About gDonna
The photo is my son and myself. Now days you can get a photo made to look old like this one. This photo was taken when this was the new look.

Harry S Truman was president when I was born and world war II had ended. I grew up in a time when lunch was put in a brown paper bag and a sandwich was wrapped with wax paper. There was no such thing as pantyhose, we wore stockings that attached to the rubbery clippy things that attached to the girdle. Convenience stores were not common and when we took a trip we packed a picnic basket because many places did not have fast food. Highways had places to pull over and stop, some with picnic tables. Read more ....

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Container garden tips and Growing Right Now

March 12, 2019

It is that time of year for planting so I am doing another garden post.

Our backyard has been through so many transformations it makes my head spin. This was many years ago when we were younger and we had started experimenting with raised beds and planting in the ground and growing in hay and most anything to try and grow vegetables. We had a much too shady lawn and we would get a good thing going and the tree roots would find it and the next year was a problem due to the roots.

Then we started studying about permaculture.  We realized while we were learning how to grow in a shaded yard with tree root problems we thought about how we needed the type of trees that could feed us.  So we started planting fruit trees.  We had a problem with some old large pecan trees that were losing limbs on our roof and had to cut three pecan trees down leaving us two pecan trees.  We also had/have some oaks.

Due to the root problem we started experimenting with containers. This is an old bunny cage we no longer used for bunnies so we use it for growing vegetables now. At this time we have red cabbage in this cage to keep the wildlife from eating it.  If it gets too crowded I can harvest some outer leaves and use in soup or stir fry.

I plant danvers carrots most anywhere I can find a place. Danvers are a shorter fatter carrot. I use large flower pot containers, I have some in a cattle trough but mostly I grow them in large flower pots.  I like to have them growing all year if I can.  I got off track two years ago and did not do any succession planting and now I am getting back on track. I will explain the succession planting in just a bit.

I just pulled these for supper today.

I normally let the mint die off during the winter and it will normally come back in spring but not always and then I miss my mint tea.  So last year we ordered a inexpensive hoop greenhouse and kept them in the greenhouse all winter.  We pulled them out this weekend and they needed a hair cut.

They also needed feeding...

Normally when I prune I cut off just above a joint where two or more leaves are coming out but with mint I just cut it like grooming the top of a poodles head like a pom pom. Just try and round it off. 

One of the mints has some yellowed leaves and a broken pot, I may divide this one.  The mint can get thick and pretty and then suddenly it gets leggy and will start looking bad. This is why it needs pruning. There are new baby mint leaves underneath that will start emerging through the foliage and the mint normally gets round and full if kept pruned. 

If I can find a video i saw once I will post that too.

Once I trim it I side dress it with food.  I mix some home made finished compost from our food scraps and leaves and grass clippings that has turned into dirt and I mix it half and half our compost with some potting soil and some organic granular food.  Then I work it into the soil just adding a top dressing of sorts.

Like this... but most of it is under the leaves as I placed hand fulls on top of the soil in the pot.

Then water it in good. In a few days with some sunshine it will green up and straighten up again.

I also feed the other plants with the booster soil.  But this tank I am harvesting slowly so I am not feeding it.  This is the tank, or growing container that I planted too thickly.  I had mentioned in another post.  It is actually doing pretty good but it is too tangled. This is carrots and onions.  I planted too thickly and I will plant them in their own separate containers from now on.

I study all the time about gardening and I garden by trial and error. Also no matter what we do there could be a hail storm or sudden weather change or too much heat.  But we keep trying. I am trying to find ways to grow the most in a small area so vertical gardening is where I am headed.  

This is our new bean wall. A small raised bed with a lot of rich compost and food and hopefully the beans will climb up this trellis made from cattle panels. These are 8 foot cattle panels held up by metal posts. Charles bent the tops in a arch shape so when the beans reach the top, hopefully they will hang down and when they get too long we can shape them. 

I was going to place pots of beans in a row but I read about a container verses in ground growing beans and the harvest was better in the in ground beans. I don't know if this is true or not but I want beans, lots of beans this year so they are going in the ground.  Also this is further back from the main grow area so this is probably better for getting water to the beans.

We have two metal garbage cans for potting soil.  For organic store bought soil as well as our compost that is ready to use.  We actually need a third one.  We are working at a better organized composting set up as we have learned what not to do and what works better.  

We also need a third bin for composting for proper rotating.  One that is being used daily, adding in food scraps and lawn clippings etc.  One that is resting and one for finished compost. We also have to compost on our patio because of tree roots getting into our compost.  Trees will find the compost quickly, the compost pile is a magnet for tree roots.  We have had the compost pile in many spots and you may have seen post with pictures of our compost areas all lined up which we eventually had to remove due to tree roots. We finally gave up and put it on the patio. This works best for us but if you have open areas with no trees around you may not have this problem.

The trash cans work so much better with the soil for potting ready to scoop out of.

