15, and 27

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When I was writing my monthly wrap-up posts for my garden last summer, I made a mental note to take photos of my whole garden plot several times per month from approximately the same angle so that I could do some visual comparisons. May was the month where we went fully outdoors with the garden, so I started the month with a “before” type shot:

Garden plot: 5/5/2022

At this point, I knew I wanted to increase the area of the garden plot, but I didn’t know how I would arrange everything after that, so you’ll see that I will change the perspective of these pictures once I had the layout settled!

The chives flowered profusely! I decided to leave the flowers so that I could collect seeds (more about that in an upcoming month’s roundup).

The arugula grew nicely, too!

arugula planter on 5/8/2022

I clipped my first few arugula leaves on May 10, and after that, I added it to salads and meals as often as I could!

first harvest of 2022! arugula on 5/5/2022 to garnish our quiche

It was also fun to watch the (lone) pea plant grow and start climbing the trellis.

Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea plant, 5/8/2022

The big exciting update to the garden was the expansion and planting out! Mother’s Day was cool and overcast, perfect for doing this kind of work.

My husband helped me double the footprint of the garden by shifting our low fence and adding weed-blocking cloth.

Husband helping to enlarge the garden plot. 5/8/2022

After the plot was prepped, we started arranging all the pots so that we could plant out all the seedlings and direct-sow the cucumber seeds!

seedlings ready for planting out, 5/8/2022
tomatoes ready to be potted into their big containers, 5/8/2022

It’s going to be a full garden plot!
10 containers of tomatoes
3 containers of peppers
3 containers of cucumbers
a variety of herbs
a variety of flowers
plus peas and arugula

You can see all the varieties I’ve planted in the 2022 garden in THIS blog post.

newly-enlarged garden plot, 5/8/2022

And that’s just the start! My plan is also to do some summer sowing indoors for some fall crops.

view of the newly-enlarged garden plot from another angle, 5/8/2022

Soon after the garden was planted out, I discovered that something was digging in my planters. The tomatoes were most affected; one of my purple cherry tomato plants was uprooted and many of its leaves chewed off, but I replanted it because tomatoes are resilient and it will likely grow back.
One of my Roma tomato plants was completely dug out and gone without a trace. I suspect squirrels; I also observed from my upstairs window a small bird vigorously wallowing in my pots and a chipmunk perusing my garden.

evidence of critter digging, May 15, 18, and 23

The digging critter issue was definitely frustrating because it kept happening. However, we got the trellises installed for the cucumbers to climb and Husband strung up the string fence to theoretically deter deer, stringing it through the trellises to give them more stability. I spotted some lemon cucumber sprouts and marigold sprouts from the direct-sown seeds.

a view of the growing and greening garden, 5/15/2022

I was super excited to see blooms on the Beit Alpha cucumber vine at the end of the month! This plant was given to me (started indoors) by a Buy-Nothing Group neighbor, and it has made me realize that I should be starting my cucumber seeds indoors to maximize the growing season (also, consider starting some more seeds later in the spring to do some succession planting??)

Beit Alpha cucumber plant, 5/28/2022

Another BN neighbor gifted me a jalapeño plant, and I’m delighted! It will be the perfect complement to the tomatoes I’m dreaming of turning into salsa! The neighbor was within walking distance, so I did a vigorous 3.3 mi round-trip workout to pick it up. Perhaps I looked a little silly power-walking with a young jalapeño plant, but I was so happy, I didn’t care, haha!

happy to have a jalapeño to add to my garden! 5/30/2022
comparison of garden plot, May 5 (left) and May 8 (right). I need to do better at taking these photos at regular intervals!

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seedlings on April 2, 2022

I started the month with a tray full of seedlings– so many tomatoes!– and also by planting parsley seeds and some more romaine seeds. None of my romaine seeds ever sprouted, but I am so glad that the parsley eventually did (two weeks later)!

the garden plot on April 3, 2022. Top to bottom, left to right: Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas, Slow Bolt Arugula, oregano, chives, and mint.

On April 3, I direct-sowed some “slow-bolt” arugula. I am excited about possibly having some cool weather crops this spring (and sowing again for the fall, too!). I have big dreams of enlarging the garden plot, and I plan add mulch between all the containers to mitigate the weed issue. I am dreaming bigger this year, since last year’s garden was a pretty good success! I acquired a plastic trellis from a neighbor to support my future cucumber vines!

arugula sprout on April 8!

I spotted some arugula sprouts on April 8! Despite the critter digging that had started up (and continued!), most of the sprouts survived. It never gets old for me to see those sprouts come up and grow.

pea sprout! April 11, 2022

I finally spotted one pea sprout on April 11. It turned out that this was the only one that grew!

eight days after I first spotted the pea sprout– it’s growing quickly! April 19, 2022

As the weather got warmer and sunnier, I tried to take my seedlings outdoors for good light and hardening-off. I probably was a bit too eager, and I think that possibly a couple of my tomato seedlings got a bit sunburnt. I tried to gently shade them with some netting after I noticed that was happening.

sunbathing. April 11, 2022

On April 13, I decided that most of my tomato seedlings were ready for their first transplant. I took a time-lapse video of the process:

I ended up with so many seedlings, which was exciting, because it meant that the seeds were in good condition. I had been curious how well my seed-saving from last year would work (I saved seeds from the purple cherry and the Brad’s Atomic Grape). I decided to keep two of each variety for myself, and I gave away the rest.

