Container Gardening 2017 – Herbs and lemons

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Hi all! I realized I haven’t shared anything about container gardening in a while, and I wanted to quickly share with you some of the things that I’m growing this summer:

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I have two of these planter boxes on legs. One of them is dedicated solely to basil. Lots and lots of basil. I have three plants that are doing quite well. I use it in so many things: salads, risotto, and Caprese salads (versions 1 and 2 here).

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I also have some mint growing, which methinks will be excellent in some mojitos. There’s also some parsley growing in this planter box, but it was pretty wilted and sad looking when I was taking the pictures.

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My Meyer lemon tree has been doing really well, too! I got it last spring as a 2 year old tree from Four Winds Growers. It spends the cooler months in our guest bedroom, which fortunately gets a lot of southern light. Once things warm up, I move it out onto our front porch (if you can call it that), where it thrives in the heat and sunlight.

It has flowered a couple of times. The first time, last summer, a couple of small lemons even set. Unfortunately, when I was away at a conference, things took a turn for the worse and the lemons dried up and fell off. Very sad.

It flowered again this spring, and two more lemons ended up setting.

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Sadly, since taking these pictures, the smaller of the two lemons died and fell off. Very disappointing. But the larger lemon is still hanging on. Fingers crossed that it makes it.

Since moving the tree outside, I’ve been battling with some pests. In the near future I’ll show you how I’ve been handling them. Stay tuned!

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Kicking off the 2013 Container Gardening Season

It’s that time of year again: time to plant your gardens!!  I’ve scaled things back a bit this year.  Last summer Sean complained that we had a jungle growing on our balcony.  As a result, I have only planted two tomato plants and some herbs.  The herbs (lavender, dill, rosemary, parsley, mint, and basil) are in these cool gardening tables that I got from Walmart.photo 1 (30)

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I’ll be moving the lemon and avocado trees outside shortly as well, and will give you an update on them when that time comes.  In the mean time, and I know that this isn’t exactly gardening-related, but it does share the balcony with my garden.

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We got an awesome new grill and have been enjoying it immensely.  Expect to see more than a few recipes for grilled foods this spring and summer!

Gardening Update: Trees and peppers

A couple of months ago, Sean bought me a Dwarf Avocado Tree for my birthday!!  This is definitely one of the coolest birthday gifts I’ve ever received.  Though it hasn’t flowered yet (I’ll have to wait until next spring for this, most likely), the tree itself has grown quite a bit.  It’s taller, and has plenty of new leaves.

The lemon tree has grown quite a bit, as well!  Even Maeby took an interest in it today.

I’m also pleased to report that after basically the entire summer, my bell pepper plants are beginning to produce fruit! 

Those pictures were taken a few weeks ago.  Check out how they’re doing now!!

 
It must have been the cooler weather (and by “cooler” I mean high 80’s-low 90’s as opposed to triple digit temperatures) that prompted the growth of these peppers. 


It hasn’t been a complete success story around here, however.  My Better Bush tomatoes have essentially crapped out, the cilantro bit the dust months ago, and the Zebra Green tomato plant my dad gave me has never produced fruit.  It’s covered with flowers, but they shrivel and fall off, stem and all, before fruit can set.  You can’t win ’em all, I suppose.

Anyway, that’s how things are going around here.  Has anyone else been doing any gardening this summer?  How have your plants fared?   

Keep Pests from Munching on Your Plants, the Natural Way

Hello everyone!  For a while there, an as-of-yet-unidentified pest was eating my bell pepper plant’s leaves.  Not wanting to use some sort of chemicals to keep insects away (Maeby likes to lick the water off of my plants’ leaves), I searched for a less toxic solution.  As it turns out, a little Epsom salts and water in a spray bottle does the trick.  Mix 1-2 tsp of Epsom salts with some lukewarm water, shake, and spritz away.  You don’t need to soak the leaves, and you don’t need to do it every day, but it does seem to help!  My bell pepper plant is growing like crazy, and whatever was eating it before seems to have been repelled.  

 
See?  Growing like crazy.  There are no peppers on it just yet, but there are flowers, and I’m hoping that this little green nub is the start of a pepper.  
 
Does anyone have any thoughts?  I’ve never grown peppers before, so I’m not sure what it looks like when the fruit starts to set.
 
The rest of my little container garden is flourishing, as well.  It’s starting to feel like summer in Baltimore, with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, which I’m pretty sure has helped.  
 
My Meyer lemon tree, while still more of a twig than anything, has grown so much that it now needs to be supported by a wooden skewer and some twist ties.
 
As usual, the basil is flourishing, and my tomato plants are out of control.  
Both plants have a lot of green fruit, but the Better Bush has a red one on the vine.  AND…
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I was able to pick my first tomatoes yesterday!!  They don’t know it yet, but later today they’ll be turned into a Caprese salad, along with some fresh mozzarella that I picked up at the farmer’s market today and some of my basil.
 
I’m hoping that these will be just the first of many more tomatoes that we get to enjoy this summer.  And judging by the amount of flowers on each of the plants, we’ll soon have more than we know what to do with.  