It is my belief that if we feed and water our plants correctly and give them what they need they will give us food. What is most important for container gardening is compost, compost, compost. Ask your friends and family to save their vegetable scraps and leaves and lawn scraps if you don't have enough of your own to make compost. 

The home made compost is so much better and full of earth worms and all the good microb things in the soil. If you have chickens you already know the benefits of chicken manure to making good rich compost. If we don't have chickens we can still pick up some from someone that would share with us or bagged manure.  We do not have to use manure when we are container gardening, we can use our table scrap, leaf etc finished compost that we made.

We refresh our soil we have used so it can be used again. When are first starting up we often have to use purchased soil but that can be used again if we are making our own compost and mix in some rich,fresh made finished compost. Some worm castings would be helpful too if you have some worm composting going on. We were doing that but just fell off with it and need to start that back up. Having an area, large container or bin to mix used compost with new finished compost would be helpful. To encourage worms and good things in the soil that is in the containers they also need food too so small cut up bits of cardboard and hay and mulched leaves in the pots now and then will give the worms food. Only use organic food to the containers to keep everything healthy. Sometimes I sit on the back porch and clip up leaves and hay and cardboard and small sticks and grass blades with my garden scissors into a bucket and walk around and add it to the planters. Just a little here and there. 

We don't want to compost in a container because compost heats up if it is done correctly. It is fun to learn new things and there is a lot of good information about these things on the internet.

Apple blooms, we just planted this tree.

Also we may have to help pollinate the vegetables due to the dying off of bees. Sometimes when a plant looks good but does not produce is could be a lack of pollination. You can learn how to hand pollinate on the internet.  But look for someone that is doing this successfully. We finally learned how to do it to have higher yield with squash, it can be done with a art brush or I have a small eye shadow brush that works but one way is to take a male bloom and remove the flower part and take the center male part and place it inside the female bloom.  I will find a good link for you and post it at the bottom of this post.

Just one more thing about this.  We have bees right now on our lemon tree that are pollinating but there is a decrease in the bees so just because you see bees there may not be enough. So be observant and just pay attention and watch to see if they look like there is enough. Especially with squash.

This year I am planting extra plants.  Such as the beans, we have grown beans several times in our yard but due to lack of space we have been limited. This year we hope to do much better with investing in metal panels.  This week I have planted the beans in the raised bed and then I planted some in seed cups.  

I do not do well with thinning plants so I like to just plant one seed at a time no matter how small that seed is.  They will not all germinate.  So I have extra in seeds planted in cups that have been planted at the same time the ones in the pots or raised beds were planted and should germinate at the same time.  I can use these to plant where the missing beans or other vegetables. Also I have extra in case something eats one or a hail storm comes, I have backup.  If they start getting too large for the seed cup I will plant them in a container and let them grow.

We are going to grow butternut squash this year vertically. We have grown it on the ground before and it did fair. I will have extra seeds planted in cups in case something goes wrong with a plant or a surprise frost etc.  I normally have a lot of left over seed so this year I will use some of these for extra backup plants.

I also am succession planting which I have some things planted and two weeks or so I plant again in a seed cup or a container stretching the season and yield.  Beans can be succession planted right where they are. 

Then there is succession planting such as rotating a crop when that crop is finished or does not like hot weather plant something else in it's place.  Sometimes the same plant will do well in the heat when it is younger. Lettuce will bolt quickly in the heat and also dill but if it is harvested young and succession planted it can possibly be grown under shade cloth. 

We have improved on growing lettuce with the grow cages that Charles built.  We also have had success growing lettuce in hanging baskets and snipping it off and letting it grow back.

Keeping the vegetables growing.  Know your plant to harvest time so if you plant something and it takes 60 days or 90 days to harvest, think about what you need to have planted in the seed cups to be ready to take that place.  Study how long the seed takes to germinate so you will be ready in time. 

For me growing vegetables in containers, I have now done this for years and when I am more planned about it I have waiting containers.  I purchased nursery pots in bulk off of amazon. I can have a vegetable plant in waiting to take the empty spot when one pot is removed by planning and monitoring when one plant will harvest we can be ready for something to take that spot.

Many things I never talk about on my blog because I am experimenting and if it is successful more than once then I will do it again.  This year I want to grow all I can because each year I am getting older.  Little by little friends and family are passing away.  I know way too many that are caregivers due to loved ones having dementia.  We never know what is in our future so I am trying to achieve my goals in life with much more determination. The garden brings happiness to our extended home space, it makes Charles happy too. I think you will understand more with the video link posts.

I also did more fall planting this past year and this is what got me started off better this year.  My intentions were to not plant a summer garden this year but after fall gardening and and having some food growing through winter I realized I could do more and what could be achieved with succession gardening in my containers making it a rotating garden. Then by adding the cattle panels for vertical gardening I have a much better chance of success this year.  We will see.....

