Saturday, January 28, 2012

Container Gardening- The Basics

Theresa asked if I had any advice or posts on container gardening.  While I had no specific post, I have lots of advice.

I've been container gardening for at least 30 years.  For 12 years I lived in a series of rented apartments, houses, townhouses.  Most of my gardening during that time was in containers.  I've grown it all- roses, daylilies, annuals, perennials, shrubs, herbs and vegetables.  I still do a lot of planting in pots, as accents around the pool and around the yard.

You can go grow anything in containers, but it does take some work and knowledge to grow things well.

Container Size:  The bigger the better.  I would recommend a minimum of 12" in diameter.  Make sure that they have ample drainage holes.  You may have to add more.

Spacing:  Don't over crowd.  I've seen recommendations for 1.5 plants for each inch of pot diameter.  This is much too crowded.  For my 14" pool pots I usually plant five or six plants. They will fill out fast!

Soil:  Avoid the mixes with moisture control additives, in my climate they retain too much moisture and the plants don't grow well till the end of the season when they are extremely root bound.  For permanent plants I mix my own soil.  This would be a peat based mix, very finely ground bark mulch, perlite and a small amount of compost.  For annual and vegetables I use a good quality peat based mix.  I do not use any thing special for drainage, as long as there are enough drain holes I have no problems.

Water:  I soak mine good upon planting, until a good stream of water exits the bottom.  I keep them just moist until the plants show a good growth spurt and then water on my regular schedule.  In summer as the heat increases and the pots fill roots I may have to water in the morning and the evening.  If the soil is dry a half inch down it's time to water.

Fertilizing:  If you are using a mix that has fertilizer added DO NOT feed for at least a month.  After this time I start to add a quarter strength liquid fertilizer every two weeks.  After 60 days I up it half strength.  For mixes with no added fertilizer, follow the directions on a good liquid fertilizer.

Spacing of Pots:  Give them enough room to breathe and fill out.

Caveats:  Watch the height of the plants.  If the pot is too small and the plant too tall, they will blow over in every strong wind. 

Special Note for Vegetables:  I have tried mixed pots and pots of single species.  The pots of a single type always do better.  If the pot is large enough you can use large cages, teepee's, poles whatever you can dream up.

Here are some results:

Vegetables on the pad 6/28/2008

Vegetables on the pad 1 week later 07/03/2008

Rose Brass Band 06/02/2006

Rose Artistry 06/24/2006

Zinnias in 14" pot 07/30/2010
Daylily Border Sentry 06/23/2010. this has been in the same 18" pot for over 10 years!  It has never been repotted.
I could go on and on with examples.

This is just scratching the surface with basic information.  If there are any specific questions, just ask.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seeds From Granny

There's nothing like getting a package from Granny,  In this case it was from Annie's Granny.

The seeds from Annie's Granny.
Now I can finish planning my summer garden, 

Thank you Granny!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Garden Plans- Spring

I've pretty much finished my spring garden plan for the Postage Stamp Potager (PSP) and the container garden I'm planning for the concrete pad next to it.  This year, instead of just a basic outline in Excel, I went for the works so I could try and plan the colors of the lettuces etc.  Once you figure out how Excel works it is ridiculously easy.
Remember the area, with the new expansion is 9 ft x 18 ft.

The Postage Stamp Potager- Plans are subject to change at a moments notice.

 The container garden will be on the concrete pad which is 10 ft x 10 ft.  Two of the 24 inch containers are self watering,  Four other large containers will have aqua spikes for additional water.  One of the benefits of the container garden is that with the pots that are 14 inches or smaller, I have such an abundance that if a crop isn't finished I can move the pot elsewhere and put the new pot in it's place.

The new container garden- Plans may change with a moments notice.

Now that I have a handle on spring, I can concentrate on summer and fall.  Summer and fall have two additional areas that I'll be planning with edibles.  The driveway bed and the back portion of the pool bed.