5 Roma
6 purple cherry
7 Brad’s Atomic Grape
9 Marmande
…plus flower seedlings, herb seedlings, and a couple SunGold tomato seedlings that weren’t yet ready for transplanting.

As the month drew to a close, I was ready to transplant a few seedlings… and I ended up doing more than I expected, including some weeding in the garden plot. I decided to use the soil I’d dumped beyond the fence last fall, so I went up there to fill my pots so that I could transplant my snapdragon and aster sprouts, and I also transplanted my dill plant (which I’d started in the winter from seed on my windowsill) and some mint and oregano that I’d been given by a neighbor.

Of course, a few days later, it was cold enough at night that it dipped below freezing. I wrapped up my herbs and flowers under an old sheet to keep them a bit warmer, and they survived!

I covered my recently-transplanted herbs and flowers with a sheet because the forecast warned the temperature might dip below freezing.

At the end of the month, I had a smaller number of seedlings left in the corner of my kitchen near the back door/windows. So excited to plant these out next month!

five varieties of tomatoes, basil, parsley, primrose (I think), a Beit Alpha cucumber seedling (acquired after my first seedling snapped!), marigold, and Costco mystery peppers

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Well, the bad news first: none of the California Wonder pepper seeds grew. This is definitely disappointing, but probably to be expected, since the seeds were over 10 years old. I tried one more last-ditch effort to sprout any of the rest of the seeds in the packet… but that didn’t end up working either. I’ve since learned that peppers are particularly finicky to start from seed.

no pepper sprouts here.
an attempt to sprout any of the rest of the California Wonder seeds: wet paper towel inside a loosely-closed plastic bag.

I moved on to some tomato seed sowing. On March 10, I sowed seeds for purple cherry tomatoes and Brad’s Atomic Tomatoes— seeds that I had saved from last year’s garden– in some seed starting pellets.

March 10 – sowing purple cherry and Brad’s Atomic tomato seeds in pellets

I really found them hard to use, so about a week later, I sowed more of those varieties in addition to a few more varieties I’d acquired, but this time I just used seed-starting mix in clean and hole-punched yogurt cups.

Speaking of new varieties, in March, I acquired lots of additional seeds! My local Buy-Nothing group had two different seed/plant giveaways, and I came away with a bounty of variety! I took photos of the seed packets from which I took some seeds so that I could reference them later. (Note: I’ve created a separate post with all the varieties for my 2022 garden HERE.)

By the end of the month, I was starting to see sprouts!

March 24, 2022 – aster sprouts!
March 24, 2022 – Marmande tomato sprouts!

At the end of the month, I direct-sowed sugar peas and covered the container with some old netting to discourage digging critters.

I added the mint and oregano divisions to pots, and they joined my chives in the garden plot.

top to bottom: chives, oregano, mint on March 31, 2022

I love watching seeds sprout and grow. They remind me that spring will come again each year, and that warmth and new life will come.

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This is a reference post to list all the vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that I planted in my 2022 garden. Whenever possible, I have linked to the seed packet information (I have very generous neighbors in my local Buy-Nothing group, so almost all the seeds I planted were given to me through the group at a seed giveaway or plant party in early spring. I took photos of the packets from which the seeds came, since I didn’t take the whole packet)!

Marmande (from seed packet given to me by a neighbor)
Roma (seeds given to me by a neighbor)
Brad’s Atomic Grape (saved seed from last year’s garden)
purple cherry (saved seed from last year’s garden)
SunGold (seedlings/seeds given to me by a neighbor)

mystery peppers! (grown from seeds inside red/yellow/orange peppers I got from Costco– definitely an experiment.)
jalapeño (plant given to me by a neighbor)
“Most Beautiful” sweet peppers (two plants given to me by a neighbor)
Red Yolo Bell (seeds given to me by a neighbor) – these didn’t grow in my spring sowing

Beit Alpha (seedling given to me by a neighbor)
Lemon (seeds given to me by a neighbor)

Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas (seeds given to me by a neighbor); saved seeds from spring planting to try planting in fall, too

arugula, slow-bolt (seeds given to me by a neighbor); sowed in spring, will also sow for fall
romaine, red (seeds given to me by a neighbor) – these didn’t grow in my spring sowing

Jubilee (seeds given to me by a neighbor) – these didn’t grow in my spring sowing but a subsequent sowing sprouted!
Sugar Baby (seeds from a packet I purchased for my 2011 garden! — multiple sowings did not grow)

Waltham 29 Broccoli (seeds given to me by a neighbor) – sowed indoors in late June for fall planting
Snowball Self-Blanching Cauliflower (seeds given to me by a neighbor) – sowed indoors in late June for fall planting

Hybrid Early Carrots (seeds given to me by a neighbor) – have not sown these yet as of end of May.

basil, Genovese (seedling from a neighbor)
basil, sweet (started from seed given to me by a neighbor)
chives (overwintered from last year, plant was a divided portion from a neighbor)
dill (started from seed saved from last year’s garden)
mint (divided portion from a neighbor)
oregano (divided portion from a neighbor)
parsley, flat leaf (started from seed from a neighbor)

aster, Crego Mixed Colors (started from seed packet)
marigold (started from seed saved from last year’s garden; those plants were a gift from a neighbor)
snapdragon, Tetra Mixed Colors (started from seed packet)

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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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