Well, darn it! My camera won’t export my most recent veggie photos into iPhoto. But trust me: the garden is lookin’ good. Click on these thumbnails (twice!) for some older photos of the tiny babies…
Everything is much bigger now. I’ve thinned the chard and beets. The tiny pea plants are now pea toddlers, as it were, and are beginning to put out tendrils. I haven’t gotten around to thinning the carrots, mostly because they’re so thick it’s sorta daunting to figure out how to thin them without damaging the survivors—must do that today.
Having watched Jim’s summer-long gardening project at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, I drew a few conclusions…well, more like theories…relevant to my own craving for garden-fresh veggies.
First, I think it’s probably best to plant in the ground rather than to continue the container-gardening strategy. I’ve always liked to grow things in pots. However, plants seem to prefer being in real dirt in the real ground. In Arizona, too, you have to use a lot more water to keep a plant alive in a pot: once the weather hits about 95 degrees, you have to water every morning or your plants will fry by midafternoon. Less water is needed when plants are in the actual earth. And pots, potting soil, and the extra fertilizer needed to replace nutrients washed out by frequent watering are expensive.
Second, also related to the local weather: fall and winter seem to be the best growing seasons here. Anything leafy bolts to seed when the ambient temperature reaches about 80 degrees, which is most of the time. Between October and March, though, lettuce, chard, and spinach seem to last forever. They can take a light frost with no damage, and you can pick off enough leaves for a salad or a side dish, letting the plant continue to produce more for you through the winter and early spring. Some tomatoes will bear fruit before the frost (they hate getting cold-nipped, though, and generally die in December).
Third: grow from seed. Buying plants at the nursery quickly turns into a pricey proposition. If you get started early enough, you can get a nice healthy crop in just as the weather turns perfect. Seeds are very cheap and produce a zillion plants.
And fourth: don’t think you’re going to save much on this project. Think of it instead as a way to get especially delicious, vine-ripened produce that you know to be as chemical-free as possible. And think of it as a stress-relieving hobby that brings you some pleasure, gets you outdoors, and on the side presents you with something good to eat.
This winter’s Grand Experiment is bush peas. Casting about for a place to plant them (my yard is xeriscaped and doesn’t have many unoccupied planting beds), I realized the basin around the queen palm gets watered a couple times a week by the overflow from the Meyer lemon tree. So I excavated some holes in the gravel, digging down to the dirt, and filled the holes with commercial garden soil plus some compost from my own compost bin. Stuck a pea or two in each prepared hole. If they want to climb at all, they can go up the palm tree’s trunk. These are doing quite well today.
I still had more than half a package of peas after this, though. So I found an old plastic plant pot and filled that with the rest of the bag of garden soil I’d bought to improve the flowerbed near the pool (which now hosts chard, beets, carrots, herbs, and a tomato plant). Not ideal, but better than nothing. The ones I put in that are kind of crowded—probably also need to be thinned—but just now are doing very well. I love fresh peas! And they never show up in grocery stores any more. On the rare occasions that I’ve found them, the price is well beyond my budget. So I do hope these grow and produce. 🙂