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Posts Tagged ‘container gardening’

Whoah, Nelly!  That’s what greeted me this morning when I went out to check on my band of hoochies.

Well, hello, there, cucurbit, are you a squash or are you just happy to see me?

Turns out it’s a squash.

To show you just how impressively ginormous this container-grown yellow squash is, allow me to present Exhibit B:

Yup–bigger than a big-arse STBX Americano.  But you know, even big-arse squashes like to feel dainty sometimes.  Like to feel…delicate.  Even–dare I say–pretty.

Misfits, when a prize squash asks to borrow one of your tutus and raid your jewelry box…well, you don’t say no.

You’re welcome!

Happy weekend, misfits!  But tell me…is black her color?  Or would fuschia do a better job of bringing out her natural vegetative glow?

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Photo by Dontworry

So remember how a reader asked me how to feel more like a farmer in the city, and I answered her and said now this meant I had an advice column and you would all be justified in having fear feelings about this?

Yeah, well anyhow, remember how after that I answered a question about my potting mix recipe for tomatoes in containers and raised beds?

Are you starting to get the feeling that this advice thingy might be for real, and not just some passing fancy I entertained after 3 gin gimlets and a handful of tookies?  By which I mean, cookies?  By which I mean, tookies?

Good!  ‘Cause the questions keep coming, my adorable little misfits, and Bad Mama Genny ain’t one for leaving you in the homesteading dust, ‘kay?

Or any other kind of dust for that matter.  Who leaves people in dust?

So lest we all forget what this post was supposed to be about, (oh, honey biscuits, THAT SHIP HAS SAILED), I received a question from a Chicago reader named Mary yesterday, and it’s a query that I just know you city farmers are itching to hear all about:

“I keep reading that avocado trees are easy to grow.  I’ve heard that you can take them in the house in the winter and they’ll keep growing.  Do you agree?  What kind of tree is it that you said you have in your apt.?  Oh I would so love to have an avocado tree!” -Mary

Well, look, it’s out of the question for me to turn my back on a fellow guac-lover.

That’s just about the cruelest thing you can do to a person.  Deny them guac, I mean. That, or rip a run in their fishnets.  That’s pretty evil, too.

So here’s my answer for Mary:

Dwarf Avocados are entirely possible to maintain in containers in our Arctic corner of the Midwest, though they have a reputation for being finicky and many people can never get them to produce fruit.  If you’d like to do it, remember that quality plants can also be expensive.  If you’re looking for shade, starting a tree from a storebought avocado pit via that god-awfully tedious process with the toothpicks that we all learned in kindergarten (Shoot me.  Shoot me now.) is fine, though the growth habit may get out of control. This is not the way to go if you want fruit.  That’s because most storebought avocados come from hybrid stock that doesn’t produce true-to-seed: in other words, you won’t get the same avocado you got the pit from.  You may get a rock-hard, low-fruit avocado, or you may get none at all.

For fruit, contact a reputable nursery and get a quality plant, preferably one that has a year or two under its belt.  Little Cado and Holiday are a few of the varieties I’ve heard recommended; Don Gillogly is a variety that seems to a problem for just about everyone, so I’d steer clear.  A 5 gallon pot is usually sufficient for these guys, and they cap off at about 8 to 10 feet.  Thankfully, I capped off at about 5 1/2 feet, but then again, I don’t make avocados.  Dammit.

I don’t recommend investing in one of these unless you have a very sunny spot INDOORS.  These guys, like dwarf citrus trees (I have a dwarf Cara Cara orange tree), will happily go outdoors in the summer, but will need to be in a sunny, preferably southern-exposure spot in the house during the winter, or whenever nighttime temps are going to drop below 55.  At this point, the plant will be in dormancy and its water needs will be less–its feeding needs will be around zero.  In the spring, you’d start to fertilize here and there and increase watering to break the dormant period (but only if you have the sunlight to support new growth).  You’ll notice it taking off shortly after it’s moved outside.  Speaking of moving it outside, do this gradually–a few hours to start–and increase the outside time over the course of a week.

If space is limited and you just want to grow something tropical that makes you feel like a rockstar, I’d recommend Mayer Lemons or another dwarf citrus variety–they produce more reliably in containers than avocados.  But if you’re up for a challenge and an adventure, go for it!  Just remember that my advice here entitles me to a one third share in all resulting guacamole.  Sorry.  I don’t make the rules.

Well, whaddya say, misfits?  Have any of you successfully grown avocado trees in containers indoors?  If so, don’t be shy with the details–we wanna know how you did it and what varieties you grew!