How to hand-pollinate tomato plants + garden update

Hi everyone!  No real substantial updates on my container garden since I last posted about it (here and here), but things are certainly growing!  My Better Bush tomatoes are growing larger, and some other smaller tomatoes have started growing on the plant, too.
My Husky Cherry Red tomatoes (bottom left picture) have started producing some little tomatoes, as well.  And as you can see, the both of the plants themselves are getting bigger.  My cherry tomatoes were out of control big last year, so I’m just waiting for the explosion to happen.
The red bell peppers (left) are looking less sad and droopy, and have grown quite a bit.  Still no flowers on it, though.  The Meyer lemon tree (right) is still looking more like a twig than a tree.  However, it doesn’t appear to be dying or anything… so I take that as a good sign!  
Alright, now onto a short tutorial on how to hand-pollinate your tomato plants: I wanted to share this with you all, since I spent about a month last summer wondering why my tomato plant was covered in flowers, but wouldn’t produce fruit before doing some Googling and finding the answer.  If you’re like me, and are growing in an urban area, it is likely that you won’t have many insects capable of pollinating your plants in the environment.  This can be a problem if you’d like your tomato plants to start bearing fruit.  
 
Luckily, the solution is very simple and takes next to no effort on your part.  You will need one tool: a cheap, electric toothbrush.
I’d recommend buying a new toothbrush solely for this purpose.  Take a look at all of the pollen covering this one, and you’ll see what I mean.

All you have to do is wait for your plants to start producing flowers.  Place the bristles of the toothbrush on the stems of the flowers (not on the flowers themselves), and turn it on.  This will cause the flowers to vibrate and release pollen, similar to how a bumblebee would help to  fertilize the flowers by causing them to vibrate.  You only need to vibrate the flowers for a few seconds.

And that’s it!  Just take your electric toothbrush with you and hand-pollinate the flowers whenever you visit your garden.  I’ve read some accounts that recommend hand-pollinating in the morning, which I tend to do.  Although I’m not sure it makes that much of a difference, since sometimes I tend to forget to do it, and end up hand-pollinating at some other time of day.  
 
After you’ve begun hand-pollinating your plants, keep an eye out for tiny little green tomatoes that will start to grow from inside the flower!  I’ve read that a similar process can be employed when growing bell peppers.  Since my plant doesn’t have flowers yet, I’ll have to wait to try it out.  I’ll keep you posted, though!
 
Happy gardening!

More gardening + an easy DIY project

Hello everyone!  Over the weekend I was able to get the rest of my container garden planted.  I added some:
Husky Cherry Red Tomatoes
Chocolate Mint
Red Bell Peppers (looking a little droopy here…)
Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree!!!   Admittedly, it doesn’t look quite how I’d expected…  But it’s still exciting!
This is how my balcony looks, complete with dog bed and potty patch!

And now for the easy DIY project…  Like so many wonderful projects, this one was inspired by something that I saw on Pinterest.  I’ve seen a few different pins from different websites (this is an example).  Basically, all you do is gather up some wine corks, write the names of your different herbs and veggies on them, spear them with a wooden skewer, and stick ’em in the pots!  Cute, right?  I have them in all of my pots.  I think that they’re pretty adorable.

Happy gardening! =)

Adventures in Container Gardening

The idea of being able to grow my own vegetables and herbs is very appealing to me.  Unfortunately, living in an apartment in an urban area isn’t exactly conducive to gardening.  Or so I thought.  Little did I know that you can grow a wide variety of vegetables  in containers on your porch/patio/balcony.


I’m really happy that this is the case, because I really like growing my own herbs and whatnot.  I started growing basil and parsley during the summers when I was in college, and just last summer tried my hand at cherry tomatoes.  It was a pretty successful venture, and as a result, I’ve decided to branch out a bit and try my hand at growing some new things.


A disclaimer: Now, I do not profess to be some sort of expert in this area. Any of my successes can be attributed to some combination of: 1) luck; 2) fortuitous Googling; and 3) good advice from my Dad. However, I still wanted to share with you some of my adventures and misadventures in container gardening.

Oh, also, I don’t have enough confidence in my gardening abilities just yet to start my plants from seed. I cheat a bit and go pick up the plants from Lowe’s or Walmart. 

What I’ll be growing this spring/summer:

Herbs
Basil (LOTS of it)
Flat leaf parsley
Rosemary
Cilantro

Vegetables
Husky Cherry Red tomatoes
Better Bush tomatoes
Bell peppers (still looking for these in stores!)

This is what I’m working with.  Nothing too fancy.
I decided to fill my flower box with basil this year rather than pansies or petunias or something.  Can’t wait for this to start growing out of control.  I have so many recipes that use tons of basil bookmarked.
Rosemary, with too much soil
in the pot.  Whoops.
Parsley (left) and cilantro (right).  Looking a
little droopy before I watered them.
Better Bush tomato plant that already has…
TINY TOMATOES ON IT!

I didn’t include a picture of my Husky Cherry Reds because I ran out of potting soil and haven’t had the chance to plant them.  Also, like I said, I’m still on the lookout for bell pepper plants.  Aaaand… as anyone who follows me or this blog on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/HeyWhoCutTheCheese) might know, I just bought a dwarf Meyer lemon tree!  It should be shipping this weekend.  Can’t wait to see what it’s like when it arrives.


Check it out: http://www.starkbros.com/products/fruit-trees/additional-fruit-trees/meyeri-lemon

But anyway, this is what I’m working with this season.  Stay tuned and I’ll try to bring you weekly updates on how my vegetables and herbs (and lemons, eventually!) are progressing, as well as some tips that I’ve found to be helpful.


What are you planning to grow this season?