Container Garden Update September 25, 2022

To paraphrase Yogi Berra: It’s getting late early around here. Our oak tree that always confirms the season is just starting to turn to fall colors and the garden is basically done.

On the 12th it became clear that the bugs were threatening to impact the pepper harvest, so we pulled what was left of the peppers:

Clockwise from top left: Oregon Spring, Roma, Rattlesnake beans, Black Krim, Purple Bumblebee (cherry tomato), tomatillos and cumbers, Cherokee Chocolate tomatoes, Carmen peppers, King of the North peppers

The next week we harvested another sheet tray of ripe Romas. (not pictured)

As of the morning of the September 24 the garden looked like this:

L-R Front: Rattlesnake beans, Roma, Oregon Spring, Roma. Middle Left is the other tomatoes with cucumbers on the right. Back left is tomatillo and Tromboncino with Fortex beans on the right.

A closeup of the “better looking” Roma box on the 24th:

The Purple Bumblebees on the 24th:

The tomatillo and Tromboncino shared a trellis. I think it worked out well. Our Tromboncino yield is up relative to the last couple of years and it didn’t seem to impact the tomatillos one way or the other. Yay pollenators:

Then after “picture time” we harvested everything except the tomatillo and Tromboncinos. We left those two boxes with the hopes we’d see a little more output. And the yard waste bin was full so that was a good stopping point.

The Rattlesnake and Fortex beans that we’re saving for seed or dried beans for eating. We’ve been harvesting the Fortex all summer in addition to what’s pictured:

And the last somewhat unripe harvest — it’s around 30 pounds of tomatoes:

We’ve had the most success with ripening not-ripe tomatoes on the floor of the kitchen on cooling racks. The kitchen is generally warm, and when the furnace starts up there’s a heater vent that provides good air circulation.

I feel like 2022 was a better year for the garden than 2020 or 2021, though the shade trees continue to grow and are gradually going to force us to reduce the size of the garden or just accept that the yields are not going to be what they were ten years ago. The wildfire smoke was minimal, and July and August were relatively warm and clear.

Next post will be the How Much Did That All Weigh? I’m curious to see if my perception of yield matches reality.

Container Garden Update August 28, 2022

In the Seattle area, mid-to-late August is when the garden starts to ripen in earnest. It’s also when the plants are starting to show that they’re thinking about being “done”.

A sort of close up overview picture:

The front right is Carmen Peppers and King Of North Peppers. The Carmen’s are having a much more productive year. A Carmen close up:

Normally we lose a few to earwigs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. I’ve only counted one lost to the bugs.

Pictured next is the more energetic of the two Roma Tomato boxes. This box got the sunnier location and it shows:

That’s two plants in one box. They’re leaning over to the left and invading the space of the Oregon Springs. The nice thing is that the Oregon Springs are a very early harvest so we should be able to pull those plants out in 2-3 weeks from now.

I think the Tomatillo and Tromboncino “sharing a trellis” is working out pretty well. The center of the space is dominated by the Tomatillos. We need to harvest a big batch of them within the next few days.

The Tromboncino are growing up the sides and along the top. They’re having a better year this year than they have in the last few. We got a 32″ fruit about a week ago. Today we harvested this:

Tromboncino have all of their seeds in the bulb at the end of the fruit. The flesh firmer than a regular zucchini. Their leaves are less susceptible to mold, which helps in our climate. They work especially well for us because we’re gardening on a concrete patio and the vining aspect of the variety keeps the fruit off of the hot summer cement.

Finally, the Rattlesnake Beans:

We’ll let these dry and use them like Pinto Beans. I like growing beans – we plant 20-40 seeds in a box and make sure they get water and that’s about it. It’s basically “free” food.

The cucumbers are also having a better year than in the last couple of years. After the early cool weather it’s turned into a fairly warm summer, but we haven’t had wildfire smoke sucking up the UV.

So that’s good on a few levels.

Container Garden Update July 31, 2022

Up until three days ago it’s been a very mild summer. The last three days have been in the mid-to-high 80’s. So far we’ve harvested basil, beans, and zucchini, which is normal for this time of year. We should have cucumbers in the next few days. The tomatoes and peppers are further away.

A view from the front right:

Peppers on the right, tomatoes in the center. More tomatoes in the middle-left. Cucumbers middle right.

From up the slope on the left:

The three tomato plants in the front from left to right are Roma, Oregon Spring, and another Roma. The left side of the garden is North, and that side of the garden has been more shaded over the last few years by the ever-expanding oak tree to the northwest. The Roma plant to the South is doing tons better and it’s not close.

From the house:

The big thing in the center is Fortex beans. They always do well, and we always save bean seeds for replanting in the early summer. The basil is poking out from behind the left of the cucumbers.

