works in progress: my container garden

this spring, i’ve been working hard on a creative (?) hobby that i never thought i could even do, or would even like: vegetable gardening!!

but!!: a.) it seems to be going better than i ever dreamed it could (i thought i was a black thumb, i usually kill most of my houseplants!!)…and i’m finding it incredibly rewarding, fulfilling, creative, and fun! i think i’m actually addicted to it now! crazy! 🙂

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here’s my set-up:

our townhouse here in connecticut has a fairly large patio/garden space, as seen in the two photos below, which show the left and right sides of the patio, respectively.

the patio came good to go with some wood-framed, weathered containers that support three trellises. the foliage in these containers and on the trellises basically separate our space from that of our neighbors. all three trellises used to have clematis vines covering them, but at the end of winter, when we first moved in, some of them were looking kinda nasty and overgrown, so we hacked two of the vines down, leaving only the vines in the center. a previous tenant had planted lemon balm, rosemary, and sage in those containers as well. we left the sage in place, but took out the lemon balm and rosemary, so we could make room for more and/or different plants instead.

plants: all my plants are transplants; alas, nothing in the garden from seed this year. i started kind of late with the garden, and have been adding plants to it organically, so to speak, since roughly the end of march. i put in the strawberries and herbs first, then a lettuce, green beans, peppers and tomatoes, then several heads of different kinds of lettuce, a few peas, chard and cukes, and finally, a few random herbs and that rainbow chard, added in yesterday. i would really love to start some of my plants from seed indoors next year, when i’ll have more time to prepare and experiment.

to accommodate all the plants, and supplement the previously mentioned existent containers, i also i got 7 half-barrel wooden containers that are about 2-2.5 feet across, about 2 feet deep, several random terracotta and glazed terracotta pots, and a bunch of good organic potting soil and organic fertilizer. i obtained these containers and small pots organically, buying them as i needed them/acquired more plants and had to figure out where i was going to put them. *grin*

to help me figure everything out, i got a great book called bountiful container, by mc gee and stuckey, which has basic info on most garden veggies, herbs, fruits, and edible flowers, and how to grow them effectively/successfully in containers. it’s not the be-all, end-all gardening resource but it’s been good enough for me, thus far.

view of left side of garden

view of right side of garden

to make the garden useful for hanging out/funtimes/eating/etc., we also added an awesome white metal patio set, from CB2, some colorful beach chairs from target, a small white metal table from ikea, and a turtle sandbox for baby-girl. it’s a work in progress. i think i eventually want to get an umbrella for over the table, maybe this orange one (also) from CB2, so we don’t sizzle in the thick of summer.

speaking of baby-girl, poppy LOVES hanging out in the garden! she loves to help dig in the dirt, touch/explore all the plants, and most especially, she LOVES watering the plants (and getting wet!)! she begs me to turn on the hose, asking if we can “WAH-DEEE!!!” every time we go out there.

the garden is growing like gangbusters

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and here’s how it’s all been going so far (my random notes, not in order of planting, my mind is too scattered these days to think linearly about pretty much anything anymore!):

sweet peppers

the sweet peppers seem to be doing fairly well; there are no actual peppers yet, just some blossoms starting. they’ll be green and yellow varieties when they do bust out. when i bought them, they already had adorable baby peppers on them, but i read (in the mc gee and stuckey book) that that is bad and keeps them from being as prolific as they could be, so following their suggestion, i pinched off the original peppers and blossoms and now all the pepper plants are growing like mad and it looks like i am gonna have a huge harvest, if everything goes well. it will be interesting to see how many actually grow!

but there’s potentially bad pepper-related news: a neighborhood chipmunk has taken a liking to them. i procured an organic (castor oil-based) repellant from my local garden center, will be employing it as soon as i get a chance in an attempt to make him shoo so the peppers can hopefully literally come to fruition. *crosses fingers*

thyme, dill, and chard

the dill is a late addition to the garden, planted yesterday, i’m hoping it does ok! i planed the thyme earlier in the spring, it seems fairly happy. it was sharing space with some sage that for whatever reason, hasn’t been doing so well. still trying to figure that out, perhaps they don’t make good bedfellows? the blue ceramic pot originally had some green beans but they weren’t fairing well either, so i ripped them out. they were sharing space with a leftover chard, which i left in the pot. we’ll see how it goes; i’m hoping that the chard doesn’t kick the bucket. i’m kind of scared that this zone in the garden is somehow haunted…because unlike most of the other plants, ones in this section haven’t done as well. maybe they don’t get enough light? that doesn’t seem right, but i haven’t sussed out any other good explanation yet…

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i added the romaine and deer tongue lettuces about halfway through the spring. they are doing very well, i think. there’s a ring of chard around the outside of the romaine, i’m looking forward to eventually harvesting the chard….mmmm!

