Container Gardens And The Plants That Love Them

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Wishful thinking, one summer in years gone by. Warm weather, monster tomato plants on our homemade tomato cages.

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Our gallon pots that we are selling now

First, let me apologize, I fully expected to be able to continue this thread and then life got crazy! We started selling our plants much earlier than we had planned to. The Garden Expo we were camping up for was canceled due to the virus situation, and that is a third of our sales. I wish this was my “hobby” but it’s around 50% of our income so we had to scramble to figure out how we were going to overcome this serious setback. Instead of 1500 gallons, we had 3000! Thankfully, we are considered an essential business and we knew that the “new normal” would make selling a lot more difficult so we started to sell early. Everyone had been very generous and understanding. I lowered the price of my gallons by $2, they are now $8.00 and have changed the way we are getting plants to the customer. Curbside delivery, home delivery with minimum orders, appointments, social distancing, monitoring how many in a greenhouse at a time (1) husband and wife are considered as one person, if they haven’t caught it from each other at home they won’t be catching it in the greenhouse! Fun times! Apologies aside here is the long-awaited post.

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Cute little guy with impatiens. For a shade garden, small soil cavity so better for a shade garden where it won’t dry out as fast.

So far we have discussed basic tips on raised bed gardening, in-ground gardening and edible landscaping which simply means including vegetable plants in your decorative gardens. I am a big believer in container gardening, for vegetables, for flowers, and for both mixed together. Edible container gardens don’t need to be boring or plain or merely functional. In container gardens, there is a design principle that most of us learn, thrillers, fillers, and spoilers.

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For a shade garden – wax begonias, impatiens and alyssum in a “flower bed”

Thrillers are your focus plant. It is the dracaena spike, coleus, begonia, ornamental grasses anything that is a big, eye-catching focal point. In an edible container garden, it would be your tomato plant, cucumber vine, lettuce etc. Can you imagine growing carrots, with their ferny, frothy foliage in the middle of a large container surrounded by flowers? Sweet.

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Krainy Sever, a dwarf tomato with petunias and lobelia

Fillers are mid-size, mounding or rounded plants that surround your focal plant. You can use it to complement or contrast the colors of the focal plant. If it is a dappled shade garden, wax begonias, gazania, ageratum, impatiens would be good choices. Petunias, mounding lobelia, alyssum, ivy geraniums, nasturtiums, and million bells, are all good choices for plants in containers in the sun.

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Pansies and alyssum as a fluffy white skirt in a coffee pot

Spillers are plants that tumble over the sides of the container, softening the edges and providing more color. Bacopa, petunias, alyssum, trailing lobelia, sweet potato vine, ivy, are good choices.

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Salad Bowls – various lettuces in colanders with alyssum and lobelia

Light, Temperature, Nutrition
Some plants can work in partial, dappled shade, million bells, lobelia, alyssum, bacopa, petunias, and geraniums. Very versatile. This leads me to my next point: keeping in mind the various light, temperature and nutritional needs of the plants.

I would never put coleus and petunias in the same pot. Coleus, for the most part, like shade (although there are new sun-tolerant varieties coming out today), Petunias do better with more sun. Vegetables also do better with more sun. Lettuce would be a good filler or focus plant for partial sun. Tomatoes need a lot of sunshine to be prolific. anything that produces fruit, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, need a lot of energy to form it.

Think of putting drought-tolerant plants together, shade-loving plants, or sun-loving plants in the same pots. Temperature is another factor although I think of it more in terms of succession planting. Pansies and Schizanthus like cooler temperatures and lots of sun. One of my favorite combinations to plant is a tomato or lettuce plant (which also likes cooler temperatures), petunias, lobelia and alyssum. When the cool weather plants succumb to the heat, or I eat the lettuce, the petunias alyssum and lobelia take over. I can also insert other plants in their place. Two-season beauty!

