I wanted to give a shout-out to zorch for his/her suggestion to buy an Earthbox to grow my tomatoes on the balcony this summer. Usually, my tomato plants are sunblasted and produce stunted tomatoes, no matter how much I water. I noticed a distinct difference. I watered once every two days, the plants stayed green, and I harvested lots of tomatoes. The Earthbox was a little pricey, but once you see what it looks like, you can make one for yourself. If anyone is interested the website is: www.earthbox.com. The link to the thread I started way back when is: [url=http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=169791&highlight=Earthbox]link. I had a lot of fun with this and I’ll certainly try this again next summer. Thanks for your help, zorch.
We moved from an apartment to a house at the beginning of June, a bit late to begin gardening, so I figured I’d try a few things this year and plant a real garden next year. (I’ve been wanting a garden forever.)
So I weeded the already-existing above-ground garden plot by hand, amended the soil with peat, compost and eggshells–again by hand–and planted a few tomatoes, peppers and zucchini plants. I watered by hand a few times a week just like you’re supposed to, deep morning waterings to encourage good growth–and I was careful to avoid getting the foliage wet. I pruned the suckers off my tomato plants, weeded and watched vigilantly for garden pests.
And it worked! I watched my first tomato grow and grow until it was about two inches in diameter, at which point it disappeared. That’s right, vanished. Not to worry, thought I. There are other tomatoes, peppers, etc. Sadly, the same fate awaited them all. Every last Big Beef and Early Girl tomato, every last yellow, green and red bell pepper, every last zucchini–gone, just as they were starting to show promise.
What was taking my crop, I wondered? Was it groundhogs, badgers, ornery little kids, or–heaven help us–the freakishly intelligent, impossible-to-defeat raccoon? True, I gave up watering, weeding, etc., once it became clear I would never have a harvest, but still I wondered what had been my undoing. Then, a month ago, after a few rainy days, I strolled idly out to the garden to reminisce about the salads that could have been mine. That’s when I saw … hoof prints. That’s right, deer. A big one, from the size of the prints.
I used to think deer were noble, graceful, and majestic. Now I know they are just mooches.
My biggest flop was my peas and beans, which never really got going. My biggest success was my White French Zucchini which grew and grew, and one plant of which is still bearing. The only problem was that some got lost under the leaves - one I found was 8 pounds!!!
My kid carved a face in it.
Tomatoes were okay, not great. Jalapenos weren’t very spicy, and turned red too soon. I started late, which turned out okay since those who started on time got clobbered by a batch of cold weather.
Tomatoes were pretty good, especially compared to last year when we had the severe drought. I grew Champion and Celebrity.
Not humungous, but lots of fruit. Very good year for basil, got tons of pesto in the freezer.
The coolest: After years of trying, which is difficult with Colorado’s short growing season, I had a minor victory with my Moonflowers, got maybe seven blooms.
The weirdest: Anyone ever grow Nicotiana? Not the hybrid, but the original. As you can maybe tell from the name, it is in the tobacco family. Huge, fragrant leaves, the blossoms are sort of like little white waterfalls. Mine were very successful, but this turned out to be sort of unnerving. They really do smell like tobacco. I’d walk through the back garden and come out smelling a little bit like I’d just come out of a tavern.
Our tomato plants grew ten feet tall and twenty feet wide[sup]*[/sup] and bloomed to high heaven. And nary a tomato. […sigh…]
[sup]*[/sup]Mild exaggeration for effect
with silver bells,
and cockle shells,
and pretty maids all in a row!
Hey! Somebody had to do it!
Very well, except for the stupid fucking rotten racoons.
(which were very cute, a family of five living on the roof, only problem with them was that our garden was like a truck stop for them)
Herbs: fantastic. Except the basil got eaten near the end of the summer.
The tomatoes got eaten until we learned to pick them green and let them ripen inside.
The hot peppers were untouched but they never turned red. They remain delish.
The squash plants grew large and lovely but the squashes got eaten (little rodent bastards) before they could get big. Silly me, I thought a 1" diameter green butternut squash wouldn’t be interesting to the little shits but I was wrong.
(I used to be an animal lover.)
The eggplant likewise grew big and lovely, and likewise got eaten as soon as they appeared. One survived, it’s about 2" diameter now (and pretty!) but it’s gotten cold so I think I have to bring it in.
Stupid urban wildlife !
Any ideas for how to keep them away next year?
One year we had a bad hailstorm, which shredded much of the squirrels’ regular good, which meant they went after my stuff.
I found that sprinkling everything with cayenne or chile pepper helped discourage them.
We get the occasional racoons coming around (they live in the sewers!) but they seem to prefer hanging out in the alley, checking out everyone’s trash cans.