This is cilantro.  It is in a hanging basket but cilantro gets tall if you do not prune it regularly and also it will bolt. This is only in a hanging container because it is close to the back door for a quick snip. I have other out in the garden in containers that i will let it get taller but still will keep it pruned or it will get out of control. So it is good to poke new seeds down in the pot ever so often so when you need to snip out the old plant a new one is already up. Also  plant some seeds in the seed cups to have a new plant ready. It also does not do well in the very hot part of the year. I move mine to a cooler area when it gets hot.

When I say out in the garden our garden is not a typical garden. Our entire backyard is a garden. I have some videos posted below to hopefully help to understand all the possibilities. 

Last year a lady came to visit with a friend of mine and she was shocked when we walked to the back yard. She stood there and said, "I would have had no idea this was back here".  We look like a typical small house on a busy street but slowly we are achieving our secret garden plans.

Each year we add a fruit tree, which means two fruit trees for pollination.  We had to replace a  peach tree that died so we did that a few weeks ago. It had been transplanted then a hurricane and it did not make it.

This weekend we completed our fruit tree planting by adding two apple trees.  So now we will do our best to keep learning about pruning, feeding and giving the trees what they need.  The main thing we have learned is if they are not producing fruit, they need food and water.  Sometimes for us it is birds eating our blooms but we were not feeding our trees properly so we are trying something new this year putting out chicken manure and pine straw and we will let you know how it worked. 

These are some tomato plants that will hopefully grow up this 8 foot trellis. Two are younger than the others and different types. Tomatoes are self pollinating so if you only want to grow one tomato plant it will pollinate.

If you look to the back left of this photo you can see the metal trellis, not the black metal arbor.  My goal this year is to grow many things vertically. I want our back yard like a food jungle, but not scary like a jungle. :) I will put another link to a very interesting back yard.

You see one of the cattle troughs on the lower right in the photo and this is filled with onions that have been planted at different times.  I have all types of onions planted because we use a lot of onions.

I thought about what do we need to plant, and what can we plant that will help us to be more sustainable. I also have onions growing in nursery containers and I use the pots the fruit trees came in.

About potatoes.  Sometimes our stored potatoes will sprout.  I was not doing a very good job keeping an eye on the potatoes.  So it is best to not leave the potatoes in the bag if they are store bought and keep them in a coolish area and check them every so often and if you see a sprout, just pull it off.

Like this. Try and catch them when they first start and this will extend your potatoes so you don't have waste. This can be store bought or home grown. Also if there is a bad spot cut it off and cook it or throw it out so it does not damage the other potatoes.

We have potatoes growing all over the yard in all kinds of buckets and containers and also in some wood tall raised beds Charles built a few years ago.  I will do a post when we harvest this year to see how we did.

Today was Monday so we ate our cubed steak, mashed potatoes with onion gravy, green beans and fresh harvested carrots.  So we actually can be eating fresh green beans, fresh potatoes, fresh onions, fresh carrots with this meal in a couple of months.  Then we can be eating our canned, frozen or dehydrated green beans, carrots, potatoes, onions etc. 

The mashed potatoes I added a chopped up spring garlic I pulled and some chopped dill. 

It is a lot of work setting up a garden but it is worth it when we know where our food comes from and how it was grown.

We will be growing many things this year such as cantaloupe, butternut squash, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, okra, lettuce, cabbage, celery, beans, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes,Peas, garlic and many herbs. Most all of it will be grown in containers except the beans. By growing vertically it is giving us more opportunity to grow more. If we find a space for pumpkin we will grow a small amount. and I have one more type of squash I would like to add if possible. I will put a link in the bottom of the type of vertical gardening we are going to do.  Then we have our blueberries, peaches, pears, figs, mulberry, lemons, satsumas, plum and possibly apples. 

Why are we trying so hard to grow so much food in containers?  All this reading and studying the 1930s and before, I now realize even more than I did before how important it is to be as sustainable with food as possible. When I get to spring weather in the diaries, they are all busy planting food. Then harvest, they are canning and preserving food but there is also seasonal food and some food is grown in spring, and summer, and fall. In some areas winter.

Many of those that lived in town still had gardens and depending on what time/era we are talking about they may have chickens and a milk cow, horse and buggy in the town they live in.

Many of them had a plot of land and they had milk cows and raised their on meat.

Charles and I live in the city on a small lot. I know it sounds like we have a bigger lot than we do with all the trees but we have worked this out to be more like a winding and twisty kind of labyrinth. It is taking time to develop but we are making progress but our goal is a backyard that is a food path.

I will close here and add the links. I hope something here will help inspire you to grow something fresh in any type of container or simply dig down into the ground and start planting seeds.

It can be fruits, vegetables or just flowers. Here are some very informative videos when you have the time to watch. Grandma Donna

Growing food in the city


Succession planting below


How to pollinate squash or other vegetables


Whimsical gardening and home


Growing and pruning mint


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