Monday, May 24, 2010

Container Gardening - a novice's tale.

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - I decided that this was the year that we would make a real attempt at a veggie garden. Sure, we've grown herbs and the occasional tomato in the past - but nothing of any significance. For the most part, I have always been satisfied going to our local farmer's market, or joining a CSA for local and organic produce. But - after being inspired by Barbara Kingsolver, and getting excited by the idea of the whole family eating something that we've actually grown in our own backyard - we decided to give it a go.

We went with containers because it felt more manageable - and far easier than building a bed or two. Also - because it's so ungodly hot here right now (and it will only get worse!) - I wanted to be able to move things around it we found that they were suffering from too much heat or sun. We started off thinking that we'd get a few tomato plants, a bunch of herbs and maybe something radical like beans or eggplant. But - when we got to our amazing local gardening center - we couldn't resist going above and beyond our original plans. Well - I couldn't resist. Debbie attempted to convince me that we should start slow - but I couldn't help myself. And I couldn't help going back (several times) later that week, either.

Before this gardening experience - I never considered myself anything close to a gardener. Any plant I've ever had - indoor or out - died from sheer neglect. It's not that I thought I had a black thumb - it's that I was just really lazy about it. Not interested enough. Not interested at all. And, the ironic thing is, I had every opportunity to be. From the years 1995 to 2002, I was a producer on a show called Home Matters - which aired on the Discovery channel for nine seasons. Along with cooking and crafts, gardening segments were a major part of the show. I worked with gardening professionals for over seven years - people from here and here and here. Even here. The list of authors and experts we had on the show is almost endless. And, I can safely say, I retained very little to none of what I could have learned during that time. Maybe it was all of the plants I smoked in college, or maybe I was too busy paying attention to the chefs and cookbook authors we had as guests on the show. Most likely, though - I just wasn't ready. But, now, I think I finally am.

The only thing that I have figured out about gardening so far, is that - a lot of what you learn - you have to figure out on your own. I'm lucky to have a next-door neighbor who is a veteran home gardener. And I'm lucky to have some of those gardening books that I've had since I worked on that show. I'm also lucky to have a great resource in these people - which is where we purchased most of our plants. But - most of the learning comes from just doing, and learning from the mistakes along the way.

Although Debbie and the kids helped establish the garden a few months ago - it seems to be all mine these days.


Luca will help, a bit, with watering or picking herbs. And, Debbie will move the heavy containers when I ask her to, and help with some of the maintenance. But - "our"container garden has, pretty much, become "my" project. And, although I'm not doing a great job - but I've come much further than I ever thought I would.

We have four different tomato plants. 

These three are just about ready to be plucked from the vine. 

The grape tomatoes are doing really well. 

 And, there's the promise of a future filled with (at least a few) tomato salads.

I'm really looking forward to the eggplant, if we are lucky enough to have it make it. 

I'm hopeful after discovering their lavender blooms. 

We're growing Ichibans and Black Beauties.

The cucumbers are looking promising - although there aren't as many as there could be.

This is our one and - so far - only Yamato

We're also growing Patio Cucumbers

The Datil Pepper plant, which takes about three months from transplant to harvest, is finally showing some blooms. 

Our strawberry plant had been chugging along, but production has slowed and something seems to be nibbling at Matteo's favorite garden snack. 

The watermelon didn't seem to be doing much the first month or so, but it's suddenly growing.

Salad greens were our first harvest. 

We've added arugula to the mix (which is in desperate need to be picked and eaten)...

...and a couple of kale plants, too. 

We're also trying our hand at broccoli. 

Those prolific summer-garden staples - squash and zucchini - are out there, too. 

I found them with a visitor today. 

My greatest wish for these two plants is that we become so over-burdened with how much we produce, that we have to give a bunch of it away. 

One can hope. 

And, of course, there are the herbs...

Three types of basil - Sweet, Thai and Spicy Globe.

Three types of mint - Moroccan, Citrus and Peppermint. Which, despite having completely neglected, is doing better than any of it's herbal friends. 

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (hee, hee)

We're also growing Lavender and Garlic Chives. Aloe (which came in handy for a recent burn) and marigolds (to discourage garden pests), too. 

But - the most exciting things happening in my garden are the two discoveries I had yesterday, after a weekend away...


It's been growing, vining and blooming like crazy since the first days after being transplanted. 

I don't want to get my hopes up - but I'm really excited about this plant. 

The other happy discovery came from the cantaloupe's close neighbor - Green Beans!

Next-door neighbors/veteran gardeners - Jillian and Tim - gave us an old wooden ladder to use for some of the vining plants. The ladder (which supports both the cantaloupe and the green beans) must be good luck, because everything near it is doing well. 

I have no idea what type of green beans they are, because Debbie picked it up and one of the kids did away with the little info stick that comes with it. 

At this point, that doesn't bother me at all. I just want to be able to harvest and saute enough of them for a meal. 

I keep imagining what it might be like if we could sit down at our table to a meal which has been (mostly) harvested from the containers right outside our back door. If it happens, it'll be great. And getting there will be, too. 


Emily@remodelingthislife said...

everything looks awesome!! such great helpers.

Deirdre said...

Wowowow! You're a successful gardener already!! Very beautiful, lush... It is addictive - I just want to stay home and work in the garden all the time now. Check out the book "Carrots Love Tomatoes" re: companion plants. I'm going to plant nasturtiums too - good for warding off pests.

StephLove said...

Wow, considering it's your first year really gardening you really went to town. It looks like it's thriving.

My experience with cucumbers is there's a long wait, then a few, then BAM! cukes galore for a month or two, but that's in Maryland--you will probably have a longer growing season.