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.

Container Garden Update — September 17, 2017

-A.J.

It’s been a busy ten days. Everything decided to ripen at more or less the same time. Altogether it’s been somewhere north of 70 pounds of mostly tomatoes and peppers. And melons(!)

Starting on Friday, September 8 (Tomatoes: Old German, Purple Cherokee, Oregon Spring, Siletz, and Black Krim.  The big peppers are Carmen, the little bells are King of the North, there are also a couple of Jimmy Nardellos and a mis-labeled-when-we-bought-it regular bell pepper.  The beans are french filet beans from one of the whiskey barrels):

170908 harvest Friday

Tuesday, September 12 (L-R, top to bottom:  Oregon Spring, Marketmore 76 cucumbers, Black Krim, Roma, Purple Cherokee, Filet Beans that just keep coming, Old German, Minnesota Midget Melons):

170912 harvest Tuesday

The smaller of the two melons was the first to ripen. The others still on the vines are the size of the bigger one. Here’s a close-up of the melons:

170912 melon close up

The little melon at dinner:

170912 melon

I’m pleased that we got *something* with the melons. The melons that didn’t survive the transplant and cool early season weather were replaced by a Siletz tomato plant. We’re going to get quite a few Siletz tomatoes to go with the 5-7 pounds of melons from the lone surviving melon plant.

Onward to Saturday, September 16. It’s around 35 pounds of stuff. The left top box contains Carmen peppers. Middle left is mostly Roma, bottom left is mostly Old German. The top right box is a collection of assorted pepers. The bottom right box contains the mis-labeled-when-we-bought-them bell peppers, more Carmens, and King of the North.:

170916 Harvest Saturday

Even after all that, there are still more Romas. I’m guessing there may be 10-15 pounds hanging around:

170916 roma

As I write this, the wind is picking up. It’s supposed to be cool and rainy later today through Tuesday. We’ll see how many “jumpers” we get with the wind.

The melons are about done. But they’re ripening, so “done” is ok:

170916 melon

The basil will need to be harvested in the next few days. We been harvesting aggressively all summer and the plants seem to like it that way. That will be the new strategy in future years. Basically, instead of just managing the very tops and flowers we’ve been cutting a full node below the tops. It’s resulted in better product, and more of it:

170916 basil

Finally, a picture of the salad table. We’re getting our first fall peas now. We’ll remove the shade cloth either today or very soon — we’re still getting days in the 70’s and one of the arugula plants decided to bolt. Better safe than sorry with the shade cloth. The trick will be reattaching it as neatly in the spring — or, remembering which way it goes back together:

170916 salad table

 

We’ll also make a point to aggressively harvest the salad table in the spring. It’s hard not to “wait” and hope the stuff gets bigger, but the plants almost always respond by going to seed.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — September 4, 2017

-A.J.

Despite the dry summer, the tomatoes, as a group, are late:

(L-R) Roma, Old German, Black Krim
(L-R) Roma, Old German, Black Krim

A closeup, looking down on the Romas:

170904 Roma

The Wednesday harvest. Mostly Oregon Spring. On the top right are Black Krim, bottom right are Cherokee Purple:

170904 harvest

Many of the Carmens will likely get harvested this week:

170904 carmen

For the Minnesota Midget melons it’s a race between ripening and the “funk” taking over:

170904 melon

The Trombonico didn’t do well this year. I get the feeling that bugs were attacking the fruits just for the moisture. It was that dry here. This week we chopped out all but the greenest growth with the hopes of getting fruit in the next few weeks:

170904 zucchini

And today we transplanted most of the winter veg (Arugula, Dill, Spinach, Mache, Chard, Winter Cress, Winter Density Romaine, Joi Choy, and Cilantro):

170904 winter veg 2

Some of the Romaine, Arugula, Joy Choi, and Bright Lights Chard went into the recently vacated Tomatillo EarthBox. The Tomatillos are now roasted, buzzed up, and frozen for Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.

170904 romaine, joi choy

Most of the rest went into the salad table:

170904 salad table

Everything is still a little floppy after the transplant. I’m guessing it all perks up by the end of the day today.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — August 20, 2017

-A.J.

Fall is approaching. There are lots of tomatoes but they’d better hurry up!

The Romas. To be fair, we harvested the 8 ripest fruits last night, so these are all leaning green:

170820 roma

This is going to be the biggest Black Krim we’ve ever seen:

170820 black krim

This is our first year with the Old German variety. This one is close to ready, it’s supposed to get some amount of red to go with all that orange:

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — August 20, 2017”

Container Garden Update — August 13, 2017

-A.J.

It finally rained last night after fifty-five days of no rain. Today was cool and drizzly, but it was a good day to get out and do some heavy pruning on the tomato plants. The harvest, including ripe Oregon Spring, Roma, and Black Krim tomatoes, tomatillos, and cucumbers. The green tomatoes for our pet store guy:

170813 harvest

An overview before the pruning:

170813 overview before

After pruning:

170813 overview after

Tomato alley:

170813 tomato alley

We harvested about 1/3 of the basil a couple of days ago. The plan is to harvest about half of what’s left tomorrow. In previous years we’ve waited too long and the basil got sort of bitter. We’re not going to make that mistake this year:

170813 basil

The Carmen Peppers are having a good year. We didn’t cage them and now they’re all threatening to flop over. We had to insert tomato stakes and run twine around everything to prevent disaster:

170813 carmen

Tomatillos:

170813 tomatillo

The seedlings got too much water and not enough sunlight. Some did ok, but we’re having to start over in many of the pots. Even without the shade cloth some of them are looking pretty leggy, so shortly after this picture was taken I moved them to a sunnier spot:

170813 seedlings

The Minnesota Midget melon plant has… melons!  They’re bigger than baseballs, but smaller than softballs. Hopefully they’ll ripen before the frost gets to them:

170813 melon

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.