Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strawberries a'bloomin!

There a ton of buds on my strawberry plants, and I even have a flower! My dream of fresh strawberries may actually come true!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No more annuals!

I love flowers, I really do. But after whining publicly about not being able to grow veggies until I move into a house, I was bombarded with info from friends about growing veggies in containers.

The thing is, I don't have room on my balcony for any more big pots unless I get rid of some clematis, and I'm totally not ready to do that. I've been dreaming of having balcony rails covered in vines and blooms too long to give up on it now.


I plant annuals in my flower boxes every year, but didn't really get into it last year. My heart wasn't in it... it didn't feel fun to care for them, it just felt like a PITA.

My friend Kristi showed me that she had done veggies in a bunch of window boxes last year, and I got inspired.

After a (very minimal) amount of research, I settled on the following things to try out (scroll down for detail and pictures of each specimen):
  • Purple Tomatillos
  • Gold Nugget Tomatoes
  • Oregon Sugar Pod Peas
  • Little Fingers Carrots
  • Minnesota Midget Melons (LMAO!)
  • Plum Granny Melons (also known as Queen Anne's Pocket Melons)
  • Arikara Watermelons
If I get ANYTHING out of any of them I'll be thrilled, but I'm particularly excited about the tomatillos and tomatoes.

I purposefully made sure to only get heirloom seeds, so if I do well it'll be easy to grow the same things over and over again.

I also made sure to choose varieties that don't get very big. I'm hoping that small fruit size equates to small roots, since they'll be in such small containers.

We shall see... if nothing else, I should have some interesting foliage in each box!

Purple Tomatillos:

"A uniquely colored tomatillo that is enjoyed for the sweet yet tart flavor it gives Mexican dishes. These small fruit form inside papery husks and begin as pale green, then ripen to a rich, deep purple. Vigorous and productive plants."

Gold Nugget Tomatoes:

"An early golden cherry tomato (the earliest in our test garden). Gold Nugget produces prolifically on a compact determinate bus plant. Its fruit is sweet, flavorful and crack resistant. A colorful addition to salads and relish trays. Harvest regularly for continuing harvest. This has been the first tomato to ripen in our test garden every year that we've grown it."

Oregon Sugar Pod Peas:

"This edible-pod snow pea in not only extra sweet, but an extremely heavy yielder. Pea pods are 4-5", thick and tasty."

Little Fingers Carrots (ewww, they really do look like fingers!):

Little Fingers baby gourmet carrot has tiny tender 3- 5" roots; 1/2 inch thick; golden orange, sweet and crisp. A perfect nantes type carrot for munching or salads. Little Fingers slices easily and is also perfect whole in stir fries. Little Fingers is a wonderful carrot is so small it will work in large pots out on the patio. A perfect carrot for those with small spaces.

Minnesota Midget Melons (I have no idea why, but this name totally cracks me up):

"This very small, very early heirloom was introduced in Minnesota in 1948. Measuring just 4" across, they have sweet, orange flesh and are perfect miniature versions of the "Classic Muskmelon". Compact, 3'-4' vines, produce good yields. I fondly remember these as the only melons our family could get to ripen in Charlo, Montana, about 20 years ago."

Plum Granny Melons (oops... guess these are grown more for their fragrance than their flavor, although they are definitely edible):

"Beautiful, ornamental fruit are yellow with deep orange stripes, and only 2”-3" long! They are grown for their wonderful fragrance! These melons were very popular in Victorian gardens, and have been our most requested melon."

Arikara Watermelons:

"The earliest watermelon. A sure and prolific producer of small melons running from 7 to 12 inches in diameter with almost black skin. The pink flesh is sweet and pleasant, somewhat coarse and of fair quality. If you have trouble raising ripe watermelons, try this one."

Now it's just a matter of waiting for the seeds I ordered to arrive, and hoping I'm not planting too late in the season to get any yield.

One last thing - I noticed yesterday that my strawberry plants are setting buds! I'm actually going to have fresh strawberries that I grew on my very own! I'm so excited! Will take pics after the blossoms open.

Monday, April 20, 2009

First bloom on the hydroton African Violet

One of the three African Violets that I have in my office growing in hydroton under a plant light has a bloom. All of them are getting kind of ridiculously huge, actually. I've been asked to move, and the new office gets a lot more natural light. I'm thinking I might have to separate out these bad boys into three separate pots. They've done far better than I ever thought they would.

I decided to propagate the one that's currently blooming, since it's so pretty and I don't have one at home of that variety. I stuck a leaf in some hydroton in a tiny plastic fishbowl (available incredibly cheap online - I think I bought 12 for $6 a few years ago) and it rooted almost immediately. Just goes to show that hydroton seriously does the trick for houseplants. Big thanks to the lady who writes - without that site I doubt I'd ever have bothered trying it. (Incidentally, all my succulents seriously love hydroton, too.)

Huh. Now that I'm looking at these photos I'm unsure about whether I want to separate the plants into separate pots or not. I kind of like how they look all crammed together like they are now!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I just started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and I am totally motivated to start growing more of my own food and better supporting my local food growers. Buying locally grown food isn't hard to do around here - farmer's markets abound. Growing more of my own food is impossible until I move into a house, though, and it makes me really sad. The weather is beautiful here and I'm wanting to spend my time with my hands in the dirt.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ok, the seedlings didn't completely die. They aren't looking very happy, but I'm hoping I'll be able to nurse them back to health. Augh, that was just so stupid of me!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AUGH so mad at myself!

Tom gave me some tomato seeds. Not just any tomato seeds - these seeds are from tomatoes that his family has been growing for many, many years. One of his ancestors brought seeds with him from Italy when he came to the U.S., and his family has been saving seeds every fall and growing tomatoes every summer using the "children" of those original seeds.

So I got seeds from Tom and reserved some space in Whitney's yard for tomatoes (Whitney's yard is kind of a communal garden... but I'm the only one of her friends who gets excited about growing anything!).

I started the seeds inside under the African Violets' grow lights a month or so ago. And wouldn't you know it, I wound up with 25 seedlings in a little 4" pot.

Kevin suggested hardening them off BEFORE transplanting them into other pots. Makes total sense, right? Much easier to bring one pot outside and inside over multiple days than to have to do that with a ton of little pots.

I got home yesterday at around 5-ish and the sun was out, so I put the seedlings outside for a little bit.

And about an hour ago, realized that I never took them back inside.

How much do you want to bet that I'm going to go home to find a bunch of cold, sad, shriveled tomato seedlings on my balcony?

I'm so sad and mad at myself! I'm sure Tom has extra seedlings, so I can still try my hand at growing the tomatoes, but I wanted to grow them myself from seed so badly!

In slightly better news, my little baby cherry tree that I started from seed in mid-summer of 2007 survived its first winter outside. It's still teeny weeny and adorable, but it's covered in spring leaves!

Christmas Day

Okay, I know. I'm terrible. I haven't posted in forever. I have a good excuse, though - it's impossible to take pictures of my m...