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Lettuce, alyssum, and a tomato in a pot, probably a Tumbler

When choosing your vegetables for your pots, choose varieties that are developed for containers. Determinate or dwarf tomato plants, compact pepper plants, carrots that are short in length, cucumbers that don’t vine too much, squash with a more compact shape, bush beans, (if you had a large pot, you could do a pole bean and trellis it), spinach, beets. and even melons. Look for words like “compact”, “determinate”, “short vines”, “small” and “dwarf”.

The picture above shows “Small Wonder” spaghetti squash, “Spacemaster” cucumber plant and fingerling potatoes in pots. Below are carrots that I grew as an experiment in pots. They were amazing!

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Carrots in a square pot

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Sweet Reba acorn squash

“Sweet Reba” (above) is a good candidate for a large container since it is a compact plant.

Here are some good choices for vegetables:

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Coffee anyone?

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Tomatoes and flowers in a large pot

Let’s not forget herbs. Most herbs like to live in pots. Purple Basils add a nice punch to a container. Thyme would be a good spiller.

 

In the end, we are gardeners. We try everything, if it works great, if not we try again!

Here are a few pots that I have done over the years.

Revisiting The Victory Garden

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I have always enjoyed gardening. Flowers for the soul and vegetables for the belly. For me, there is nothing more soothing and joyous than picking fresh beans or squash for the supper table with a side of colorful flowers in a vase to brighten my day.

People have always gardened for food, since the beginning of time. Their goal was to feed their families. Today, we can buy any kind of produce any time of the year (thanks to worldwide markets and transportation)  in our local grocery stores. I wouldn’t say that everything tastes great but it is available. Back in the day, if. you didn’t grow, you didn’t eat.

It is important to know where your food is from and how it was grown. Poor hygiene in the fields is pretty common. Several times last year, you couldn’t eat Romaine lettuce because of some nefarious pathogens. There are many examples of this kind of thing.

If you grow your own veggies you can control what fertilizers or pesticides are used on them. You don’t need to wax them to keep them fresh. Nothing tastes as good as a sweet, juicy Sungold cherry tomato straight from the vine, warmed by the sun.  Or a crisp, crunchy cucumber you discovered hanging from a vine at the back of the row.

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During World War I, there was a food shortage. Initially called the War Garden Movement, people were encouraged to grow their own. Here is a quote from an article on the history of the Victory Garden,

“. . . advocating that civilians “Sow the seeds of victory” by planting their own vegetables, the war garden movement (as it was originally known) was spread by word of mouth through numerous women’s clubs, civic associations and chambers of commerce, which actively encouraged participation in the campaign. Amateur gardeners were provided with instruction pamphlets on how, when and where to sow, and were offered suggestions as to the best crops to plant, along with tips on preventing disease and insect infestations.” To read more click on the link:  https://www.history.com/news/americas-patriotic-victory-gardens

With our “shelter in place” orders and possible food shortages, you too can have your own garden. it is a relaxing way to spend the time. Feed your family and if you have an abundance, feed your neighbors!

You don’t need a half-acre or a large garden plot in your backyard to accomplish this. Containers are ideal for those with balconies, small patios, or small yards. The only real thing you need is at least 6 – 8 hours of sun and the ability to keep them watered. There are things you can grow even with partial sun and veggies/flowers that like cooler weather.

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This is the first in a series of posts that will help you to grow your own vegetables and flowers. I will talk about types of containers, growing in the ground, types of veggies best suited for various conditions, etc. Stay tuned.

You may find that after this crisis is over you will still want to grow for fun!

 

Costoluto Genovese and Costoluto Fiorintino: Old Heirloom Tomatoes from Italy

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Costoluto Genovese The fluted, old Italian favorite that has been around since the early 19th century. Fruit is rather flattened and quite attractive with its deep ribbing. This variety is a standard in Italy for both fresh eating and preserving, and known for its intensely flavorful, deep red flesh. They were also one of the varieties planted at Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello in 1809.

