Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Progress in Modest Container Gardening


  I was not born with bilateral green thumbs.   I find caring for animals a much easier naturally and a much more intuitive undertaking.   In the past, I have had vegetable gardens, and I do grow fruit trees with some varying degrees of success.  My blueberries and grapes are doing well   Since this farm is on the edge of large forests, we find ourselves sharing whatever occasional bounty we have with a number of wild animals.  Deer not only eat the day lillies, but the bark from the cherry trees as well, no matter how you wrap them.  For this reason, it's tough to get the trees to survive long enough to bear fruit.  Bears are pretty flexible creatures and sometimes they will eat whatever you are growing that looks good.   A couple of years ago I was pretty discouraged when almost everything we grew was pilfered by animals. no matter what steps I took to limit what they took.  (One of my sons mixes a corn oil and chili powder mix and then puts a drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid in it, lets it sit for a day and then tops it up with water to be sprayed periodically on plants we would like to keep.  Deer in particular, hate this spray.)  

    Last year I didn't even plant a vegetable garden, and I simply enjoyed things from the herb garden. Fortunately, the farmer's market had an excess of peppers, eggplant, lettuce, green beans, canteloup, cabbages, all sizes and types of tomatoes and lettuces.   Also last year, we had a late frost which destroyed the blooms from our Asian pears, pear trees, peach trees and apples.

              This year, I was determined to work smarter rather than harder and to have some consistent yields of something beside eggs.   I normally work pretty hard to have hanging baskets of different types hanging from the underside of our country front porch.    I loved the flowers but the constant watering was tiresome, especially in July.  Late last year I hung some hanging baskets of strawberries, which not only looked gorgeous, they provided consistent fresh strawberries for morning cereals.  I decided to leave the annual hanging pots of flowers which had wintered in the garage, hanging from there. This year at the house itself,  I would focus on growing container and hanging food source plants from the country front porch.    There is a very large back deck here, but in the past when I have placed plants there, the foliage has burned. I decided to place a clothing rack on the back deck, and dry some of the laundry which could benefit, rather than trying to grow food from there.

The black container to the left is filling with potatoes. To the far left is left lettuce.  I clip some nightly for salad, and it regrows very quickly.  If your regrowth slows the leafy lettuce can be added to some iceberg lettuce for your evening salad.   Up on the railing in this picture, onions are growing.

The tomato plants are doing well, but do not yet have blooms.

I have lemon and orange trees which normally sit inside the sunny dining room. These can be a great source of vitamin C which you can grow yourself. These trees have been cut back this year, but all of them are about eight years old and consistently yield fruit.

The lettuce is growing very quickly despite the fact that we pluck a salad from there almost daily. You can see a tiny orange growing on one of the citrus trees to the left.

                       Of course, I can't put a great deal of time or money into growing food.   The horses, alpacas, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and others take a great deal of time.   However, it's good to see that carefully selected sprouts, lettuces, and fruits can produce a yield that is indeed helpful in feeding a large family.   This year we have or will have an abundance in blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, Asian pears, pears, apples, perhaps some peaches.  We have a host of herbs which are well established.  We also have sprouts, lettuces, Swiss chard, tomatoes, potatoes, a small complement of citrus fruit for drinks or garnishes.   Carrots, peppers, squash, melons and pumpkins are still on their way.  The fig tree is behind schedule this year.     We still have never been able to get hardy kiwi to grow in this hot climate, and we have never been successful getting my beloved rhubarb to grow here.   I planted several haskap bushes here a couple of years ago and one of them has died despite my devotion and watering.

                        I realize that I can't forgo trips to the grocery store, but I do realize that growing as much as we can here can help not only to enrich our meals, but to save money.  It's also non-GMO and it's likely organic since I bought organic soil to grow it in.  It's likely to be healthier than many of the things you could buy and I have never used a pesticide on any of it.    I hope this inspires you just a bit and that you decide to grow whatever you can on your own front porch.     No, I did not mean that particular plant, which is still illegal in many states, including mine.    Perhaps you could stick to food !       Giggles !



September 21, 2015

Using containers on the porch I was able to provide a large part of our family's lettuce for daily salads.   I grew four different varieties and also swiss chard.  I harvested some each day, and within a day or two they had grown back.   The plants were finished by mid-September.   I watered daily.   My elephant garlic and one variety of onions died most likely because I selected containers that did not allow adequate water drainage and so they rotted and died, when I had only had the opportunity to harvest a few of them.  My poor fig tree died.   My potatoes did not do well in a container garden, in part I believe to too much watering.
      This was an unusual agricultural year.  There were some losses of trees on the farm. Some were due to insects of one type or another and others were due to uncertain or unknown causes.
     Still, container gardening on the porch or the deck was a viable way to grow a percentage of our food, and I will try again next year with the knowledge and experiences from this one.