Also, whether the resulting guac was mildly kick-ass, appropriately kick-ass, generous with the ass-kickage, mind-blowing ass-kicking, or leg-pulling mind-blowing skirt-flipping ass-kicking.

What?

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Monitorpop at en.wikipedia

Hey, there, sugar donuts!  Today, I’d like to draw your attention to a comment left on this post by The Other Girl:

Hi Gen! As I prepare to plant my tomatoes, I have to ask what you use as a growing medium in your pots? One could spend a small fortune on potting soil and a lot of the commercial mix has chemical fertilizers added – something I’m guessing you shy away from.

This is a great question that I’ve gotten multiple times via my Twitter, text, and private message.

Seriously, people, as I mentioned here, you have nothing to lose by leaving these messages as public comments.  The Gen Person will not allow anyone to tease you on Her Almighty Comment Board!

I answered The Other Girl’s question in the comments section, but I’d like to post it for you here. It includes a basic and relatively inexpensive recipe for a homemade tomato mix, should you not be into expensive pre-made mixes or some of the involved processes I get myself into.  And I get myself into a lot of involved processes ’round here.

Here’s my answer:

Hi, The Other Girl!

If you’re buying a ready-to-use potting mix, I like the ones by Happy Frog and Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest Blend (both are, yes, pretty pricey). The Ocean Forest has been giving me GREAT results…it’s natural, with organic plant food materials in the mix, along with microrhizae (a beneficial fungus) that colonizes along the plant’s root structure and aids it in nutrient uptake. This year I’m really big on symbiotic relationships and beneficial bugs, so I’d try that if you’re looking for a ready-made thing. In some of my larger containers and the raised beds I built for my mother, I made a layered mix that turned out very well. It was a layer of pine straw (acidifier, soil lightener, drainage, etc.), then “organic” cow manure (well-rotted), then a light and fluffy very basic soil mix, with healthy amounts of bone meal, blood meal, and microrhizae mix turned into it (Espoma is a good brand for these). Then I repeated the layers and topped the whole thing with more straw for mulch. Put your stakes/cages in, dig your hole, crumble some eggshells into the bottom, and put in your plant, with a few of the bottom sets of leaves under the soil line. Then fill and firm the planting hole, make a mix of epsom salts and lukewarm water, and water the tomato thoroughly. The tomatoes I’m putting through this process are LOVING it. Every day they look bigger. And that’s saying a lot, consider the storming and fluctuating temps we’ve had.

Hope that helps, and keep me posted! Let me know if I can help with anything else!
Gen

So while you can make it more complicated than that, this is a great and simple way to start your tomato plants off right.  So they can grow healthy and strong and eat their metal cages and then cause you to have fear feelings.

I like having fear feelings caused by overzealous tomato plants.  But that’s just who I am these days.

What are your tomato secrets?  Are there any super special soil recipes floating around out there?  You KNOW how I feel about sharing recipes…

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I’m pulling up roots, so to speak.  But only the figurative kind, thank goodness–my sweet container farm can go anywhere with relatively little hassle.  Relatively.

RELATIVELY.

‘Cause despite the fact that I didn’t have to do any digging, you don’t want to know how much finagling and fussing it took to fit 6 foot high tomato plants into a modest Jeep.  You just don’t want to know.

But guys.  Look at the photos I posted from my June garden–they almost make me laugh.  Everything looks so small and…under control.  At least, compared to the jungle I have now.  I keep losing The Boy in all that excess foliage.  But it’s a small price to pay, friends (don’t tell him I said that).  A small price to pay for the primo produce we’ve been eating lately…

Forgive the poor quality of that one…I was too excited to make salad to dig for my digital camera, so I just held my laptop up to the bowl.  And that is so not my hand in the picture.  But spookily enough, I don’t remember whose hand it is.

Maybe there was no hand.

Maybe it just kind of…appeared…in the photograph.  So thanks, prosthetic ghost hand that appeared out of nowhere to help me take pictures of my garden vegetables.  Thanks a whole hell of a lot.  In addition to the assistance you lent me, it’s so nice to know that the afterlife isn’t so taxing that you can’t take a little time out of your busy schedule of making walls bleed and watching people go to the bathroom to help the living out.  And it’s cool that you still manicure your nails.  To impress the other ghost hand thingies.  Man, I really hope I’m that cool in the afterlife.

But I digress.  I wildly, ridiculously digress.

Anyhow, we’ve had many harvests of that size already, and some of my other plants are even starting to catch up to those monstrous, frightening, scarily productive cukes:

Aw, well hey there, little pepper!  What caused you to mosey all the way on over here?  What’s that?  Your gardener showed you off too many times and weakened your stem, causing you to break off in her hand, you say?  She’s responsible for all this carnage, you mean?  She’s the sole reason you’re never going to be an enormous stuffed pepper, thereby realizing all your inborn potential?

