Spring Forward! Now!

Spring is here, it’s time to plant! Despite my exuberant punctuation, I’m happy to say that the panic I was feeling in my last post has subsided enough that I can get some stuff done. That’s important because there is stuff that won’t wait! The weather has been gorgeous, if a bit warm for my taste (insert apology to midwestern and east coast gardeners here), and my pepper and tomato seedlings were dying to get out of the house and and grow up.

peppers planted

I started by planting bell peppers in my sunniest bed. With the concept of companion planting in mind I also have onions, nasturtium and marigolds to assist with pest control.

Then I moved on to tomatoes. I’m determined to grow healthy tomatoes, especially after the Great Tomato Debacle of 2013…

Sad Tomato plants
Some of my 2013 tomatoes at their peak of health

With my soil depleted and possibly downright homicidal, I knew I needed to change things up. With all our trees and wildlife it can also be hard to find planting spots that are both sunny and secure from gophers, skunks and such. Container gardening seemed like a good solution for all the above issues. It allows me to use sunny areas like my staircase and porch for vegetables and I can fill the containers with uncontaminated soil, just in case.

potted peppers

After much deliberation I decided to use fabric grow-bags instead of plastic, which may sound a little weird but they’re supposed to be super durable and great for growing. The idea is that they allow the roots to breathe, insulate the plant and provide for better drainage than plastic. Also, instead of curling round and round a plastic pot these roots will be automatically pruned when they reach the edge of the bag. This promotes the growth of secondary roots which, in turn, allows for more nutrients to get sucked up into the plant (sorry, I promise this is not an infomercial I just find it really interesting). At the end of the season I can actually wash these in the washing machine and fold them up for next spring.

fish butt smoothie
Of course I wanted to make sure the plants had enough nutrients so I decided to experiment with making my own fish emulsion using a tail saved from a wild salmon. Not really knowing what fish emulsion is, I got out my trusty blender and got to work. About three minutes into my experiment I learned something – fish tails are really strong! AND STINKY. Holy fish-butt, Batman… my morning smoothies will never be the same.

TomatoesOnDeck
I also attempted to chop said fish tails with a machete and a cleaver to no avail. Undeterred, I chucked the whole stinkin’ tail into a fabric pot and I got my tomatoes and peppers potted up. I moved the toms to the back deck and arranged them as artfully as I could. I’ll admit they’re not as cute as aluminum buckets or wine barrels but they made a nice display, especially once I re-welded and painted my poor old galvanized cages pretty colors.

As you can see, they are really happy! Here are the tomatoes after 17 days. They’ve probably tripled in size! Not only that, these bags are retaining moisture, which is really important with drought looming. Even with 80 degree days I’ve watered very little.

tomatoes_2014_2.5wks
Aaaannnndddd… my peppers are showing their first baby blooms! Yay!

first pepper blossom
And so with weeks of hard work behind me I wisely decided to sow another dozen types of heirloom tomatoes in little toilet paper roll cups! These have already sprouted and will soon need to be potted up, hardened off, transplanted, fed and watered and maybe in two months they will make food. And then I’ll need to learn to can tomatoes! No worries, I can sleep in the winter.

Tomato seedlings planted in toilet paper rolls

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh my gosh, how do you get your seedlings to look so amazing? Do you use a light?

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thanks Jenna! I do use cheap fluorescent bulbs all day/night. I have no south-facing window so I keep them in the germination station with a coil bulb then move them under another fluorescent coil or my shop light (f. tubes) when they’re bigger. Nothing fancy!

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      1. I use a south window, but my babies turned out pretty sickly looking this year. I gave them a fighting chance by planting them this weekend, so we will see!!!

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          That’s sad, I’m sorry 😦 Hopefully they perk up out in the wild!

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          1. It’s ok!!! Safety in numbers, right? 😊

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  2. Okay, had a full on belly laugh about the fish tail. The plants are looking great!

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      It was pretty comical! Probably won’t be trying that again, though the tomatoes do seem awfully happy.

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  3. The cloth growbags sound a brilliant idea! I don’t need anything like that at the mo but I wonder where I would source them.

    Do you grow your nasturtiums from seed?

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      I ordered the ‘Viagrow’ bags from Amazon after not finding what I wanted locally. They were quite reasonable, less than plastic containers! Not sure about shipping costs to England though…

      Yes, my nasturtium reseeds itself all over the yard every year. It’s kind of considered a weed here but we love it.

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      1. Thanks for the answers to my questions. It’s great to share ideas and information 🙂

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          I agree! It’s why I blog 🙂

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  4. The Editors of Garden Variety says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed your article. You did a terrific job with your container plantings and your plants look so healthy.

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you so much! I’m honored by your visit and happy to now be connected with you and your great blog. Hope you’ll stay tuned, progress should be entertaining at the least!

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