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Costoluto Fiorentino Heavily ribbed (costoluta) flat Italian heirloom beefsteak type from Florence. Red, 12-16 ounces slightly flattened fruit. Outstanding taste. Large, vigorous, indeterminate plant with good production. Similar to Costoluto Genovese but slightly flatter and higher-yielding.

Costoluto refers to the distinct flattened, heavily-ribbed shape of various Italian heirlooms. Both of these tomatoes are shaped like this. some of my customers don’t like the ribbing but I think it is pretty and the taste is good. There is a reason these are heirlooms!

Both these pics are from my garden the year that I grew them.

Latah, Moscow, Sandpoint, and Shoshone: New Tomatoes from The Tomato Lady

We have some new tomatoes that I was just tickled to find. They were developed locally at the University of Idaho. Latah, Moscow, Sandpoint, and Shoshone, I have great expectations for these four. Here is what I found on the Snake River Seed Cooperative site. I discovered this company only just last year. I was happy to find seeds that are bred to be acclimated to our region, (although there are many microclimates in this area). I also believe in buying local whenever I can. This is what the Snake River Seed Cooperative has to say about themselves and their seeds (the short version):

“Snake River Seed Cooperative is a collective of family farmers in the Intermountain West who work together to produce a wide diversity of locally-adapted seeds.”

 

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LATAH Early, productive, and yummy variety bred by University of Idaho–perfect for containers! Latah county growers Kelly and Russell Kingsland grow this little gem, and they offer this description: Compact determinate. Bred at UI (in Latah County), Latah is well suited to Idaho’s cooler nights and relatively short growing season. A prolific producer of 2-3 oz, delicious well balanced, red fruits with good texture.

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MOSCOW The largest of the U of I bred tomatoes. Good slicer and canning tomato. Not the earliest of the U of I bred tomatoes, but certainly the largest. Big, indeterminate plants spit out dozens of large, 4-5″ red fruits good for slicing and canning. Almost lost to the ether but for a Utah gardener who kept it as his main canning tomato.

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SANDPOINT The smallest and earliest of Idaho bred varieties…great for containers! Extremely early variety bred by the U of Idaho in the 1960s. Small fruits range from cherries to saladette size, on very compact plants–excellent for containers, and for short-season areas.

Want a bumper crop of tomatoes? Listen to this guy

SHOSHONE Early-ripening Idaho-bred tomato! Compact plants with lots of round red fruits! Of all the varieties bred by the U of ID in the 1960s, Shoshone tied for the earliest harvest and blew the standard early-ripening varieties out of the water for taste, compact plant size, and productivity. Excellent for containers and small spaces. Fruits vary in size from cherry to large saladette tomato.

Keep in mind that I haven’t grown these yet in my garden so these aren’t my pictures. They are ones that I found in doing an internet search. Next year they will be my own. I love taking lots of pictures of everything I grow. Most of them I am pretty proud of.

I hope that these varieties will help some of my more northern customers be more successful with their tomatoes.

Got Tomatoes??? Our First Picking of the Year

Here is a picture of our first picking this summer. Sungold, Sweet Treats, Sweet Baby Girl, Blue Creme Berries, Rose Quartz and one Brad’s Atomic (it’s the metallic looking one). We also picked our first cucumber from our Spacemaster in a container.

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Brad’s Atomic Grape cherry tomato

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Various cherry tomatoes picked July 20, 2019

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Spacemaster space saver bush tomato

The Never Ending Job Of The Tomato Lady – Good Thing It’s A Labor Of LOVE!

I just finished up the second wave of tomato plants yesterday, March 25th.  n 4 days, I transplanted 4289 little guys. Couple that with 1480 plants destined for gallons, that brings me to 6769 plants. I will be seeding a third wave, almost exclusively early and cherry varieties, including a few more Sungolds. Those will be for after Garden Expo when we usually are out of these plants. In this area, everyone wants a short season variety or a cherry, which in my book are a usually shorter season than the big, later season heirlooms.