How are your plans coming along?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Great Service Part 2- Southern Exposure

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange provided with another round of great customer service.  When I went to place my on-line order Sunday night, I had a problem with the gift card number.  After the fifth try I fired off an e-mail to them, then went back to try again.  I then realized that the problem was with the user and not with the site.  I placed my order and the next morning was an e-mail from them which contained a new gift card number.  I promptly e-mailed them back telling them that it was user error and the order had gone through and to cancel the new number.  Later that day I got an another e-mail asking if I could describe the problem I was having in detail so they can improve their process.  I was very impressed with heir promptness in responding and concern.

I was completely sold on the company when my order arrived on Thursday.  The turn around time was three days, one day less than Baker Creek.
Seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Also in the mail that day was my free seeds from Wintersown,  The SASE seeds had less than a two week turb around time.  I received all my first choices as well as two from the alternate list and pepper and parsley seeds.  This is a great organization.

SASE seeds from Wintersown

Winter has finally arrived and it went from tropical to tundra in 24 hours.  I hope the stink bugs packed up and headed south!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pre- Garden Planning: Bones

Robin from the Gardener of Eden post about garden planning really inspired me this weekend.  The first thing I do when I begin my planning is to get a picture in mid winter of the gardens bones.

The area that I'm concentrating on is shown above.  The paved area is the foundation from a falling down shed that was there when we moved in.  It's a 10' x 10' square that we don't use as it is too hot for seating.  The back right is the Postage Stamp Potager.  The dayliles and iris it's foreground are slated for removal this spring.  The area to the right contains daylilies that are crying to be divided.  The bottom left show the stump to one of my much loved Burning Bushes.

The bones for this area would be the ornamental grass, butterfly bush, dappled willow, three arborvitae, concrete pad and the fence.  When viewed from the deck I get a better perspective on the vertical needs for the PSP.  This year I am GOING to use the fence for vining crops.  Other vertical elements will be bamboo teepee's and inverted V trellises for pole beans.  Cherry tomatoes will be trained up 6ft bamboo poles and severely pruned. 

The PSP in it's current condition.  The 'Broadway' rose in the center bed is going to be kept.  Despite having to compete with the yearly jungle, it gets better and better each year.  The paths will need to be rethought and redefined this year.

The front area containing the jungle of daylilies, iris and perennial weeds I can't easily remove, this will give me an additional 54- 72 sq ft- that's at least a 1/3 increase in space! 

I'm thinking of a container garden for the pad.  The back row would be 3- 18" pots, the middle row would be 3- 16" pots and the front row would be 4- 14" pots.  This would give me great place to try new varieties and combinations.

Now that I've got a handle on the areas bones, I can start translating the ideas from my head to the actual plans.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Second Seed Order of the Year

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

I've never ordered from them before, but they emphasize varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.  Since I live in the southern part of the Mid-Atlantic, that puts me right in their targeted range.  I decided last year that I was going to start tapering off from ordering from Northern based seed companies and go for varieties are more suited to my climate.  It was a very 'Duh' moment.

The varieties I have chosen are either directly recommended for the area or bred at Even Star farms over in Eastern Maryland. 

Model: 49236    Amy's Apricot TOMATO, CHERRY 0.08 g 1 x $2.50
Model: 24110     Even' Star Land Race Collards COLLARDS 1 g 1 x $2.50
Model: 25110     Even' Star Smooth KALE 1 g 1 x $2.50
Model: 62951C  Wild Garden Lettuce Mix 7g 1 x $5.50
Model: 13603    Lazy Wife Greasy BEAN, SNAP (POLE) 14 g 1 x $2.95
Model: 62110    Thai Oakleaf 88 (Thai 88) LETTUCE, LOOSELEAF 0.5 g 1 x $2.50
Model: 61101     Broad-Leaved Batavian ENDIVE 1 g 1 x $2.25

Yes, that's seven grams of 'Wild Garden Lettuce Mix'.  .5 grams goes for $2.75, and seven grams for $5.50, I decided to get the larger pack so I can share what looks to be an awesome lettuce mix.