We also set up the Tromboncino Zucchini and Tomatillos to share a trellis with the idea that the pollinators would hit both and we’d see a better yield from the Tromboncino. There aren’t very many bees this year, so we’ll see how much it helps. What’s odd is all of the Tromboncino flowers were male a couple of days ago:

But so far so good anyway. The Tromboncino on the left weighs right around three pounds.

2021 Container Garden Recap

Our yield for the year was 112.6 pounds from 10 EarthBoxes. This is a lower amount than when we started gardening, but higher than the last couple of years. I think the factors that have led to the lower yield include:

  • Aging potting soil. We’ve replaced a good portion of it over time but salts may be building up and/or the soil may be getting denser. How much this negatively impacts growth I’m not sure.
  • In 2019 and 2020 the weather included lots of wildfire smoke during the peak growing season.
  • We’ve been sourcing the plants from different places since the pandemic started. Historically it’s been the annual Seattle Tilth Plant Sale, but that hasn’t been a real option the last couple of years for us. We’ve been buying the plants from “reputable nurseries” instead, so I’d like to think the sourcing isn’t that big of a deal.
  • We might be cramping the plants on the patio. The right answer might be to grow more shorter plant varieties. It feels like the patio might be getting less sun than in 2013, due to trees growing bigger all around the property.
  • I think the early enthusiasm for gardening has worn off, and we’ve been relatively shorter on free time the last couple of years, so I’m not doting over the plants like I had been. I’ve sort of pivoted to “maximum output relative to work input.”

Overall it felt like everything “popped” sort of late but in any event we still got a decent yield by year end. The “pounds” amounts below are for the full box or boxes

Marketmore Cucumbers – 1 box, 4 plants, 21.1 pounds. This is lower than some years, though the fruits themselves kept good shape and taste all season. The quality was better but it felt like the plants were shorter than usual.

Black Beauty Eggplant – 1 box, 2 plants, 1.4 pounds. The first year we’ve grown eggplant of any type. My feeling is that the eggplant box could have been in a sunnier spot though at the height of summer it may have gotten to hot on the patio for the plants to be happy. They set fruit really late, so the fact that we got any at all was a pleasant surprise. If we do eggplant again we’ll move them to a different location on the patio and *possibly* try hand pollinating to help things along. Additionally: I think the plants themselves were mislabeled and they were actually Chinese or Zebra eggplants – they were relatively spherical and had stripes.

Carmen Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 8.8 pounds. This is right in line with the 1.5 pounds per plant we’ve seen from Carmen Peppers historically. They ripened well overall and we lost very few to critters. Our favorite peppers to grow come though again.

King of The North Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 3.8 pounts. These kind of got out-competed by the Carmens. They were adjacent to the Carmens but the Carmens flopped on top of them to some degree. Not a great yield but again we lost very few to critters — 3.8 pounds is “fine”.

Black Krim Tomato – 1 box, 2 plants, 12.5 pounds. This represents a below average yield for this variety. On the bright side almost all of the tomato plants either ripened on the vine or ripened after harvest. We grow these every year for the terrific earthy flavor and this year lived up to expectations.

Green Zebra and Tigerella Tomatoes – 1 box, 2 plants, 11.5 pounds. Planting to tomatoes that look that much the same next to each other wasn’t the best idea. The Green Zebra was the weaker of the two plants, so I’d guess the total yield is more Tigerallas.

Oregon Spring Tomato – 1 box, 2 plants, 20.2 pounds This represents a below average yield for what is always a top performer. They still ripened first, though I think we lost a few pounds to critters taking a chunk out of semi-mature fruit.

Roma Tomato – 2 boxes, 4 plants, 26.8 pounds. Below average yield again, but literally everything ripened. We ripened all of the unripe and semi-ripe tomatoes on cooling racks on the floor of the kitchen near a heater vent. I think the air flow and warmth helped ensure ripening rather than rotting. We grew plants from two different farms and they seemed to produce equally well.

Tromboncino Zucchini – 1 box, 2 plants, 4.3 pounds. Another downer year for a plant that is relatively more labor intensive than some other possible choices. It may be that we need to hand pollinate these for a better yield, or put them in a location where they get more sun.

We also got more basil than we could possibly use from the EarthBoxes, as well as a good amount of beans and scallions. The raised beds provided a nice amount of asparagus, rosemary, thyme, chives, and garlic chives.

Overall that’s 73 pounds of tomatoes and the freezer is full of tomato sauce. We enjoyed fresh cucumbers and tomatoes over the summer. If we’re going to spend “extra” time in the yard then producing our own food feels like a rewarding time-sink.

Container Garden Update — July 10, 2021

The weather has been cooperative North of Seattle so far this year. No overcast and rainy May. No smoke filled skies from wildfires. We’ll start seeing Harvests Of Things in the next 10-14 days, which is right on pace with when it’s been nice outside for most of the summer.