lettuces and chard

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in the existing container boxes, i planted green beans (right side), and sugar snap peas and lettuce (on the left). i harvested the lettuce yesterday (planning on eating it tonight!), and replaced it with a bit of rainbow chard this morning. the peas were an experiment; i gather they are more of a spring veggie, and i wasn’t sure if they would even work now that summer’s coming on. but lo and behold, they blossomed this past week and when i peeked at them today, i saw a pod!! i am wondering if this is because we’ve had fairly mild temps lately, in the 60s and 70s? perhaps the pea is being tricked into doing it’s thing by the weather?

peas, sage, rainbow chard

rainbow chard

green beans

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as i mentioned, one of the first things we planted was strawberries…we’ve already seen one harvest come and go. they were tiny and sweet. the second one is coming on right now…just in the earliest stages of flowering and developing fruit.

strawberries

a leftover lettuce and leftover chard that wouldn’t fit in the lettuce/chard container; we popped them in the empty end of the box on the right and if they work out, great! if not, no biggie.

some extra chard and lettuce

these cukes are also an experiment. they are the bush pickle variety, so they are not supposed to go nuts and vine like some other types, but we’ll see. hopefully i don’t have too many in one container! at any rate, they are looking pretty happy, i noticed some pretty yellow blossoms blooming on them today, so i’m guessing fruit isn’t too far behind.

bush pickles (cukes)

again, like i said, in addition to the strawberries, a bunch of different kinds of herbs were the first things i planted…basil, rosemary, parsley (curly, flatleaf), oregano, mint, thyme. good for so many things…i’ve been adding cuttings to everything. i’ve been drying some for storing in the cupboard, and i’m also planning on making some herb-infused oils and vinegars in the very near future.

mint, basil, and thyme

rosemary and oregano

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and last but not least…the tomatoes! i got some small, bush-type tomatoes, called “totem”. they don’t really need much pruning if at all and i am fairly certain they don’t need stakes, but i had a few laying around so i thought i’d give ’em some support anyway just in case. they have been doing fairly well…i noticed today that one of them, one of the oldest ones, is turning red!! so exciting!

totem patio tomatoes

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do you garden?
are you growing anything this year? if so, what?? tell me about it!

17 comments

  1. k2yhe

    I love how you’ve managed to garden without a plot of dirt. I usually plant a garden every year, but had to skip this year because of a large project in our backyard. My husband did suggest doing some container gardening, especially for herbs (which I buy all the time and end up having to throw half the bunch out because they’re so perishable), but I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, or if it would even grow. After seeing this, I’m going to do it. Thanks!

  2. Rhonda

    Hi. I’ve followed your blog for awhile but never commented but I had to laugh when I read that you had a chipmunk in your container garden! I have my first container garden this year (but I live in a fourth floor apartment)and yesterday I saw a chipmunk digging in my beans! Even caught him in the act: http://4thstoreyfarm.blogspot.com/2010/06/varmint.html

    Anyway, I enjoy your blog and your garden looks great!

  3. tricia

    k2yhe: ha! well, container gardens are totally do-able. i’ve never really had my own yard to garden with, so this is the best i think i’ll be able to do for now. i can hardly believe how well it’s going so far! i think the basic idea is the same, you just have to be vigilant about watering, amongst other things…making sure it gets water regularly but that it’s not over-watered, all that jazz. it actually has advantages…you can, in theory, move plants around to take advantage of light, etc. also i think because you’re using potting soil that’s for containers you might have better soil with less problems than if you try using soil from your yard, i.e. fewer pests, diseases, etc. herbs are the best thing, so easy to grow and much cheaper and tastier this way!

    rhonda: those little bastards! haha! determined, aren’t they??

  4. whitney

    what a lovely little patio/garden! it is so nice to have veggies and herbs right in your backyard. and they always taste so much better than anything from a grocery store! especially the dill! and tomatoes! i am getting so excited just thinking about it!

    also – i had a turtle sandbox just like that when i was little. so cute 🙂

  5. Brumby

    Last year I had a wonderful vege patch, and found it most therapeutic, but then work got in the way over summer and it all fell by the wayside. I think I managed some tomatoes and that was about it but they were so sweet and juicy!
    I would also consider myself a black thumb when it comes to indoor plants, yet outdoors I seem to have a bit of luck. Maybe you can only be one or the other, if so, I gladly take outdoors any day!

    Lovely to see Poppy again, it has being a while, my oh my how she has grown!

  6. PaperDollyGirl

    Wow, T, it looks fantastic!! You have done so much in such a short period of time. The basil looks so glossy and healthy. I have three tomato plants in containers and basil as well this year on our little patio. My plants aren’t nearly as advanced as yours. I am going away for a couple weeks, and thinking that when I get back they will be going like gangbusters.