Well, uh, I’ll be sure to pass on that message…to the appropriate party…

That’s not my hand in this picture either.  The nail polish is all chipped and stuff.  I would never let my nail polish get all chipped and stuff.  Oh, okay, fine, so it IS my hand.  And yes, I’m perfectly aware that this means prosthetic ghost hand thingies have better manicured nails than I do.  Whatever.  Maybe when I’m a ghost hand thingie I’ll take the time for more regular manicures.  Until then…CHIPS GALORE, MISFITS!

Ah, lemon cucumbers.  You took a bit longer to show up than the others, but oh.  Oh.

Oh, baby, OH!

Were you ever worth the wait!  You are the most cucumbery cucumber I’ve ever tasted, and I have tasted some cucumbery cucumbers in my day.  Also, I don’t think I’ve said cucumbery enough.  Cucumbery.  Cucumbery Cucumbery.  Cucumbery Cucumbery Cucumbery.  Alright, now that’s just excessive.

Friends?  My resolution for next year is going to be to learn the difference between not saying cucumbery enough, and saying it too much.  I hope you’ll help me along on the rough journey I have ahead of me.

And that sweet little, beautiful eggplant?  It’s a fairytale variety, no bigger than the palm of your hand, and so far, my plants have been problem-free.  In my gardening research I read post after post about how awfully hard it is to grow eggplants.  How pest-ridden and finicky and disease-prone they are.  But misfits?

They have been the easiest, most pest-free things I’ve grown this year.  No holes.  No bugs.  No disease.  EXTREMELY productive.  And just gorgeous.  If you told me they were just ornamental plants, I’d believe you.  You’ll see.  YOU’LL ALL SEE!

I’LL SHOW EVERYBODY!!

Okay, now I’m at a boil, and I’m gonna take things down to a simmer.  My parole officer–I TOTALLY MEAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY–says that’s good for me.

And that’s all you’re getting out of me today, fair readers.  But stay patient.  Remain true.  And I promise that when next we meet, I’ll have a recipe for you.  Life will be more normal.  Or at least, my version of normal.  Which is probably your version of sick and twisted and as crazy as a clown with ADHD.  But that’s why you like me, right?  What’s that?  You’re really here because I make you feel better about your own life?

Sorry, I can’t really hear you, THE STATIC ON OUR CONNECTION IS TERRIBLE I’LL HAVE TO TALK TO YOU LATER GOODBYE!

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Friends…

Friends…

Friends?

Oh, there you are.  I think it’s time I shared a few things with you.  This is important.

See, I told you a while back that I was growing a fruit and veggie garden on my city steps.  In containers.  And grow I have.

Now, some of you may have been discouraged by things you’ve read online.  Perhaps some naysayers in an online chatroom told you it was nearly impossible to grow vegetables in containers.  Perhaps someone with the screen name @negativenancy told you if you didn’t have ten acres and a dairy cow, growing food for your family was impossible.  Maybe some square told you that you weren’t wholesome enough or ankle-length-skirty enough or straight enough or come-to-Jesus enough to homestead.  Well.  You know how I feel about all that. 

Perhaps the doubt came from inside you.  Maybe that little voice in the back of your head said, “Grow vegetables?  When I don’t even have a yard?  Chya!  Like that’ll happen!”

But friends.

Friends…

Friends?

It’s time to silence those voices once and for all.  Because here…

right here…

right now…

we are going to have a spiritual experience…

Look, this is as close as Bad Mama Genny gets to religion, so soak it up, misfits.

To all those who said I couldn’t grow bell peppers in a measly pot…

I did!

To those who say you can’t grow squash in a box on some city steps?

You can!

To those who say eggplant should be left to those with a garden plot…

Hellz bellz, no!

To those who say there’s no way you can grow HEIRLOOM FUCKING BRANDYWINE TOMATOES, the undisputed flavor king of tomatoes, in a garbage can on a stoop?

Oh, yeah…I went there…

Oh, yes.  Yes, yes, yes, YOU CAN!

To those who think the only kind of tomato to grow in a container is a cherry tomato, to those who say you can’t grow a  super-productive, full-size tomato variety in a pot…

Think again!

Starting to feel better about your gardening future?  Baby, I’m just getting started!

To those who think that a planter on a stairway is no place for lemon cucumbers…

Or prolific white cucumbers, or pickling cucumbers…

Wrong again!

Can I get an AMEN?!

AMEN!!!

I said, can I get an AMEN?!

