Garden Wrap Up

Well, I'm getting ready to say goodbye to my SoCal garden.

As I reflect on leaving these plants and this space, some goodbyes are easier than others. The lettuces, for example, were intended for one season only. Grow them, harvest them, get new plants next season. Peace out. On the other hand, my lime tree has been a part of the patio for over 2 years now! It even has a name! We'll miss you, Limey, but you're going to a good home.

This week, aside from sharing my feelings, I wanted to summarize my winter growing experience and share my insights on the journey from complete newbie to intermediate gardener.

What I grew this season:

  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Lettuces (2 kinds)
  • Snap peas
  • Broccolini

And the outcomes:

This salad was deceptively massive. All that lettuce under there!

This salad was deceptively massive. All that lettuce under there!

  • Parsley - Easy to grow, easy to harvest a little bit at a time. I grew this in a medium-sized pot and it worked great.
  • Mint - I know it's not some people's cup of tea, but I seriously love mint! The leaves are delicious and the plant is hardy and easy to grow. My plant is growing in a medium pot and I think it'll be around for a while; not much seems to affect it.
  • Lettuce - A great winter crop here in CA because I can pull off a few leaves at a time or, when I'm ready, just hack the whole thing off and make a massive salad. I picked two varieties and they grew well without needing much space. Once they start to grow straight upwards, they're pretty much done.
  • Snap peas - This was my second time growing snap peas and I picked a variety labeled 'hardy' because the first time around I didn't have much luck. Well....this time they started out great, I did harvest some pea pods, but I couldn't keep them going. It was as if the plants got too ambitious, grew too big, and then couldn't support themselves and withered. So for me, not a winner.
  • Broccolini - I read that broccolini puts roots pretty far down, so I planted them in my biggest pot. The first month, I noticed little bugs on the underside of the leaves, so every couple days, I picked them off. After a while, the bugs didn't come back - victory. The broccolini really thrived! I was quite pleased as I have been snacking on the heads whenever I spot new ones ready to eat. They are delicious! 
Broccolini plants with the heads eaten!

Broccolini plants with the heads eaten!

Beyond these specific outcomes, here are some general notes on my gardening experience I want to share:

1. I found a great resource online about growing plants in the LA area that actually included information about gardening in pots. Reading about which plants need which depths of soil was REALLY helpful. This winter, I planned out which seedlings would go in which pots BEFORE I bought them. Brilliant. I didn't overcrowd and I didn't overbuy.

2. In reading about gardening in pots, I discovered one reason my summer garden may have been sub-par in productivity. I think the soil and the roots got too hot. In dark-colored pots with full sun, the soil absorbed a lot of heat and that probably cause the roots to overheat and rot.

3. In winter, without the intense summer sun and heat, my soil didn't dry out quickly. I kept an eye on the garden for the first month and watered when dry, but as the calendar clicked into November and then December, I didn't need to water. This season, LA got rain. Enough rain that I was able to forgo watering pretty much all together. That made for pretty darn easy gardening.

 

Gardening on my patio has been quite a learning experience. Some plants did great, some did...badly. But overall, I can't emphasize enough how much my spirits were lifted upon looking out the window every morning and seeing green.

After we land in a new city this summer, I'll get to work identifying what to grow next.

On to new gardening adventures!

 

Labor Day Weekend Gardening Update

Even though I haven’t written about my garden lately, that doesn’t mean I’ve ignored it.

On the contrary, I check on my back patio garden oasis every day! Now that we’ve hit September and summer is drawing to a close, I want to share some pictures and reflections about this past summer’s garden.

1) I stopped taking weekly pictures months ago! It got to be too time consuming with not much reward. This garden was planted about 6 months ago and I couldn’t keep up with taking pictures every week. Plus, once the plants grew and matured, there wasn’t much visual change each week.

2) Some of my plants died. It pains me to admit it. I don’t know whether it was the weather, the watering schedule, or the soil conditions, but many of my hopeful little seedlings from spring didn’t make it. They struggled on for a while, but eventually died. Ahhh, c’est le vie. Having a garden means some plants will die! They have their life cycle. The plants currently in plant heaven: the peas, the original cucumbers, and the zucchinis.