I had a record 75 pears on the tree this year. That was in the 1st week of July. Two weeks later, not a single one left on the tree. Effin’ squirrels. I am definitely gonna try that cayenne thing next year, for the ones I can reach anyway. Can I make it into a spray with a water bottle if I promise not to gas myself or will that hurt the leaves?
I also had my new apple tree get these weird white bugs on the underside of the leaves and made them curl. Just the apple, not the pear or apricot trees just the apple. Don’t know what to do about that one.
I also grew Nicotiana Sylvestris this year - in fact, they are still blooming. I agree that the strong tobacco smell (and stickiness!) of the huge leaves is a bit amusing. I suppose a bonus is that you could smoke the bugger, once it stopped flowering … a different take on composting, indeed. Flowers have a nice and untobaccoey smell too, though I did find the perfume a bit sickly.
TBH, I wouldn’t bother to grow 'em again, though there is a vareigated variety I might have a go at.
Oh yeah, another advantage of the plant is that nothing eats it 'cause it’s poisonous!
We planted late in May which was really too late for peas, considering how hot it was this year. The tomatoes did very well. It froze quite hard last week so we picked everything the night before the freeze and last night I canned 15 pints of salsa with the tomatoes, peppers and onions. There’s about 100 lbs. of onions curing in the garage. We froze about 20 quarts of green beans, and we still have probably 150 lbs. of red potatoes to dig and maybe 75 lbs. of carrots in the ground. The cucumbers did great too, but they didn’t come on all at the same time so we couldn’t make pickles. We’ve tried corn for 5 years and finally this year it was sucessful. I think we froze about 16 quarts. The only thing that was really a bust was the cantaloupe. I think we planted too late. It blossomed until mid August before any fruit decided to appear and they were too small to pick the other night. But all in all it was a pretty good year.
Most of it was crappy, and I don’t know why and it really bummed me out.
Every year I do a veggie garden with my young boys, and we all love it. We have an area that’s maybe 12 feet by 12 feet. We started 3 or 4 years ago, and initially the soil was pure clay, so each year I go buy a back-breaking number of bags of amendments, typically manure, shreded bark, a bit of sand, potting soil, etc. The fact is I have no idea what the perfect mix is, so I trust the Osh guy to help out. At the time, what he recommends makes perfect sense, but thinking back I have no idea what exactly I actually put in this year, or in past ones. I rent a roto-tiller, and it’s a hard weekends worth of work, putting the stuff in place and tilling it in.
Then we divide it into rectangles and plant away, typically corn, several varieties of tomatoes, squash, peas, pumpkins, carrots, radishes, strawberries, bell peppers, jalepenos, a few others I can’t think of. This year we also added halloween gourds and brocolli.
Every year it’s gotten better and better, I’ve assumed because of the soil. And I seem to work out a few new kinks each year, like the sizes of areas for various types of plants, which ones to put closer to the water, etc. And this year when we planted, the soil was damn near erotic, it was so soft and brown and inviting; I was jealous of those little seeds getting to live there. Hardly anything came of it, what a bust. Great tomatoes and onions though, I guess I should be happy about that. Oh, and a few jalepenos happened for the first time; usually they just wither.
But the boys and me have a great time, even without much edible results, and that’s most of the reason I do it anyway.
We also have a couple fruit trees, and the peach is my favorite. I love making peach everything when it’s ripe: peach liquor, peach syrup, peach preserves, peach ice cream, peach cobbler, peach this, peach that, and my favorite peach chutney. All that turned out great this year, as it usually does.
We tried Roma tomatoes this year and while the plants were small, they produced lots of tomatoes. We also tried potatoes for the first time with mixed results - what we got was good, just not too many. We got lots of cucumbers, parsley, and basil, but my radishes, cilantro and lettuce was a complete disaster - both just grew straight up, flowered and died. Carrots didn’t grow very big either. Maybe we’re just trying for too much variety in a relatively small area.
My herbs are still doing great – the reason I live in Florida is because of the 10-month growing season.
This year, I found Pineapple plants at Target! I was so excited. I carefully picked out the best looking plant, diligently watered until a bitty pineapple shot up out of the center stem. Again, I’m still watering in anticipation of the juicy sweet treat I’m about to create. Then the pineapple turned yellow, about to ripen. I was waiting for just the right amount of softness before I harvested my first homegrown pineapple.
I came home a couple days ago to find a big chunk bitten out of my tiny, but otherwise perfect pineapple. No worries, I think, I’ve fed the squirrels and I can still cut the top off the pineapple and root another to start my pineapple plantation. (I’m up to two plants.)
Today I came home from lunch to discover that the damned tree rats gnawed the whole damn stem, pineapple and all, right off the plant. It’s completely gone.
Along with my dreams of becoming a millionaire Florida pineapple plantation owner.