Saturday, June 18, 2011

How the Contrary Garden

When we lived in Tennessee we had a large vegetable garden and I loved it!  At least I did until the weeds started growing, the bugs moved in, the crows ate most of my corn, and the weather got so hot and humid that all I wanted to do was sit inside in the air conditioning. Come to think about it, that means I only loved gardening in March and April. :)

Then we moved to this house-on-the-hill in Ohio. "Oh look! There's no place to put a vegetable garden," I murmured. "Too bad!"

I wasn't too grieved.

But the gardening bug bit me again a few years ago and I said the same words only in a more mournful tone. Now I really was grieved. To compensate for the lack of a garden plot I decided to container garden. The funny thing was, I had the perfect container sitting on my picnic table already and it was growing pansies. It wasn't until I got this book from the library a few months ago that it dawned on me that I had owned a self-watering container for many years. Whaddaya know? It could grow more than flowers! Duh!

I set out to obtain more of this type of container. I found a large one called "Patio Pickers Raised Garden Kit" at Lowe's and bought the last one. (The manufacturer also markets it through Home Depot with the slightly different name of "City Picker" as can be seen here. It's the same thing as the one I purchased locally from the competitor.)

This system is fantastic! Step-by-step instructions are included in the kit and I followed them to.the.letter. I set my "picker" on the deck right before Mother's Day, bought one tomato plant, four broccoli plants, one pepper plant, and got to work on my experiment. In the former pansy-containing container I planted a crop of leaf lettuce.

Things progressed nicely once the squirrels took the hint and stopped burying nuts in the lettuce! (They were so used to having the receptacle at their disposal they couldn't stop planting their own crop of acorns. I guess the squirrels are smarter than I am, but don't tell 'em I said so!)

One month later, my "picker" had a tall blossom-laden tomato plant, huge broccoli plants with heads in various stages of growth, and a pepper growing on the pepper plant.

My garden on the morning of June 10th

A head of broccoli

Leaf lettuce and herbs

My leaf lettuce was growing well and some of it (the ones the squirrels thinned out of the main box) were transplanted into separate pots.  I also have parsley and rosemary growing, but one of the things that I learned from the library book is that herbs do not like "self-watering" pots. They do better in the traditional type.  I started some cucumbers from seed in anticipation of transplanting into the self-watering planters once the lettuce and broccoli are picked.

Cucumber plants just waiting their turn

Then the unexpected happened!  Last Friday afternoon (the same day the pictures above were taken) we had a massive storm come through our area.  Not only did it come, but it liked our area so much that it decided to hand around awhile.  It stalled long enough to dump about 4 inches of rain and several volleys of hail in various sizes on us.

Round 1 wasn't so bad.  We got some small hail that did no damage.  In fact, we were getting ready to leave for VBS and thought we'd weathered the worst.  The sun didn't actually shine, but the sky lightened significantly and we naively got in the car and headed for the church.  Mistake!!!!  We weren't but about 1/2 mile up the road when Round 2 struck.  It packed a wallop as it pummelled us with water and hail.  The Bear and I saw a business get struck by lightening.

I really wasn't thinking about my little garden at that moment.  I checked it when I got home and found it in shambles.  If I'd had any sense of what was going to happen I would probably have wheeled the planter into the house and let it take its chances with Pepper (who would've been hiding under The Bear's bed anyway as she always does during a thunder storm!).
The garden after the storm

I spent a few days cleaning up the mess and surveying the damages. Things were not as bad as first feared. The box was deep enough to keep the roots held deeply in the soil. Once the broken foliage was removed life in the planters went on as usual.

Some of the lettuce, broccoli, and parsley for a salad

Thursday I picked the largest of the broccoli heads and cut most of the lettuce.  I left some of the lettuce roots for a second crop but pulled the rest to make room for a couple of the surviving cucumber plants.  I replaced the broccoli with a tomato plant that my dad gave me.

I am so impressed by the self-watering container gardening system that am thinking of a do-it-yourself project of making my own. I found directions (here) on the Urban Organic Gardener blog that look very interesting! We have several buckets and deli containers that would work really well.

Or here is a similar idea designed by Lifehacker and yet another one here courtesy of re-nest for building a self-watering lettuce growing stand.

As a frugal gal, I like the idea of reusing the various containers that inevitably make their way into our home for seemingly a one-use appearance. My frugality also makes me appreciate the low cost of growing some of our own vegetables. Each head of broccoli grown saves about $2 at the grocery store. That's certainly as good as, or better than, most coupons I utilize!

And as someone who rarely misses a meal, I really appreciated how good the tender lettuce and broccoli salad tasted sprinkled with just a hint of the parsley and rosemary leaves.  Mmm-mmm! The trick is to eat it before someone else does!

Pepper is a bigger menace than the squirrels!

* Basket courtesy of my friend, Mrs. G. who made this and gave it to me with goodies from her own garden 2 summers ago!

1 comment :

  1. Glad you found a different way to revive your green thumb - so sorry it's been damaged by the storm! Enjoyed catching up on your recent posts!


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 (KJV)