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Rainy days and container concepts

Early harvest time is here and every day brings more lettuce and spinach. And with the daily harvest comes nearly constant rain, storm after storm. While some storms are more nerve-wracking than others, being trapped indoors has led to a spike in productivity on a laundry list of new and old projects, a boon since recent work trips out of state have left no days to be lost.

But the downside of the constant rain, among other things, is hoping all the young plants don’t drown, mildews and molds don’t take hold, and plants aren’t lost to sogginess. The first bed of potatoes is in a spot that seems to hold water especially well and they are developing what looks like early signs of rust. Next year’s rotation will be a completely different lay out, living and learning as it were. But the first corn seedlings made it up and all the beans are growing except the newly planted cowpeas which may or may not rot in the ground if this weather keeps up. Half the greenhouse yield is now transplanted and the recently seeded winter squash is already starting to show. The variety planted, hoping this year isn’t another year of vine borer issues, should make for a beautiful supply of overwinter options. And in spite of all the rain, in the orchard the trees are positively dripping with fruit and the grapes are climbing and filling out beautifully.

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Though it is the season of roughage, with tomato transplanting in full swing it seemed a good time to share an excerpt from one of last year’s blog entries. Tomatoes and gardening in general last year were a completely different experience in that we did not own our home at the time and thus most of my planting was done in containers. Anyone who has rented and likes to garden knows the dilemma you face, of having only a patio and no yard at all to work with or having a yard but not wanting to be trashy and tear up your landlord’s landscaping to build a garden. However, both dilemmas are easily solved with this simple container solution, perfect for those folks in search of a simple means to grow larger vegetable plants without the availability of or desire to create a full scale garden space:

As a quick preface, I am by no means cheap. In fact, dislike all things cheap or poorly made. I would rather have a handful of high quality items than a plethora of disposables. But, with the need to reduce the cost of my steadily expanding container garden a stroke of genius hit me; five gallon buckets. They are inexpensive, tougher than most of the cheap planters these days, and ideally sized for many plants.

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The idea is simple enough, you’ll need buckets, rocks, soil, fertilizer, and a power drill. Prep your bucket by drilling out enough holes for proper drainage. You’ll need to vary this depending on rainfall in your area as you neither want tomatoes standing in soup or drying out. I find that a circular pattern of five to six holes drilled in the bottom of the bucket and a row of holes at two to three inch intervals around the outside of the bucket within an inch or two of the base works well and I am in a drought prone climate. Be sure to put a layer of rocks in the base of your bucket for additional drainage.

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The amount of soil you add will depend on the size plant you are planting. For example, when I transplant my seedlings, I fill the bucket about half of the way up and make a hole a couple inches deep for the baby plant’s roots. As it grows, I trim away leaves that would get buried and add dirt, thus creating a stronger hold and no need for later transplant. (Each of those little hairs on your tomatoes’ stems will become roots when buried giving it a very sturdy footing.) garden3post If however, I am planting a more mature transplant as I do at the first of the season because heartier, larger plants do better in the fluctuating spring temperatures, I will fill the buckets almost completely, or about three quarters of the way full depending on the size of transplant and whether or not I want to add soil after more growth. If you don’t have time for seedlings and want to just plant a few transplants, the later will apply to your planting.

As far as your soil blend goes unless you compost your own, for simplicity’s sake, go with a container ready moisture control product of your choice. With regard to fertilizers, being container grown, an initial dose of plant food is ample to start and be cautious not to add more nitrogen heavy fertilizer after that. They will produce more leaves than fruit if you do. Keep in mind one of the disadvantages of containers is that you need to fertilize more often than ground grown plants, so expect to fertilize about every couple of weeks. Phosphorus laden fertilizers are perfect for plentiful fruit, but keep the amount to a minimum. Balance is key with container gardens. Aside from fertilizing, maintenance is simple: water, prune and add cages as necessary.

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Garden photo guide: 1. Radicchio 2. Red romaine, my favorite new go-to. 3. Cabbage 4. Cauliflower 5. Broccoli 6. The sunflowers bordering the garden are up. 7. & 8. Most of the beans have survived the downpours. 9., 10. & 11. The orchard is working alive. 12. In the greenhouse, the last transplants are ready to go out. 13. Transplanting the peppers has begun. 14. Some of the tomatoes putting on.

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