Category Archives: petal potager

Boredom is the Mother of Invention

I was playing around with my garden plan yesterday.  Originally I was looking to expand my potager and come up with phases to eventually nearly eliminate the lawn in the backyard.  My plan expand started to fall apart when I started worrying about cost – soil, compost, peat/coir, mulch, not to mention physical labor – it started to add up.  So I downsized my plan so it would fit into what I have right now.

Tomatoes will stay where they were last year.  I was researching on whether rotation was necessary and it seems for the small home garden that it is not unless disease becomes a problem.  I will try peppers again this year, and will try quite a bit from seed.  I made a mistake last year and probably started my seeds a month too early.  Everything got leggy and I got burned by a late frost, so I wound up having to purchase replacement plants.  I’m still considering wintersowing.  I don’t know if it’s too late to start or not.  I figure if I can’t find enough containers for it, that Gladware would do.  I just don’t really want to futz with the setup I had last year.  Plus my house tends to be dark, drafty, and cool – not the best combination for seedlings.  In fact, today I’m going to dig out my seeds, possibly get some soil and get my containers going.  Given that I’m looking to plant many multiples of marigold (which are damn easy to start from seed) and herbs, instead of going broke I can potentially get what I need through wintersowing.

What is it about this time of year that triggers gardening fever?

Tomato Tomahto

Many people who don’t do a full blown vegetable garden still plant one vegetable that is best home grown.

Tomatoes.

Garden Bounty

I have found that tomatoes are easy to grow and the reward is fantastic.  Ask anybody who has grown tomatoes and they will tell you that what you buy at grocery store pales dramatically in comparison to what you get out of the garden.  The taste of home grown tomatoes has no equal.

This year I have a total of 8 tomato plants.  Two ‘Brandywine’, two ‘Early Girl’, two ‘SuperSweet 100’ cherry tomatoes, one ‘Arkansas Traveler’ and one ‘Mr. Stripey’.  So far the yield I have gotten from the ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Early Girl’ has far exceeded my expectations.  The plants are so heavy with fruit that picking can be a challenge when the fruit are jammed together in their supports.  In fact, one of my ‘Early Girl’ plants is threatening to bring down the stake and spiral cage that supports it.  I am using the Veggie Cage spiral tomatoe cages.  You just connect them to a stake (I have six foot stakes in the ground) and gently guide the tomato plants through the center of them.  As the plants grow, you guide the shoots through the sides to give them support.  Not only do they work exactly as advertised, with no tying of the plants, but they are attractive as well.  Four of my plants are in my Square Foot Garden.  My ‘SuperSweet 100’ cherry tomatoes are doing very well trellesed up with a nylon trellis, and I haven’t had to tie them or their neighbors up as well.  As the plants grow I gently weave them in and out of the trellis and they seem to be appropriately supported.

In the past, I had planted fairly standard varieties of tomatoes, usually ‘Big Boy’ or ‘Better Boy’ and that was the extent of my tomato experience.  This year I chose ‘Brandywine’ because all over the internet, I have read that they are possibly the best tasting tomatoes.  They certainly don’t disappoint.  Not only are they meaty with a rich flavor, but they can grow to fairly enormous size.  I have had two tomatoes that have weighed over a pound, and 4-5 more that hover around 14 ounces.

August16Harvest

The ‘Early Girl’ variety was a result of me possibly channeling the spirt of my grandfather.  Apparently he used to grow tomatoes all the time and the variety he planted most often were ‘Early Girl’.  These look much more like supermarket tomatoes.  They are almost perfectly round and red, not irregular and pinkish like the ‘Brandywine’.  They are not as meaty, but still have a good tomato flavor, just not quite as sweet.

Early Girl

My ‘SuperSweet 100’ are my husband’s favorite.  He has always loved cherry tomatoes, but we were shocked at how sweet these are.  They are truly like garden candy.

I have to say that the yield on ‘Arkansas Traveler’ and ‘Mr. Stripey’ is downright disappointing.  I suspect it has something to do with being in my Square Foot Garden (when the ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Early Girl’ are in the potager).  It could also be that I did some direct composting early in the season around the plants in the potager, but not in my SFG.  Next year, I will definitely put all of my tomato plants in the potager and probably direct compost early in the spring again.  I think I might plant one or two more ‘Brandywine’ and try a few other varieties as well.  I’d like a Roma tomato, maybe a yellow grape tomato, and something more exotic, like a ‘Black Krim’.  It all depends on what I can get at the nursery.  I’m not sure if I’ll start seeds again next year.  While I enjoyed raising my “babies”, I am horribly impatient and hate the hardening off process.  While that seemed to go well this year, most of my starts didn’t make it.  I may have started seeds to early.  We’ll see how the winter goes.  If it’s another tough one, I’ll probably start seeds again, just so I can have something green to look at when it’s still cold outside.

Kitchen Garden Plan, or the Petal Potager

After admiring Ceae’s (Folia link) beautiful kitchen garden, I realized that ever since I became a homeowner 12 years ago, I’ve wanted a vegetable garden that is part of my backyard (not just raised beds) and I got cracking on designing something that would work.  Growing up in my parent’s home, they were on again/off again gardeners.  They had a plot at the back of their house that was about 10′ x 18′ and would often grown peppers and tomatoes and the chives from my grandfather’s house.   One year when I was in college, I decided it was time to revive it after years of it getting overgrown with grass and weeds.  I spent a weekend double digging (in clay soil!) and in the end, grew a lovely patch of tomatoes and sweet & hot peppers.  I spent a lot of time in the garden, watering & weeding it.

Finally, we are in a house that feels permanent.  Our first house was a starter home and we knew we wouldn’t be there long.  I also had a newborn and a toddler at the time.  Our second house would have been fantastic for a garden, but we had absolutely NOTHING in the way of landscaping in the back yard and I was frozen with indecision.  We only stayed there 4 years.  We are entering our 4th year in our current house and have no plans on moving soon.  The existing landscaping is, for the most part, fantastic.  Yet there is still freedom for me to play and experiment.  This year is also the first year of having a garden in the time we’ve been homeowners.  Oh sure, I’ve had the random tomato or two, but I never really put much effort into making vegetable gardening a big part of my life.  I decided to start with square foot gardening, but I think that those methods are going to be adapted to be used in a permanent kitchen garden next year.  I’ll still keep my square foot boxes, and probably use them for smaller crops (like lettuce & onions).  By my estimations, the plan I posted below should give me about 60 square feet of gardening space for vegetables & herbs.

I really like the idea of the design.  It’s close to the house, it gets full sun until late afternoon, and if I decide to scale back on the vegetables, it would still work very well as a flower garden.  Also, if I decide to add on I can keep encroaching on the backyard adding “petals” as I go.  There is currently daffodils next to my SFG and those shouldn’t pose a problem since they usually fade by the time my last frost date comes around (the greenery can be tied down to eliminate any potential shading) and the Ozark blue star on the other side could be relocated fairly quickly and easily.  There is a spot that used to house yarrow (have no idea what happened to it) and upon moving it, I could put my second SFG next to the first one.

Depending on how long the weather holds, and what my schedule and budget looks like, I may just get started on it this week.  On Folia, I said that I wasn’t going to remove the turf, but I think I changed my mind.  In order to get things relatively level and even with each other, I think that is the best way to proceed.

From Backyard