My suggestion for those who live in Deer Park and other short, short season areas is to buy the plants you want in a gallon size. They are almost 2 months more mature and will produce sooner than the same in a smaller pot, even if they are almost physically the same size. That is the only way I can get Pink Brandywines here (and they are delectable).

Tomorrow I start on flowers. We had to put up another temporary greenhouse to house them. One of these days I will do a post about how we construct our greenhouses. We recycle and reuse!

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Stump of the World/Big Ben: What’s In A Name? Another New Offering For 2019 From The Tomato Lady

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Introduced by the late Ben Quisenberry, Ohio. this is an indeterminate, potato leaf plant producing a good yield of large, 1 lb., dark pink, meaty tomatoes. Small seed cavity. The variety was part of the Ben Quisenberry Collection, which also contributed the variety Brandywine. Stump of the World also known by some as Big Ben, is a bit smaller and more productive than Brandywine, but like Brandywine, offers outstandingly rich flavor An historic and VERY popular variety for marketplace appeal.

The name: one theory is that this variety was named by Ben Quisenberry after a bible reference, as Ben was a very spiritual man. The speculation is that the ‘Stump’ being referred to is the stump or root of Jesse in the bible.

In my research on this tomato, I found an interesting article written by The Seed Savers Exchange on the background of this tomato name. the link is below.

http://blog.seedsavers.org/blog/tomato-tasting-winners

Whatever the origin, I truly do love the Brandywines and am always anxious to try others by Mr. Quisenberry. He was a legendary seedsman.

Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato – The Tomato Lady’s New Offering 2019

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This is a gorgeous tomato. I am not of the camp that says “if it’s not red, it’s not a tomato”. If it has stripes or blotches or is an unusual color, I will grow it. Or at least try it.

This is an introduction from Wild Boar Farms and it won “best in show” at the 2017 National Heirloom Expo.

Elongated, large cherries in clusters. The color is a full-blown assault on the senses—lavender and purple stripes, turning to technicolor olive-green, red, and brown/blue stripes when fully ripe. The flavor is supposed to be sweet. It sure is pretty!

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These range some in size from a large grape to plum-sized.

I always read the reviews before I purchase new seed. It reminded me how every year is different due to weather, what you put in your beds to condition the soil when you plant etc. The only tomato I have found to be 95% delicious and flavorful all the time is the Sungold. I will grow the same tomato three years in a row and will love it 2 out 3 years. I will recommend a certain tomato and 5 out or 7 people will love it and the others won’t. Until they plant it again.

The reviews range from too sweet, too bland, not sweet enough, prolific, only got 3 tomatoes, brought them in by the basket, most were yellow, absolutely gorgeous colors, plant wilted but recovered, plant became a monster, won’t ever grow again to it’s on my rotation now every year. Go figure.

I always try to give a variety 3 years due to the variables in growing plants. I am excited about this one. Other striped/wild markings such as Chocolate Sprinkles, Blush, and the green Lucky Tiger, I loved. The red Lucky Tiger? Not so much.

I think we all need to live a little and try new things. After all, that’s how I found the lovely, luscious, ever-present in my garden, Sungold.

Momotaro Tomato – Japanese Variety

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I am going to start posting my new tomato offerings for you to see. This one was one I had never heard of and a customer requested it last year. Interestingly enough, I don’t normally think of Japanese cuisine when I think of tomatoes. Who knew?

Momotaro Tomato (F1) is the most popular fresh tomato in Japan. Here in the US, it is marketed as “Tough Boy”. Deep pink, with green shoulders around the stem, these 6 – 7 oz. tomatoes are sweet with a delightful refined flavor and a little bit of tang.

Noted for crack resistance, holding quality, and Verticillium, Fusarium and nematode resistance.

This tomato has some wonderful characteristics and I am happy to offer it under the original name which refers to a hero in Japanese folklore.