Friday, September 25, 2009

My vegetable container garden windup

I know it's been ages, but garden season is just about over and it's time to start shutting her down. This year was amazing. My vegetable container garden was so much more successful then I could have hoped for. A few notes for next year.

Start earlier. I'm impatient. This is important for me to come to terms with. I don't like waiting. So I'm already starting to look at some diy cold frame designs and thinking about when, how and where I can start my seeds earlier.

Potatoes - not much I would change. They were awesome! The actual harvests weren't quite as prolific as many web readings suggested they may be, but they fed my family well and were delicious. I have just two pots left, the only veg left in my garden, and I need to use them up this week. Not sure what I want the last dish to be... probably some delicious roast potatoes to go along with the cooler weather (seriously, the weather has to cool down right? +30c in the last weeks of Sept is ridiculous!). I won't bother doing the potatoes in the bag again, the containers worked just as well. Oh I used a whole box of seed potatoes. That seemed like a good amount, although I'd like to try a few different varieties next time for fun.

Herbs - I didn't have a ton of luck with herbs. I also learned I don't use them as much as I thought. Maybe because I think of herbs in more savory hearty dishes like soups and stews, not something we have a lot of in the summer. I might play a bit with trying to grow herbs indoors this winter. Chives were great and I have lots growing around the yard. And I might do basil again. But that's probably it.

Peas - oh yummy peas! I did not have enough peas. Next year I want a big wall of peas. I did six pots worth, three of them died a mysterious early death (the 'early' batch). The last three were great and we snacked well off of them. No big dinners, but nothing beats standing in the yard munching. So I'm thinking nine containers. I did mine in two batches, one two weeks later then the first. And with our crazy weather this year I didn't find it made much difference (plus the first batch died). I'll space them 2wks apart again next year and see what happens.

Beets - fail. Okay, not a total fail, but they didn't do great. I got one dinner for six out of two large containers. I think I oversowed and under-thinned. Plus the big potato leaves covered up one of the containers so stunted the growth. I need a more square container for my own orgnization, and I will use seed tape next year so I don't have to worry about oversowing and under-thinning. And they need to be in front of the potatoes so they get enough sun.

Carrots - much of the same problems as the beets. Oversowed and under-thinned. And the giant zucchini leaves shaded them way too much. The few baby ones we got were sweet and yummy. But seed tape will be the way I go next year.

Spinach - fun early crop. We had a few good salads out of it. Will do again I think.

Lettuce - Blah. Did not like it at all. It was limp and tasteless. My sister-in-law grew some and while visiting we had a salad. It was awesome. Crisp, fresh and full of flavour. I'll have to ask what kind it was.

Peppers - the plants grew well and were a nice decorative feature in my front garden. They did actually fruit, although when we tried to eat them they were horribly bitter. I don't think I'll bother with them again.

Zucchini's - the gem of my garden. I had four plants in a large water trough, and they all did great. We ate them when they were tender little ones, and were able to keep up with the production. Not even enough for baking. Can't think of anything I'd do differently with them next year.

Tomatoes - Oh how I had high hopes for my tomatoes. My favorite vegetable of all. My boys consider them candy! And it was a dismal failure. I had eight plants in all. Six were in the Maxi Kaps, and two in their own pots. The self watering was great, although I was out there watering everything else anyways. The two cherry tomatoes we did get some good snacks from, although again we had crazy weather and they took FOREVER to ripen. The third cherry plant never produced a single one. Then I had four 'Early Girl' plants, your basic medium sized tomato. I'll give Mother Nature the blame for this one, but there was nothing early about these girls. It was late summer before they even started to look ready, and summer was almost over before I could harvest any. Which is when I discovered that the slugs had been feasting. And the little buggers couldn't just eat a whole one at a time. No. They had to go and stick their nasty little slug heads into as many tomatoes as possible. I had all of eight tomatoes. The rest went to compost. So, so, so sad. Next year, I will give a couple regular tomato plants a try, but will focus on cherries. Eight plants seemed like a good number. The little wire cages were not sufficient, especially as they wanted to climb higher and got quite heavy. I will need to do some more serious staking. And I have no idea how I will battle the slugs. So so so sad. And I need to start earlier. Again, this is where the cold frame/green house will come in handy.

My flowers were pretty successful. I need to remember to take a picture before they're all gone. My pansies looked great for a bit, but died early (I overplanted). My sweetpeas grew well, but didn't flower a ton. My cosmos also grew well, but took ages to flower. But now that they're in full flower they are stunning. My snapdragons did not work from seed at all, but when I bought seedlings, they thrived and look fantastic now. My dahlia was smothered by the pansies I planted around it. And my Scarlett Runner Beans stole the show. Easily hit 8ft, and was green and covered with flowers. The beans made an interesting view. I didn't think you could eat them, but it appears I'm wrong and especially in the UK they eat them a lot. Next year I will try some! The only problem with the plant was that it was so big, I needed extra staking (in the form of a large 10ft stake), and it blew over several times. Next year I will stake better from the beginning (a tripod style would look great), and brick the bottom of the container. The marigolds and sunflowers were a bit of a disappointment. Took forever to flower, put on a great show for a week or two then died back again.

Some other notes for next year. I need a better watering system. In the early stages it was so exciting to get out every morning, take my time watering and checking each plant. But by summer it was taking up a lot of precious time first thing in the morning. So some kind of sprinkler or other irrigation system is needed. Starting all the flowers from seed was fun, but it was hard to watch all my neighbors with their flower beds in full bloom when mine were still just sprouting. I may spend the extra money and buy seedlings so I can enjoy them much earlier.

All in all the containers worked better then I could have hoped for. For so many reasons I think they may be better then an in-ground traditional bed. Next year we should still be in this house, and I plan on doing it all over again. Right now I'm bagging up all the soil to overwinter. And next spring I will ammend it and hopefully get another year out of it.

Here are some pictures of the tomato tradgedy. All of these went into the compost. And there is another huge bunch ready for me to take down straight to the compost again. DAMN SLUGS!!!!! You can see in the background everything else is ready for me to prepare to overwinter. It looks so empty and dead back there now. I miss the lush jungle I had!


Thank you so much to those who have followed my garden journey. I hope maybe you learned something with me (even if it's just what not to do!). The days are shorter, and I'm getting back into the swing of sewing, crocheting, baking, crafting etc. With Halloween and Christmas right around the corner, I will have plenty to post about hopefully! And like I mentioned, I might try a little indoor gardening too this winter!