Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Garden 2011

  1. I am in environmental management. in Texas.
  2. I have signed petitions to bring back "Firefly" and "Deadwood".
  3. I voted for a democratic governor in a red state.
  4. I take try to take pictures of 3-inch birds with small lenses at long distances.

In other words, I am not new to the occasional exercise in futility. In that same sense of defiance in the face of reason, I have begun my yearly garden.

First Harvest
Bounty from Last Year's Garden.

Every year I drive to the garden store with great purpose, consider the right mixture of soils, top bedding, and containers, thread my way through the throngs of garden workers and socialite gardeners, and carefully select a mix of vegetables and herbs to populate my balcony garden.

I then spend the next 6-8 months doing my very best to kill the lot of them[0].

Last year, however, I gave up more archaic methods [1] and decided to do what any reasonable person would do in attempting to cultivate and/or despoil the natural environment.
I decided to employ Science[2].

Building a Better Bucket - creating 5 gallon containers for last year's garden.

And to my utter amazement, it worked. I moved large plants to 5 gallon prepared buckets with drainage holes and different substrate layers. I experimented with fertilizer and added supports. And it came so very close to working well, in some cases it actually brushed up against success. The up side of this is that I have managed to grow things that:

  • Shouldn't be able to be grown at this latitude (Hops)
  • Shouldn't be able to be grown as perennials (some pepper plants)
  • Should be able to be grown, unless it's by me. (everything that didn't die)

My hops were an especially happy success, actually producing a good harvest the first year[3]. My habanero plant was another standout, producing bags of peppers[4]. As usual, the mints continued to do well.

1-9424Cascade HopsPeppers
Hop Vines run Amok, Cascade Hops (1st harvest), Peppers!

The real disappointments were some of the more delicate herbs (Lavender, dill, etc) and the tomato plants. Damnable, damnable tomato plants. This year, I actually got them to grow to outstanding sizes. However, outside a few meager small buds[5], they didn't really produce anything. Undeterred, I have switched from finnicky heirlooms to full on mass-produced uni-crop frankenfood-esque hybrids (Patio, cluster, etc). I am determined to grow some damn tomatoes even if it means completely selling out any gardening ethics I may have [6].

More garden bounty
So, a few tomatoes made it. But that's about it. Also, though, Zuchini!

So this is the first year I have actually had a good number of plants left after the "winter", which (should have) limited how many new plants I bought. Unfortunately, it's hard to pass up the bright shiny new plants at the garden store.

The end result is that I have again spent far more money than I can hope to recoup in produce to put in the new container garden. This year's lineup is:
  • 1 Yellow Bell (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Red Bell (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Jalapeno (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Banana Pepper (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Habenero pepper (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Chili pepper (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Star Jasmine (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Tomatillo
  • 1 Poblano pepper
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 1 Cayenne pepper
  • 1 Peanut Plant
  • 1 Zuchini
  • 1 Summer Squash
  • 2 Patio Tomatoes
  • 1 Cluster Tomato
  • 1 Cherry Tomato
  • 1 Nugget Hops
  • 1 Cascade Hops
  • 1 Peppermint
  • 1 Chocolate Mint
  • 1 Sweet Basil
  • 1 Lemon Balm
  • 1 Rosemary (veteran from last year)
  • 1 Aloe
Garden 2011Garden 2011Garden 2011
Wide-angle (by necessity) views of the 2011 garden.

Add to that about 15 spider plants of varying sizes and one small palm, and it makes for a crowded balcony.

We'll see how the season progresses.

Bare Earth
My prediction.


[0] the plants, not the socialite gardeners. Yet.
[1] the farmer's almanac, prayers to the gods of the harvest, blood offerings, etc.
[2] Please note, this use of the term "science" should be considered to refer to exceptionally broad subsets of science. Results, and your personal assessment, may vary.
[3] Hops aren't supposed to grow south of the 30th, and not well in containers. Mine were such beasts that they zigzagged back and forth to lengths well in excess of 15-20 feet, and produced several bags of good hops.
[4] Unfortunately, given the heat of this pepper, 1 is usually more than enough for a spicy dish, so I have a few hundred extra. Anyone want some? I'm totally serious. They are death peppers, though. You have been warned.
[5] One of the heirlooms did produce a couple small tomatoes...which were set upon instantly by birds. I caught on in the act, but in demonstration of the competing natures of the gardener (kill the non-beneficials!) and the naturalist ("oh hey look, that thing is alive. cool") I was unsure whether to shoo it away, or get a picture because it was a mockingbird in a variant plumage I had not seen previously. I shooed it away, with my camera.
[6] Rest assured I am not really giving up my gardening ethics. To give something up, you must have them to begin with. My gardening philosophy is decidedly Darwinian.


Vincent said...

You can't buy a promotion at Pizza Hut with tomatoes, Justin

JMBower said...

I ascribe to the Scarface school of gardening.

First jyou get tha' tomatoe... then jyou get tha' power....then jyou get...tha' women.

or something.

Joel said...

Maybe you should try one of those hanging things for tomatoes. I think it's called the Topsy Turvy? Something like that? My former neighbor, Porch Pots Lady, had one and there were huge tomatoes hanging off of it all summer long.