AMEN!!

Because Bad Mama Genny has SEEN the mountaintop!  Er, I mean, the top of the stairwell!  And it looks pretty nice!

To those who say you cannot grow good carrots, beets, chard, and kale in ordinary flowerpots…

I beg to differ!

And they’re just so gosh darn cute right now!

Hey, those of you who think you can’t grow an ORANGE TREE in a pot in a city known for 3 foot snowfalls and 20 below windchills…

What what!

And hey, while we’re busy defying the logic of the naysayers, how about a BANANA tree?

To those who say I’m crazy and have a problem that most likely requires medication…

Well, they’re probably right about that one.

And guys?  This isn’t even everything I’m growing.

Don’t let the naysayers tell you what you can and can’t do.  Don’t let anyone convince you that vegetable gardening belongs in a proper yard or in the ground.  And geez-friggin–louise, don’t believe people who say you can’t have a garden.  Most of you probably can.

If you have a stairwell…

a rooftop…

a fire escape…

a balcony…

a measly window…

a railing…

a generous landlord…

a local community garden…

a countertop to make sprouts…

a dark cabinet for a mushroom log…

You can garden!  Plants want to grow.  They want to live.  They want to make fruit.  They’re not working against you.  (The squirrels are.)

And if you can find a way to give them the basic things they need, they’ll thrive.  And so will you.

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If you’ve been following me on Twitter, or are damned cursed lucky enough to be a Facebook friend, you know that my “Confirm Order” finger gets a little itchy, oh, forty times per week.  And while I sometimes scratch that itch with a mammoth Barnes & Noble order or, say, the ever-elusive non-sexual Queen of Hearts costume, more often than not, if it’s between December and April, I’m buying seeds.  Oh, Lord, am I ever buying seeds.

Last year, Bad Mama Genny’s garden was good.  Modest.  Manageable.  Sane.  In other words, so not my style.  Well, this year I’ve decided to take action, and the 2010 garden plans are looking…

Utterly ridiculous.  

They are over-the-top.  They are sick.  They are twisted.  They take up six Excel worksheet pages.  They are perfect.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, here’s what I’m planting this year (NOTE, THESE PLANS ARE SUBJECT TO COULD POSSIBLY, OH HELL, THEY WILL 100% FOR SURE CHANGE IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS):

  • Red Russian Kale
  • Buttercrunch Lettuce
  • Rainbow Baby Greens
  • Red Sails Lettuce
  • Green Ice Lettuce
  • Chard
  • Chioggia Beets
  • Um, regular? beets
  • Blue Lake Stringless Green Beans
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Miss Pickler Cucumbers
  • Lemon Cucumbers
  • Miniature White Cucumbers
  • Dwarf Tophat Blueberries
  • Dwarf Northsky Blueberries
  • Mirai Corn
  • Yellow Straightneck Squash
  • Fairytale Eggplants
  • Cinderella Pumpkins
  • Garlic
  • Sugar Sprint Snap Peas
  • Chives
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrots
  • Heirloom Fingerling Potatoes
  • Early Butternut Squash
  • Celebrity Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Brandywine Tomatoes
  • Edible Nasturtiums
  • Dwarf Cavendish Bananas
  • Pineapples
  • Early Thickset Bell Peppers
  • Cascade Hops (for The Boy’s homebrews)
  • Willamette Hops (oh, the things I do for love)
  • Heirloom King of the Garden Lima Beans
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Alpine Mignonette Strawberries
  • Dwarf Cara Cara Blood Orange Tree

But you know, like I said, that’s just so far.  I could add plants at any time.  With zero warning.  And even less of a sense of accountability.

Did I mention these will be almost exclusively container plants?  And with any luck, my landlady will not have a cow.  Now, it’s still a little early for serious planting in Chicago (HELLOOOO, Friday picnic followed by Saturday snowfall), but my baby misfit garden is already in the works. 

While gardening is often a test of patience, squash are infinitely satisfying to watch.  These pictures were taken within the 24 hour window between yesterday afternoon and today:


You can do it, little squashling!


My, my, that looks uncomfortable.


Being born is messy.


Welcome to the brave, new world that is my apartment, little squash!  Rent is due on the 1st.


He’s lean, he’s green, and he’s HUNGRY!

Now let’s watch the snap peas!


Come ooooon, snap peas!


No?

All right, so we may have to wait a little on those.  Let’s turn our attention to the green pepper and eggplant seeds I started over a week ago:


And…nothing.

Sadly, the squash has ruined me for any seed that takes longer than four days to germinate. 

Thankfully, sneaking up from behind and watering The Boy still entertains me to no end.

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