What I’ve learned so far - A midsummer review
While this year’s container garden is a success by my rookie standards, I’ve made lots of mistakes, and taken lots of notes. Hopefully, I’ll remember to reread this post next year.
- Pole beans and peas need some serious trellis and will grow taller than my patio railing in no time. Without proper support, they will tangle together and fall over.
- Radishes are hard to grow in pots. Better to use that early-season space to sow some peas in the spring.
- Petunias are pretty and grow well in window boxes, unlike morning glories.
- Eggplants are finicky; they cannot be set out too early, while nights are still cold, but need to be put in ground to really start thriving. Therefore, transplant early, but protect at night.
- Tomatoes are fine and tasty, but a happy plant produces like a mofo. Consider using some of that space for something else, like summer squash (I only have one zucchini plant this summer, and I’m regretting the lack of variety).
- One never has too much basil.
What did you learn this summer?
We spent last weekend visiting with family in the Gaspésie region, and we took advantage of a beautiful day on Saturday to visit North America’s northernmost vineyard. The Carpinteri vineyard is located in Saint-Ulric, Québec, at a latitude of 48°N, and benefits from a warm microclimate and sandy soils.
The vineyard was created only a few years ago in a region better known for seafood and wind farms (you can make out wind turbines in the background). In addition to grape vines, there are cherry trees and a small greenhouse on the property.
The vineyard produces several house wines, including whites, reds and ice wine.
This weekend was the first one in a long time where I got to stay at home and [do nothing but] work in the garden and kitchen. I’ve been busy as a bee moving pots around, pulling things up and planting new seeds.
Temperatures have really started to climb, so I moved the kale, chard and lettuce to the front balcony, which gets some sun but is mostly shaded by the maple tree. I also pulled the last of the radishes and arugula; they were flowering anyways. I planted some basil, cilantro, spinach and mixed brassicas, the latter being a mix of lettuce and hotter leaves like mustard and rapini. I’m not sure it will fare great in the middle-of-summer heat, but who cares! If it’s a bust, I’ll let them go to seed, save the seeds and try again next year.
I drove down to the farmer’s market yesterday. Strawberry season is upon us! I bought 24 pints worth and hulled and froze 21 pints to ensure delicious strawberry goodness throughout the winter.
I stepped outside this morning to find two bumblebees working the garden. I tried to get a good shot, but these guys don’t stay still for long!
They seemed to be working exclusively on tomato plants, of which I have many! I love how thorough bumblebees are, always going all the way around the plant from top to bottom to make sure they’ve visited all the flowers.
Apart from herbs, lettuce is probably one the easiest things to grow in an urban container garden. Anyone with a little outdoor space can grow some! Lettuce is shade-tolerant, endures cool weather well, doesn’t require a lot of space, and grows quickly.
Don’t waste your time with transplants, just get a packet of lettuce seeds. Several companies sell mixed-seed packets, ensuring variety come harvest time.
Find a clean container. Fill it with moist soil. Sprinkle some lettuce seeds on top of the soil, and cover lightly. Place in a bright location, but remember that partial shade is preferable, especially in heat waves! Thin the seedlings out a little, but lettuce plants can grow fairly close together if you’re going to be using the leaves on a ongoing basis (“cut and grow again”). Make sure the soil is always moist—lettuce leaves are mostly water after all, so don’t let the plants go thirsty.
Once the leaves grow a decent size, snip the larger ones to use in salad and let the smaller ones grow a little more.
Ensure continuous harvest during the spring, summer and fall by sowing lettuce seeds every 2-3 weeks.
And if you have space for some larger containers: lettuce grows very well underneath larger plants, like tomatoes or peppers. The tomato plant provides shade, while the lettuce provides ground cover. Win-win!