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.

I Might Have Co-Opted The Sweater Drying Rack

About a month ago it was pretty much the end of basil season here North of Seattle. Any additional growth would be a “bonus”. This year I didn’t wait around until basil turned purple — I proactively cut best looking 3-6″ everywhere on the plants and hung them on the sweater drying rack:

There are also oregano sprigs laying across the top of the bars on the left-hand side. The stuff that was too small to hang on its own wound up on a window screen that we laid flat between two chairs.

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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.

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An Improvised Ultomato Stake Trellis, And An Update To The 2014 A-Frame Trellis Post

I originally posted about the A-frame style trellises in 2014. The external links on that post are dead now, so today’s post includes an update with a few close-ups and explanations of the details of construction.

First the improvised Ultomato trellis:

I’m hoping this is a more stable answer than putting the stakes directly into the boxes — almost every year at least one pepper box has toppled over on a windy day when the plants are heavy with fruit.

This was done with 60″ Ultomato stakes and held together with cable ties. It barely covers two 30″ EarthBoxes lengthwise. The commonly available 48″ stakes would work too, but would only cover one box. The “X’s” at the ends are 24″ wide.

I built this by myself, though an extra set of hands would have been very helpful, especially in the early stages. I wound up creating both “X’s”, then leaning one against a wall and loosely attaching the cross-pieces to the “X” leaning against the wall, then attaching cross-pieces to the “free end” I was holding up. Then I again tightened all the ties once it was standing on its own. It all fell over a few times but eventually it cooperated.

The cross pieces pictured below are separated by 12″, which is the length of the Ultomato clips:

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The 2021 Garden Plant List

By mid-season the garden should look something like:

The 2018 garden in July

We’re trying something new this year — eggplants. (All plant descriptions are by Seattle Tilth unless otherwise noted. My additional “Ed” notes are in italics.)

2 Black Beauty Eggplant, 1 box. (partial Bonnie Plants description): Plants produce pretty, prolific harvests in warm weather—keep them well-watered and harvest often. Pick the fruit before the glossy, dark skin begins to fade. (The color and glossiness of the eggplant determine the best time to harvest, rather than the fruit’s size.) Grows beautifully in garden beds or containers. Add a cage to your eggplant to help support stems when heavy with fruit. Place in full sun, and feed regularly. Matures in 80 days.

4 “Marketmore” Cucumbers, 1 box. (Ed: I’m not sure what exact variety these are. Historically we’ve grown) Marketmore 76 – 63 days. Open pollinated. In the Marketmore series, ‘Marketmore 76’ is very popular with organic growers due to its high level of disease resistance. This dark green slicing variety produces abundant, high quality, uniform fruits about 8 inches long with a wonderful cucumber flavor.

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The Salad Table And Cold Frame

Most years I look at the calendar and say: “I should have started the salad greens two or three weeks ago.” This year I took all of the potential seed packets, picked the things we were most excited about (or the oldest packets regardless), and started the cool-weather greens indoors on January 25th.

Generally that would be fine. The coastal Pacific Northwest has mostly mild Springs, and the seedlings can go outside in February after they’ve been hardened off for a few days. Last week the seedlings forced the issue because they were outgrowing the lighting rig. This coincided with snow in the forecast, so we brought the cold frame out of the back yard and placed it on the sunniest place on the property — along the edge of the front walkway tucked up next to the salad table. We added row cover over the top of the salad table as well to protect the newly transplanted arugula (the row cover is not pictured):

That’s Miner’s Lettuce on the bottom level of the salad table and all around the nearby pots. It’s Northwest Native, high in vitamin C, makes a nice salad base, and it’s been re-seeding itself the last few years. I’m now trying it in other places around the side and back yards to see if it’ll grow there too. The cold frame has Super Sugar Snap peas, some lettuces, dill, and cilantro.

We got more than 6 inches of snow on Thursday and Friday. I’d include a current picture but it’d look like “A Polar Bear In A Snowstorm” — the top of the snow is almost level with the top of the front of the cold frame.

We’d purchased the cold frame a few years ago at a home and garden show, with the thought that we could grow cool weather greens in the back yard with the assistance. Unfortunately the micro climate in the back yard isn’t suitable for spring gardening — the sun level is too low in the horizon so the (East-NorthEast facing) back yard stays frosty well after the front yard warms up. We wouldn’t want to have it partially blocking the front walkway all the time, so the cold frame has mostly been idle the last few years.

But it’s nice to finally use it the cold frame again. The snow has started up again as I write this. Bringing the cold frame to the sunny part of the yard may become an annual Spring tradition.

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.

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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.

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Container Garden Update — August 4, 2019

We’re finally stringing together a few days around 80 degrees, which gives us The First Real Harvest Of The Year!

190804 tomatoes

Tomatoes — Front L-R:  Roma, Taxi, Sun Gold, Oregon Cherry.  Back:  Oregon Spring

190804 cucumbers

Marketmore cucumbers, basil, and (I think) Guardsman bunch onions.

190804 fortex beans

No Fortex bean harvests since Thursday means 2.5 pounds on Sunday.

Hopefully more warm weather means that the nice harvests are just beginning.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

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”