Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Patty Pan Squash in Containers

I was in the mood for something different this year, so I figured why not try growing patty pan squash in a container. I selected 3 patty pan squash plants and put that together with 3 pickling cucumbers plants as well. Based upon how large the plants are getting, I may have overdone it but for now all are healthy-looking.
patty pan squash label
From the tag: FLYING SAUCERThis summer squash looks just like its name – a flying saucer!  The fun, star-like shape with radiating points and multi-color pattern is irresistible to kids.  It has a semi-bush growth habit and is amoung the easiest vegetables to grow.  This summer squash offers a creamy, buttery texture that I find mixes well with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, cheeses and fresh herbs.  Pick the fruits when they are about 2” in diameter and prepare like any summer squash: steam, bake roast, stuff, sauté or grill. 

The patty pan squash are growing well without much more than daily watering and liquid fertilzer every 2 weeks. I check on my baby patty pans daily to see how they are coming. There are many blossoms and a number of small squash that have appeared in the last 2 weeks.

patty pan squash

I will update as they grow larger.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dealing with Aphids

There is nothing more that I hate than garden pests trying to catch a free ride. Not only do they harm your plants but you have to make sure you don't eat them, too!

I recently had some issues with my tomato plants and I couldn't figure out why they were beginning to curl and wilt, until I flipped over the leaves. And there they were aphids all over them!

I have read that many tomato plants from the nursery will likely have an aphid trying to catch a ride on them (something I will look for next season!) I also ready that a contributing factor to my aphid kingdom is due to the fertilizer I used. Sounds like these little buggers tend to show up when using liquid fertilizer (i.e. not time-released fertilizer such as a fertilizer spike.) So as I thought I was helping my tomatoes by feeding them, it appears it is also what lead to their aphid infestation.

Fortunately having aphids is not necessarily a death sentence for your tomato plants. There are various products out there designed to kill the aphids. If you try to be a little more "green" these days I used a squirt of Dawn soap in a squirt bottle of regular water. My goal was to wet the leaves to the point of dripping and if the spray of water knocked them off their perch, so be it.

With a day or two all that was left was dried aphid bodies on the backsides of the leaves. I continue to monitor them daily and if I see any I grab my squirt bottle and attack.

It remains to be seen the outcome of my sickly tomato plants that were affected (about 2 of 14 plants) which isn't terrible if it wasn't for the fact the two varieties were heirlooms that I only had one plant of each.

Tomatoes in Containers

I love tomatoes...the more unusual the variety the better! It has been a few years since I last grew tomatoes successfully, primarily because tomatoes in pots need one thing...water! If you are too busy to water nearly every night, then find something else to grow.

I went a bit overboard this year...I have 14 tomato plants in pots. I love the uniqueness of heirloom tomatoes, so I tried to find the best varieties to grow. My primary concern was to get plants that would have normal sized tomatoes (no mortgage-lifters here!)

The plants were purchased as very small plants, Mother's Day Weekend and planted that next week, in individual pots with tomato cages. If you'd like to try your hand at making your own colorful tomato cages, view my painted tomato cage link.

tomato cages

Once all plants were in their pots I watered them for about one week. Once established I began a feeding regimen with liquid fertilzer for tomatoes. All was going well until I noticed some with wilting and curling leaves.

wilted tomatoes

After further inspection if came across APHIDS! To see how I handled it view my aphids entry.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

DIY Painted Tomato Cages

If you love tomatoes as much as I do, you have likely tried to grow your own. What I have always found frustrating is how unsightly the tomato cages are. After I came up with a unique idea, I realized it wasn't too unique as now they sell painted tomato cages at hardware stores! Ah-ha....but I won't be spending $5-$10 per cage....I'll make them myself.

Painted tomato cages are pretty easy to make, albeit a little time consuming depending upon how much of a perfectionist you are. You'll need the following to make it work:

  • tomato cages
  • spray paint primer (optional)
  • colored spray paint
  • tarp (optional, if you don't mind your grass getting paint on it, then skip it)
If you are looking for a more quality look, I recommend going the extra step and use primer as well. The finish will be smoother and the paint sticks more easily. I was rushed so I did some with and some without.

Since the bottom of the cage will be in the ground, I stuck the cage into the ground a little bit so it would stand up and I could spray it.

Prime and then paint the tomato cages and let dry. You'll need a couple coats of the color and likely you'll need to make a couple attempts as the cage has a lot of dimensions and there always seems to be another bare spot. Paint until you get the desired look.

I chose to do red, orange, and yellow primarily because I am growing tomatoes and I thought those colors would look best. I have read that reds, etc. will attract birds but who knows. Many tomatoes are red anyway, so what is the difference.

I did quite a few of them; here are the results!

Growing Garlic in a Container?

I LOVE garlic. While it is relatively inexpensive I always wondered if I could grow it in a container. I believe it is considered a cool weather item but we will see how it likes growing in June in Wisconsin. I looked it up on Wikipedia and it states in cold climates you plant garlic in the fall and harvest in the spring...I guess we shall see.

I was at Fleet Farm the other day and I saw a set of garlic and figured "why not?" So I got a really big old pot that I had found and got down to planting. As this is an experiment I have no idea how it will go, but it is worth a try.

Per the instructions I separated the bulb of garlic into the little garlic cloves. It is worth noting it made quite a mess with all the garlic skin floating around, so next time I'll separate it apart away from my patio, in the grass. Having used garlic a lot in the past I kind of wonder if the big garlic clove would grow the same sized garlic as the little garlic clove...only time will tell. Next I put the garlic with the "butt" down and the pointed end in the air (when garlic starts to sprout it comes out of the pointed end so I assume that is the direction I should plant it.) I then put 2 inches of dirt on top and watered well. Here are the initial results after planting (pretty exciting, eh?)

I'm not really sure if garlic is considered a "seed" however using my limited knowledge of starting seeds I check the pot daily and add water as needed as no "seeds" should be allowed to dry out. I'll update my progress as things begin to sprout.

My Experiment in Container Gardening in Wisconsin

I have always loved gardening. I grew up on a hobby farm and the world (or field) was my oyster and we could plant anything we wanted. Granted, that was when I was a child so I'm sure I had more fun swinging on a tire swing and not planting a garden. I vividly remember planting a very large section of potatoes which we had to dig up in the fall (and I don't remember that being that much fun) or dealing with small black beetles in the raspberry bushes (which would scare most kids away from grabbing any raspberries without first giving them a very good visual inspection.)

Now that I'm all grown up, have a family, and have far less space than I used to I yearn for the good ole days of that hobby farm. I have two children (ages 5 and almost 2) and I want to show them where fruits and veggies come from (and the grocery store doesn't count.) I have yet to convince my husband to dig up a part of our 3/4 acre lot for a garden, particularily because I find most garden plots unattractive. If I locate it in the back of our yard I know the neighborhood deer will eat everything anyways, besides the thought of dragging hoses out there to water is enough of a turnoff. The solution I came up with was container gardening in my backyard. So here I go...

This year I have taken a pretty sizeable undertaking: 14 tomato plants (mostly heirloom tomatoes); patty-pan squash, pickle bushes, a variety of peppers and herbs, summer squash, garlic, green onions, lettuce, radishes, and carrots. All located on our west-facing stamped concrete patio.

I will be posting my successes and failures to help any of you that love to garden and have contemplated container gardening.