In the article Growing Sugar Snap Peas in a Container, I commented on the variety I selected being cold tolerant down to 28 degrees. I inadvertently tested that claim. I have the peas growing in 12" x 18" grow-boxes on the patio. I cover them with gardening fabric at night. Well, I took off for the evening without covering the peas. A fast moving snow storm rolled in and dumped three inches of snow on the ground - including my patio. The peas sat in the dark under that cold blanket of snow for four hours before I got home. I looked at the snow covered peas and was sure it was colder than 28 degrees and that I had killed them. I quickly brushed the snow off the peas and covered them for the night - hoping for the best and fearing the worst. Well, the new day dawned bright but cold. After a few hours the patio had warmed up to 38 degrees. So, I took the cover off the peas to find them tall, perky and no worse for having been smothered in snow. It's wonderful to grow a vegetable plant tough enough to survive my neglect.
An early March snow storm reminded be of why I love container gardening. The last week of February I planted sugar snap peas in 5 1/2" x 12" x 18" ceder grow-boxes. I chose a variety of sugar snap peas that grow 24" tall, doesn't need to be supported and is cold tolerant down to 28 degrees. The seed package indicated the seeds would sprout in 7 to 14 days. I was hoping to do better than that so I placed two of the grow-boxes on a heated seed starting mat. I put a third grow-box on a shelf in front of a south facing window. Using the seed sprouting mat the peas were up and going in 4 days. The grow-box in the window had peas up and going in 6 days. The grow-boxes are small enough they are easy to move if necessary. Now that the peas are about 4" tall, I'll leave them outdoors and just cover them at night with gardening fabric. If we get more snow I'll move the grow-boxes onto a covered porch. I hope to be eating fresh garden peas by the middle of April.
Mother Earth News has an interesting and strightforward article on composting. Per the article "Composting mimics and intensifies nature’s recycling plan. A compost pile starts out as a diverse pile of kitchen and garden “waste.” Left alone, any of these materials would eventually decompose. But when a variety of materials are mixed together and kept moist and aerated, the process accelerates. Compost matures into what soil scientists call active organic matter: a dark, crumbly soil amendment that’s rich with beneficial fungi, bacteria and earthworms, as well as the enzymes and acids these life-forms release as they multiply."
"Adding compost to garden soil increases its water-holding capacity, invigorates the soil food web and provides a buffet of plant nutrients. Compost also contains substances that enhance plants’ ability to respond to challenges from insects and diseases."
The article cleared up many misconceptions I had about composting - laying out the information in the following 10 facts.
1. Balancing ingredients is optional.
2. Good compost can be either hot or cold.
3. Small or large - any size pile will work just fine.
4. Turning compost is optional.
5. You can gauge the moisture level of your compost pile by its fragrance.
6. Compost need not be a secret.
7. You can compost diseased or weedy plants.
8. With a worm bin, you can even compost indoors.
9. You can safely compost livestock manure.
10. There are good uses for immature compost.
That's a pretty nice looking sandwich, even if I did make it myself. Ham and cheese and fresh greens from my window box garden. I planted mixed greens about a month ago and now I have abundant greens ready to harvest. They are tasty and it is fun harvesting garden produce in the middle of February.
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The national media is picking up on the container gardening trend. Yahoo's "This Could Be Big" is featuring this article about growing salad greens in a window box. The article includes a fun video. Here's the link.
First pass under a rumbling elevated subway and then walk up five flights of stairs, there you'll find a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables growing in an apartment window. Chives, red leaf lettuce, sage, basil, even strawberries, all growing above each other and next to each other like Hollywood squares.
A Windowfarm is a vertical hydroponic farm that's set up in a window and can grow certain fruits, vegetables and herbs year round based on the season, even in winter. To feed the plants, a clear plastic tube is connected to a pump on a timer that circulates a nutrient rich solution directly to your plants root systems.
I’m a momma’s boy at heart - always have been, always will be. The perks have been endless - from chocolate and vanilla pinwheel cookies as a young child to attending cheese-making classes as a pre-teen to ultimately inheriting her green thumb through years of her patient tutoring as we worked side-by-side in her vegetable garden. Though my mom passed away many years ago, the love of gardening she instilled in me continues unabated.
Most years I’ve had a large, successful garden. However, I took a break from gardening after the births of my two youngest children. I found I couldn’t maintain my large garden plot. What I had loved in the past became a source of frustration. I’d look out the kitchen window and see the garden overrun with weeds, vegetables overripe and gone to waste. I felt guilt and frustration over the waste and what might have been.
Ultimately I took out the garden plot, including my raspberry and blackberry plants. I replaced the garden plot with a large basketball court – fertile ground for two active, growing boys.
Still, my desire to garden remained. On a cold, bleak December day I decided to setup a small indoor garden. I purchased several window-box planters, potting soil and beet seed. I love beet greens and that seemed a good place to start. By late winter I was enjoying the fresh greens and my indoor garden had significantly expanded. I decided to start all my vegetable plants rather than buy started plants from the local garden center.
Much to the frustration of my spouse, my indoor garden had taken over an entire corner of the kitchen. Squash, melons, tomatoes, peas, kohlrabi and so forth were thriving under grow lights in my kitchen. Unfortunately my relationship with my spouse wasn’t thriving. She claimed to be living in fear of a DEA drug raid due to the fluorescent glow spilling out the kitchen windows.Simply put, the plants and I were booted out of the kitchen.
We moved into the garage for a short time. That didn’t really work either because the fluorescent glow moved with us. Even worse, the neighbors could see “green things” growing in the garage. There was no choice but to move my not so little garden outdoors. But how? I had no garden plot. Even if I had, the ground was far to cold for planting. The solution was containers – a container garden. The roots of the plants would be safely above the cold ground and I could cover the containers to keep the plants sufficiently warm and to give them time to condition to a life outdoors.
I quickly started acquiring and building garden containers. I purchased raised bed garden soil in bulk. Soon my garden was outdoors and thriving and I had discovered gardening in a way that fit with raising two young and very active boys.
The kids loved working with me in the container garden. We made labels for each container. Watering was easy and weeding was almost non-existent. The container garden expanded to include strawberries, blueberries, Jerusalem artichokes, cucumbers, beets and many other plants.
Harvesting was a breeze and became second nature. The boys would stop playing ball to pick and eat the strawberries. They would come into the house with cucumbers and “baby” carrots and beets. Most importantly, the boys enjoy gardening, eating the fresh produce and learning self-reliance skills. And for me… I’m grateful for a mom that grew a boy into a man.