Monday, June 3, 2013

State of the Garden 2013: "Will it just get warm already?!"

Welcome to the growing season!  I WOULD say welcome to Spring, but since mother nature has been a cruel, cruel lady this season, I am not.  I live in Chicago, and so far this spring has been a vacillation between acceptable temperatures and NOT-EVEN-CLOSE TO ACCEPTABLE temperatures.  For example, yesterday, June 2, the temperature hovered somewhere in the 40's.  That being said, so far I've been dealing with this in terms of my garden in the best ways that I can.

If you remember I commented a few months ago about Winter Gardening.  I have a few perennials that I keep indoors at all winter, and set outdoors in the summer.  However, the pride and joy of my green thumb is growing veggies during the summertime.  So around March, I start itching to get some seeds planted.  This year I managed to wait until the beginning of April.  I got a couple of pots together and planted two types of tomatoes:

Unfortunately, I mixed up the packages, and now I don't know which is which!!  I know they are completely different varieties, because there is a visible difference in their sizes, although they are the same gestation.

I also planted a couple small pots of cilantro for fun, but I never do well with cilantro, so it was basically on a whim, rather than for actual consumption!  Granted, I can eat the leaves, but I usually just get a small plant with a few weak leaves before the entire thing naturally dies.

I planted these seeds in early April, and these seedlings were about ready to be transplanted at the end of April.  However, we were having some major weather issues at this point.  Warm-Cold-Warm-Cold-Torrential Downpours-Snow-Hail, etc.  The weather was all like "Heeeey, it's beeeeautiful outside, sunny, warm, and GORGEOUS!" And I was like, "Oh hey!  Maybe I'll plant my tomatoes outside, let's look at the forecast!"  And lo and behold, the next two weeks would be only 40 degrees during the day and 30 degrees at night.  Basically, you need to wait until the threat of freezing temperatures is gone.  Finally, early May, I gave in and finally planted my little cuties outside.

So the fact that I live in the top floor of an apartment, and have nowhere to plant makes me sad.  I used to live in a house in Michigan where I had a huge garden to plant as many things as I wanted.  Since moving to Chicago, I have just used large pots to plant things.  This means that I have to make strategic decisions on what I want to grow.  Tomatoes usually win out!  I will typically plant a bunch of tomato plants in one pot them transfer them to other places so they have a little more room to grow.  But not much more.  I wholeheartedly do not give them enough space that the package recommends.  BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?  I live in a major city with no plots of land to grow, so the plants are just going to have to deal, alright?  However, this year I was lucky enough to get an actual box planter to set on my fire escape! See?

Now you can see with how much space I'm dealing with.  Not much.

Now it was time to fill this bad boy up with dirt.  Now, when planting things, it's not necessarily necessary (haha English) to buy the really expensive miracle grow planting soil.  I needed a LOT of dirt, and that crap is way overpriced.  After talking to a few sources, I settled with a combination of different materials to mix together for my plants.  Best thing about the materials I bought, is that they were cheap.  I probably paid something like 8 bucks for all of this dirt.  (PS: These can be found at any garden shop.  I got these at  Home Depot)

I started with two bags of this generic, Earthgro Potting Soil.  This is just plain dark dirt for potting plants:

This is probably the same exact thing, but I also added two bags of Scotts Topsoil.  This was marked to have peat moss mixed in (which I was looking for, but was more expensive), which I guess may help retain moisture?  Guys, I'm just a gardener flying by the seat of her pants.  I think peat moss is helpful anyway.

I rounded out my trio of dirt with two bags of manure!  Wait, wait, come back!  It's not what you think!  This is not just a bag of poo, I swear.  It doesn't smell, it looks just like dirt, and it's full of nutrients for the plants.  I don't know how they turn manure into this product, but I'm serious, it just looks like dirt!  (Your plants will love you for it!)

I mixed that ALL around in my planter, and I'm ready for planting!

I carefully transplanted a few tomatoes from each variety into the planter, as well as a strawberry plant I bought and am trying out this year.

It was tenuous there for a while, as the seedlings always HAAAAAAATE to be transplanted.  But as long as you try not to disturb the roots as much as possible, it usually works out for the best.  In the above picture, on this day I also planted some bean seeds and basil seeds in the pots on the right.  The little pink pot in the middle has chives, and the other three pots on the left are more tomato plants.

Since I planted these, I've had to bring the pots in a few times (due to frost) and cover the planter with a sheet a couple times.  Some cold air has even made some of the leaves of my tomatoes die off a bit.  Otherwise, it's doing great!  The tomatoes are going gangbusters.  Especially the day or two after the first major thunderstorm, they EXPLODED with growth.  The green beans have sprouted and are getting big, and the chives are flowering.

Tomatoes going crazy!


Basil.  I need to spread these out a bit!


More tomatoes.  You can see I've staked up the tomatoes temporarily, until I get my tomato cages up.

Even the tomatoes in the pots are doing well!

I'll be updating regularly with my "State of the Garden".  Let's hope this year is not a big disaster like last year! Thanks so much for visiting. I really appreciate everyone who reads and comments. If you like what you've seen here, please follow me on Facebook and Pinterest to receive updates.

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1 comment:

  1. Laurie, your garden is growing amazingly well considering the stop and start of spring. Looks like the plants are very happy and will be producing for a city farmer such as you! I have planted sugar snap peas and am looking forward to eating them right out of my garden. Have you considered trellis' can always grow up!!!!