3) Some of my plants are still kicking. Maybe I should grow more of those in the future. The tomato plants are all still alive. The onions are still chilling in their pot, so are the strawberry plants and the parsley. I planted two new cucumber plants in July (I passed the seedlings at a farmers’ market and they looked so promising!), and those are still kicking. Although just this week they started looking a little iffy, so we'll see what happens.

4) Some of my plants were successfully harvested. About a month ago, I roasted tiny rainbow beets. They were too small to be shared, or bought at a store, but they were delightful. Really excellent flavor and a special sense of pride!

5) Having living plants is not the same as having productive plants. As I said, the tomato plants are still alive. But they aren’t making very many tomatoes! Yes, I get one every 5-7 days, but that doesn’t seem like many compared to how many flowers are on the plants. I looked it up and apparently some varieties don’t set fruit in very hot temperatures. The pollen becomes less viable. Well, gee, I wish I’d known that before! If there’s one thing LA is, it’s HOT.

6) I am really enjoying having a garden. Even though I’ve been disappointed by my yields, I like that I’m learning and doing. There seems to be something magical about the gardening journey rather than the tasty reward. Now maybe I think that because I haven’t gotten big rewards yet…but that’s ok. In the meantime, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

 

Next up---fall planting! Time to do some reading to plan what I’ll grow as the days get shorter and (slightly) cooler.

 

Got any suggestions? How is your garden doing? Share in the comments below!

Garden Update - Week 10

This week, I want to share my garden with you! I planted it 10 weeks ago and it looks a lot different now than it did the first day I brought the baby seedlings home. I like to think that the garden has grown, passed through childhood, and is now in its sulky teenage phase. It doesn’t quite fit in its space, it’s growing kind of out of proportion, and it’s definitely a bit wild.

Each Saturday (except this past one--oops), I’ve diligently snapped photos of the plants so that I could share this record of growth. I only garden about 5-10 minutes a day, five days a week, but after 10 weeks, that adds up to significant time. And all that time has lead to plenty of thoughts and observations. But first, pictures!

Weeks 4, 5, & 6:

Weeks 7, 8, & 9:

Pretty cool, huh? These plants look completely different from when I brought them home. They used to look like this:

And now, two and half months of my garden musings:

Dear weather, what’s up?

It’s very much still spring here in Los Angeles and not summer, so I think some of the plants are not getting enough sunlight yet to really thrive and produce fruit. Usually, the weather is much hotter, but this has been a cool season so far. I count 9 green tomatoes hinting at what’s to come in the garden, but they don’t even have a blush of orange. How long do tomatoes take to mature?!

 

Goodbye peas.

I lost the peas. They were looking great…but then, around week 7…what happened?! They started withering. I tried more water, less water, more sun, less sun, but they are NOT looking salvageable. As a final effort, I trimmed the dead parts of the plants off to see if that would promote new growth. I took some gorgeous photos of the beautiful pea leaves (AKA pea tips) for my earlier gardening post and now I'm nostalgic for the days when the plant looked like that.

 

A new baby baby carrot.

I harvested the carrots! The label indicated maturity at 49 days, and they’re underground (duh), so not visible. I decided to pull them up one week later because even if they were misshapen or tiny, I didn’t want to wait. They were delicious!

 

Zucchinis and cucumbers, oh my.

Based on what I’m seeing now, it seems that the zucchini and cucumber plants might be the most productive. They’ve each produced something tasty already and they are still hard at work. I read that zucchini plants are especially productive in the late summer…we’ll see.

 

Advice for the future.

Dear future Jessica, when you start a garden next time, read the spacing instructions on the tags of the plants you buy. They’re not on there just for kicks! If you plant everything too close together again, you’ll end up re-potting the whole garden after a month. Again.

 

I've decided for the rest of the season to give myself a break from taking pictures each week. Don't worry though, I'll still snap photos of my harvest, so you can get an idea of what's ready to be eaten.

 

Did you plant a garden this spring? What lessons have you learned so far?