An overview pic from the “front”. The camera is pointed mostly East, slightly North:

That’s tomatoes on the left, peppers in the center, and basil on the right. On the back left are the Tromboncino zucchini, on the right are cucumbers, and behind the cucumbers are pole beans.

The first cucumbers are nearly ready:

We had a day in the 100’s recently. The basil absolutely loves that, though I’m guessing concrete and the garden area must have been over 110 degrees:

Last year we made a big bag of “Italian Seasoning” with oregano from our raised beds and the basil. I see another big bag or two in our future.

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — July 10, 2021”

The 2020 Vegetables

Our patio “Container Garden” consists of twelve EarthBoxes and three City Pickers. This year we’re going to leave a few idle, or fill them with a rotation of short-season veggies and greens. I don’t feel like this is the right summer to be committing to wrangling a jungle of big plants.

Here’s a picture of the almost-complete garden. you’re looking basically East. The first sun hits the grassy edge of the patio at around 10am and by 11am-1pm (summer day-length dependent) the rear trellises will be in full sunlight:

200516 overview

In the front there are (L-R) –   two empty boxes, a box of Taxi and Oregon Spring tomatoes, a box of two San Marzano Romas, and a box of two Oregon Spring. They’re all determinate and should play well together.

In the mid-left back there are two indeterminate Black Krim tomatoes sharing a box. Behind that under the trellis are Fortex (pole) beans in a City Picker box — 20 plants in a 4 x 5 layout.

Continue reading “The 2020 Vegetables”

Container Garden Update — August 11, 2019

The few days that we had in the 80’s didn’t last. Here in the north Seattle area it’s back to 70’s, overcast, and spotted showers.

190811 harvest 1

(Clockwise from top left — Roma tomatoes, Taxi, Oregon Cherry, Tromboncino zucchini, Carmen peppers, Oregon Spring tomatoes, Sun Gold.)

We harvested the Tromboncino at a relatively small size because there are two other fruits on the plant in the same place — the harvested fruit was directly between the two pictured here:

190811 tromboncino

We’ve found that three fruits that close together rarely ends well, so we pulled the one that was in the center.

On the other sheet tray is 2.5 pounds of Marketmore 76 cucumbers and 2.5 pounds of Fortex beans:

190811 harvest 2

We found three of those cucumbers after we thought we’d already found them all.

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — August 11, 2019”

Container Garden Update — June 9, 2019

An overview picture of the garden. In the foreground are the peppers. Tomatoes are on the left. Fortex beans are in the back right, with tomatillos in the middle-back. The Tromboncino trellis is in the far back left. (For reference, the garden is in the back yard on the west side of the house. The patio is the sunniest location we have available to garden. We now use a dozen EarthBoxes after having had good success years ago with herbs and other little edibles in our “starter” EarthBox.)

190609 overview 2

A picture from next to the Tromboncino, near the garage door:

190609 overview1

We try to harvest the Fortex beans when they’re smallish and can be cooked as haricot verts. They’re going nuts even though they’re in the worst location on the patio — they get shaded by the back deck and don’t get sun until around 1-2pm. There are two City Picker boxes end to end under the trellis, allowing for 40 plants total. We gave the beans their own trellis this year so they’d keep to themselves:

190609 fortex beans

The tomatillos. Every year it seems that there’s a stronger and a weaker plant. That’s true again this year:

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — June 9, 2019”

Two Very Different Arugula Flatbreads

We love arugula on pizza and flatbreads. Last night it was time to harvest the arugula from the salad table. (The link shows the salad table one month after the initial planting in 2015, with yet another arugula pizza. I sense a theme. Here’s a link to the Making The Salad Table post.)

The first picture is last night’s arugula pizza with a garden tomato sauce from the freezer, goat cheese, and red pepper flakes. The arugula was strewn on top after baking:

190519 argula pizza2

The sauce was rich and on the sweet side. The frozen tomatoes that we used were labeled “2018 Tomato”, so the base was likely a combination of Oregon Spring and whatever else the garden provided that day. The dough itself was a little on the sweet side too — I substituted out 10% of the water and replaced it with a Riesling.

Another picture. I stretched the pizza by hand rather than rolling it out, making a point to leave it thicker at the edges. The pizza was a little more 3-dimensional than the picture might show:

190519 arugula pizza

This flatbread is topped with pancetta, red onion, and an arugula pesto made with arugula, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and brie. The arugula pesto was the sauce, so it was added at the beginning:

190519 arugula flatbread2

Using arugula pesto meant that the end result was light and savory at the same time. The flatbread itself was somewhat crackery which complimented the zip of the arugula and red onion.