  7. tricia

    paperdollygirl: thanks! i bet they WILL be doing great by the time you get back…basil and tomatoes LOVE hot weather, and it’s gonna be on it’s way shortly! just make sure they get watered while you’re away! 😛 (of course you probably know that! haha…!) do you fertilize your plants? i swear that helps…or has helped with all these guys. i fertilized them at the start and have been doing it semi-regularly since.

  8. Raphaelle

    I grew up with a fairly decent sized garden plot in the back yard. I’m living home again for a little while (recently got my Masters) and encouraged my parents to plant a small garden again this year. We have 4 tomato plants, 2 zucchini plants (we’ve been known to grow epic human-baby-sized zucchinis, great for stuffing), 2 bush bean plants, and a butternut squash plant. In planters on the deck we have basil, thyme, parsley and rosemary. 🙂 The butternut squash is finally blooming and there are already baby zucchinis and ‘matoes. I’m super excited!

  9. sonambula

    I took advantage of my parents’ large garden and stole a corner to use for a 4’x8′ raised bed this year. My mother put one alongside and filled hers with starter plants, but I tried planting seeds(just varieties that could be planted out directly-I definitely have a black thumb and didnt want to complicate things on my first attempt!). Between one thing and another I ended up planting really late(around the end of May I think, but here in Ireland the weather had been awful all spring..) but already I have sprouting rows of cannellini beans and peas, purple-sprouting broccoli, romanesco broccoli, cauliflower, and lots of spinach, lettuce and rocket! I was sure nothing would grow, so am totally delighted with it all.. Of course, my one failure was basil I tried to grow from seed-I think our local magpies took off with those before they had a chance. Best of luck with your crop!

  10. Pingback: !? » Gardening is a full contact sport
  11. sarah

    I grow lettuces, chards, kale, beets, carrots, peas, beans, etc. The herb garden usually consists of basil, thyme, rosemary, lavender, oregano, tarragon, sage, and marjoram. This year we’re moving, so I have to start all over again; I hope to get some raised beds put in in time to plant a winter garden.

    One thing I’ve found with sage is that, as it’s a high desert plant, you want to water it deeply – but then let it dry out. Also, your thyme might well overwhelm it in that pot; thyme can be very aggressive. And on the subject of thyme, if you tuck rocks under its branches, they really love the radiant heat and will grow very rapidly out over them.

    Regarding your chipmunk problem, have you tried putting netting over your peppers? The kind they sell to keep birds from making off with your pea shoots? I drape netting over my whole garden and lightly stake it down at the corners (otherwise those tricky little buggers will just go in under it) and it keeps out a wide range of the wildlife – from rabbits and raccoons to squirrels and birds. Plus, you can reuse it over and over, which is nice.

  12. Kristina

    I love to garden. I am having a rough time of it in Seattle. We haven’t really had a turn-over to summer yet, and my little plants are struggling. In Florida I grew tons of sweet basil and tomatoes. Here, my sweet basil looks awful, though my peppermint is super happy.

    Lovely patio!

  13. Liz

    such a winning little garden patch (and adorable ‘garden gnome’ helping you out)! The only thing I ever grew was a single lima bean, and my cat ate it right off the stem 😦

  14. Ilka

    just today i finally got around to planting a few herbs in a small pot on our balcony. we moved from having our own garden, which i loved, to living in a flat with no garden, and a tiny balcony. i have planted fennel, lemon thyme, lettuce, rocket, and parsley. apart from them i have a few little pots with different rcok roses in them, and also some aloe vera and another plant called bulbinella, which is indigenous to south africa (where we are) and is useful for bites and stings. i used both the aloe vera and the bulbinella quite often – it’s good to have them around. i laughed re your chipmunk because when we lived in london i grew some things on my windowsill – new potatoes (very rewarding by the way, they just keep on growing, and were delicious), and various herbs. But squirrels used to steal from me there! I wonder if I will have any unexpected visitors here in cape town?

  15. lisa

    What size barrel do you use for your veggies (tomatoes and others). Your garden looks really nice. I am always confused as to what size containers to use and how many seeds or seedling to put into each contatiner and how to space them especially from the edge of the container.

    thanks,

    lisa

  16. lisa

    Oh scrap the last question. I found the answer. I should have read through the entire blog before asking my question. thanks.

    lisa

  17. lisa

    After reading the entire entry and really looking at the photos, I just have to say that your garden looks so lush and full. And the tomatoes…..WOW…. so many. Usually when i see tomato plants they would have one or maybe two tomatoes. But yours is soooo cool. I made a decision to start growing my own veggies. I’m doing my research to get started. Maybe I should start with the plants first and experiment with seeds later. Oh and by the way are those half barrels made of untreated redwood. It looks like they are.