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Posts Tagged ‘containers’

This is the part on Sprockets where we BLOOM!!

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We’ve had some chills, thrills, and most recently a little heat wave, and by now just about everything is blooming. The coriander/cilantro is going exuberantly to seed, which helps the pollinators and gives me green coriander to put in the freezer, as well as dry coriander for seed and spicing. The ‘Celeste’ sweet peas have come back for the 3rd or 4th year of self-sown glory. I tried to plant some of the lovely pink ones I seed-saved from the community garden, but no dice: all blue this year.

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Fortunately, this year’s new flower experiment, Clarkia, has come to the rescue with lots of eye-popping pink and magenta. These lovely flowers get really big and bushy, and while I scattered seeds of them in a number of places, I had to weed out some of the young clarkia that started crowding out other things. I had no idea what they’d look like, really, despite the pictures on the cover of the seed packet— thought they were MUCH smaller. But I think they’ll join the regulars in my yard, along with the old standbys of sweet peas, cornflowers, and nasturtiums.

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Speaking of cornflowers and nasturtiums, the side yard is doing very well. The nasturtiums, interestingly enough, seem to gradually self-select for one color, but it’s a *different* color in different parts of the yard. The ones along the side porch are almost always yellow. The ones by the fig tree by the driveway are gorgeously glowing orange and red. The scent of them at night is really stunning.   

The cornflowers self-seeded nicely in the same planter that I had them in last year, but this year I turned the planter sideways so that we could get more easily into the side yard. I was delighted that the snapdragons that I’d bought as a large potted plant last summer were successful at scattering their seed— these lovely snaps came up on their own in the planter. I moved both of my carnations, one from a pot and the other from the ground, into the self-watering planter as well, and they’re now thriving. When the cornflowers are about ready to give up, it will be time for zinnias. Meanwhile, in the snapdragon/carnation planter, some of that profuse confusion (profusion!) of greenery you see are Pepperbox Poppies (Renee’s Seeds) that are getting ready to lift up their heads. The sharp-eyed will spot some in the side-bed of clarkia above as well.

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These poppies are old-fashioned corn poppies, of the type we’d get for Memorial Day every year as a plastic buttoniere sold to support veterans. I’d never seen one as a real flower until these started blooming last week. I very much hope they establish themselves along the fence by the lavender, if they can compete well enough with the borage that takes over every spring. I had four-foot-tall borage out there in March, threatening to cover the lavender. I felt bad chopping it back, but put it in the compost pile to come back to the soil.

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Moving along the driveway past the little storage sheds, we come to the runner beans. Last year the Painted Lady runner beans I put at the base of one of the carport supports really took off, winding up the post and along the plastic lattice shading we have along the top. In the mild zones 7 – 9 here, runner beans will build up a nice big root mass and establish as perennials— a great permaculture foundation to build on! While I just grow them for shell beans, I’ve read that you can eat them as snap beans, use the leaves and flowers in salads, and that even the root is edible. Wish I’d known that when I dug a *humungous* runner bean root out of one of my teeny 3×3 foot beds two years ago, because growing them there shaded the whole bed. I composted it!

Of course, snails LOVE them, and will demolish young runner bean seedlings. The shoots coming up from last year’s beans were eaten down to nubs several times, and I gave up and started new ones from seed— but when the latest round of warm weather came again, there were new shoots, so now I have a double batch going up the first support, as you can see in the picture. The thicker, dark green and fuzzy shoots are from the older root.

In the middle picture, you can see the Delicata squash vine that I planted at the base of some of the supports this year. I figured, what the heck, let’s see how this works. :-)

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I’m not out of pictures by a long shot, but I’m out of oomph. Let’s close with the daylilies, thriving in the self-watering planter and clearly getting ready for a bumper crop of flowers this year. These were in regular planters last year, and never did very well, staying small. I realized they needed better moisture control than I could give them in those particular containers, so I moved half my planters from the back patio to along the side fence. The daylilies complement the neighbor’s lavender nicely. In one of the planters, I keep some space for annuals— cosmos last summer, and this spring I put in some vintage pastel stock and the lovely new ‘Sonnet’ pansies to match. They’ll go really well with the daylily colors, too. I had to pluck a LOT of snails out of that section of the planters in February and March to get those to survive, though. Apparently they’re not just an edible flower for people— slugs and snails love pansies. Just peeking up there in pink is a geranium that seeded on the ground from ones the previous neighbors had, and turned out to be JUST beyond the edge of the planters, so it got to stay.

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Welcome, Weekend Herb Blogging readers. Doesn’t that look scrumptious? A crisp, shiny rosette of tsa tsoi, a tangy Chinese green that makes excellent stir fry material.

The best part is that I’m getting these delicious winter greens with almost no work, and I won’t be composting them or digging out the planters to refill them with dirt for a second crop. I also don’t have to worry about scrubbing dirt out of my sink; a post-harvest rinse and I’m done. How can all this be? I’m growing them hydroponically!


A colorful head of forenschluss speckled lettuce, plus more tsa tsoi; I’d better start my next batch of seedlings, and harvest these beauties soon.

About a month ago I had an ‘aha!’ moment while cleaning up in the back yard. In an untidy pile were a bunch of 3-foot long self-watering planters, the long window-box type, sitting empty. They’re very shallow, so they’re only good for things with shallow roots. Another item that needed putting away for winter was a giant 2 cubic yard bag of perlite. It was purchased by accident when I wrote “perlite” instead of “vermiculite” on a shopping list for someone else. Wups. Perlite, though, is one of the better mediums for hydroponics. I knew that I still had a good-sized container of dry mix for hydroponics solution in my garden storage bench. A plan was born!


My favorite red mustard seedlings, about 2 weeks along, with assorted lettuces and some ruby chard. The brown is harmless algae– my fault for watering the seedlings directly from the top once. Note the handy little water level gauge built into this planter.

Now why did I have hydroponic fertilizer mix around? Some long-time readers may recall that when I lived in San Jose in 2003 and 2004, I had very little usable yard space for gardening– our rental’s sunny space was white pebble landscaping. Undaunted, and because I’d always been meaning to learn this stuff, I went out and got some hydroponic units and grew marvelous cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes, and peppers hydroponically. I’d started out buying gallon jugs of nutrient solution to dilute, but soon realized I was paying a lot for what was mostly water, and that buying dry mix would be better. A tiny bit goes a LONG way, so I still had plenty left over.


My San Jose hydroponic garden in late April 2004. Imagine everything tripled in size about 6 weeks later!

The main cloud around this hydroponics silver lining is that I don’t like using artificial nutrient mix. I want to try doing hydroponics on filtered compost tea– it should work just as well as the mix, as long as I dust some greensand into the perlite for extra minerals. I’ll try that in the spring, or next fall, now that I have a baseline to work from and compare.

Self-watering planters are a really excellent choice for lettuce and greens, as so much of the plant is dependent on abundant water to grow crisp and strong. Even if you don’t try hydroponics, it’s worth putting some lettuce or stir-fry greens into a self-watering planter and letting them party on. You’ll usually see a noticeable improvment in growth vs typical ground soil conditions.

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