If this warm weather keeps up I may try planting soon...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Talk About Service!

On Wednesday night I placed my order from Baker Creek.  When I got home from work today their was a package waiting for me.  I was quite shocked to see it was my seeds.

Considering I placed the order Wednesday night, it took less than two days for the order to be packed, mailed and delivered.  I have never received any order this quickly.  I need to wait and see how the seeds grow, but so far this experience has been awesome!

The free seeds were 'Reisenstraube' tomato, not something I need, but I'm sure I can find someone who wants them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Seed Order of the New Year

Thanks to the gift certificate I got for Christmas, I placed my first order of the new year.  I haven't ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds since 2004.  From what I read on-line their seed quality is still good and I have to admit that their selection is amazing.

Redman Super Cactus- Zinnia   FL820    1 x $1.75

Candy Cane Select Mix - Zinnia   FL813   1 x $2.50

Bon Bon- Zinnia   FL827    1 x $2.50

Dwarf Villa Roma White/Rose - Sweet Pea   SW163    1 x $2.50

Spun Gold - Marigold   FL469    1 x $2.50

Ivory Pear- Tomato   TW122    1 x $2.50

Purple Pear- Tomato   TP145    1 x $2.50

Marbles White-Yellow- Four O'Clock    FL445    1  x $2.50

Siamese Dragon Stir Fry Mix   SB106    1 x $3.00

Gentilina- Lettuce   LT130    1  x $1.50

Subtotal $23.75

The two tomatoes are new this year and unusual colors for pear tomatoes.  The zinnia's help to feed my zinnia obsession   The sweet pea is super dwarf and new this year.  I have been looking for Spun Gold marigolds for over 15 years!  The Siamese Stir Fry Mix is way out of my comfort zone, but the spicy leaves are supposed to be good raw in salads as well as cooked.  The lettuce is an Italian variety, a nod to my roots.  The four o'clock is for my obsession with stripes and spots.  Not bad, I was able to rationalize the entire order!
It does pay to procrastinate.. I left the order in my cart, and they sent me a 10% off coupon after a few days to help entice me.
Now if I can only narrow down my Southern Exposure Seed Exchange order...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Good Bye 2011,,, Don't let the door hit you in the */@!

Let's face it, 2011 was a very challenging year.  Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, snow in October... Mother Nature must have been very pissed last year!  One great thing about gardening, the grass is always greener the following year!

I've got a long list of resolutions this year.  I won't bore you with them.  I can sum them up as all working towards being a better gardener... becoming greener, less procrastinating, finally realizing I can't grow hundreds of varieties on a postage stamp...

I placed my free tomato seed request with Wintersown yesterday.
I decided to be adventurous and try two of their blends.

Here's what I requested-

Beefsteak Striped Blend ~ Assorted striped beefsteaks, colorful, pretty and very delicious, nice for salad or slicing, yummy! IND, about 80 DTM
Belmonte ~ Pink ribbed beefsteaks can weigh over a pound, delicious heirloom from Calabria, Italy, IND, 72+ DTM
Break o'Day ~ Pretty red 8 oz. globes, all-purpose fruits are related to Marglobe, great old-time flavor, IND, about 70 DTM
Italian Red Cherry ~ Beautiful red cherries with pointed ends are sweet and delicious, nice for containers too, DET, 65+ DTM
Sunspot Yellow and Orange Blend ~ Many yum sizes and shapes, grow out and save seeds of the best for your own backyard blend, IND, 72+ DTM
Victor ~ Rare, AAS winner (1941), crops early with beautiful and delicious bright-red fruits, about 4 - 5 ounces, DET, 60+ DTM

I already have a lot Victor seeds, I want to compare and see if their is a difference between my two sources.

I'm also getting orders together for Baker Creek and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  I got gift certificates to each of these for Christmas.

Hope you all are having a Happy New Year.