Posts Tagged ‘Container Gardening’

My Spring Flower Garden

And yes, I am woefully behind in posting! My apologies, I’ve been kinda busy. Not to fear, however; yours truly has been feverishly (well, OK, maybe not that feverishly) working on her spring garden! However, without much work and a lot of spring rain, relatively cool temperatures (for Texas) and sun, my flower garden has just exploded with color and beauty. The pic above doesn’t do my garden justice, but you get the drift.

The veggie garden is, of course, underway. I’ve been pulling out plants from my fall/winter garden that were going to seed and I’ve been prepping the raised beds. This weekend I look forward to planting summer lettuce, bok choy, and basil, and will be giving it the old college try again for yellow squash and butternut squash (and try to be even more vigilant for the evil Squash Vine Borer) and all kinds of beans (got bean innoculant this time, so I hope my bean crop this year will be much better than last’s).

And, yes, my famous Malabar Spinach is in full swing, with two seedlings coming up in the Malabar bed, and three coming up in seedling pots. I’ll probably be giving a couple of plants to loved ones this year because even one plant just explodes into hundreds of delicious and beautiful leaves, and I don’t need five plants just for me! I’ve also got a bunch of volunteer Thai Basil coming up in the spot in front of the Malabar bed where I’d planted the basil last year, so I won’t have to plant any of that myself, thanks to Mama Nature’s help!

Closeup of Compost Tomatoes

What about tomatoes, you ask? After all, it is a perennial summer favorite of just about every gardener worth their salt, you say. Well, funny you should ask! Earlier this spring, I moved my compost pile but instead of bagging up the compost that I had in the old pile, I forgot about it and left it where it was. I had previously noticed that there were several small weeds growing in the old pile, but last weekend looked at it more carefully, and low and behold – in addition to what are truly weeds, I have about 25 tomato seedlings popping up out of the old compost pile! While I don’t remember it, I must have thrown chopped tomato with some seeds into my compost, because these are almost undoubtedly tomato plants! I’m very excited about that, and it spares me from having to actually buy any tomato plants.

However, I’m not sure what kind of tomatoes I’m going to have – these could be seeds from last year’s crop, or regular-sized or roma tomatoes I bought from the store, or maybe even a mixed array. It will be interesting to see what comes up! My mom also gave me a hanging cherry tomato plant for Easter, so it looks like my tomato bases have been more than covered!

Also, I have just planted several berry plants along my fence near the main flower bed. My sweetie (who is also a gardener) gave me two blackberry plants and two blueberry plants for Valentine’s Day – best Valentine’s gift EVAR (well, for a gardener like me, anyway). I waited until after Easter to plant them, because we kept getting freezing, or close to freezing, temps late into what I call our Texas spring (which usually starts in February). I also planted another blueberry plant I already had, and I finally planted my Goji Berry plant that I’ve had in a pot for about 3 or 4 years now. All of the berry plants are doing well in their new locales, and I look forward to having various berries later this summer.

Speaking of berries, I was amazed to find that most of the strawberry plants from last year survived our many hard winter freezes despite me not covering them up. I replanted them in a big stainless steel tub utilizing the Lasagna Gardening method (more on that later). And I already have several strawberries ripening! Very exciting!

And finally, I have some asparagus crowns that I need to plant this weekend as well. These were also a Valentine’s gift from my sweetie. However, I’ve had the crowns so long that they’ve already sprouted a coupla stalks! I could have planted them earlier, but since they are a long-living, perennial veggie, I’ve had a difficult time deciding where to put them. Finally decided I’d put them in my little raised bed next to the house where I’d planted butternut squash last year. I’ll probably plant either lettuce or baby carrots with it, or I might transplant a couple of tomato plants from the compost pile, since tomato and asparagus are suppose to be excellent companions (though lettuce and carrots do well with it too). Of course, I’ll have to wait a year or two before I can enjoy my harvest, but that’s OK. I do love me some asparagus!

Well, I guess that’s about it for my little update. I am going to try harder to keep this blog updated more frequently, though, you know – promises, promises! But I will try. In any case, if you’ve never been here before, please check out my other postings, cuz you might find some useful gardening and cooking info, at least I hope you do!


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This morning, whilst beginning my day at ye olde soul-sucking job, I was, of course, cruising the Internet instead of working (“Bad Zippy, Bad Girl!”). Salon.com happens to be one of the sites I visit throughout the day, even though I often get annoyed by much of Salon’s whiny intellectuals skeptical over any damn thing that can’t be easily grasped by the five senses and overly earnest liberal do-gooders who would as soon flagellate themselves as to throw away a single plastic bag. See, once in my young life I tried to be a whiny intellectual but decided I’d have more fun being a dang fool enjoying the heck out of life. I’m even known to talk to the Big Dude/Dudette in the Sky a lot, too, though I’ve come to have little use for religion. I’ve also in my young life been a liberal do-gooder flagellating myself, but that’s no fun either, and, well, life is short.

Unfortunately, my verbage isn’t, so let me wind up my wind-baggedness and wind my way around to my points. However, before you castigate me as some Texas redneck sitting on the banks of the Colorado scratching my fat arse, lemme tell ya, I do engage in critical thinking from time to time, I do recycle, I love animals and don’t eat em (well except for a fishy or two now and then), I try to do good to my fellow sentient beings (and often fail at the task), and I pretty much vote Democrat, so there. It’s just that Salon gets a little too carried away with itself, and sometimes the writers and the readers get either pretty dang mean-spirited or self-flagellating, more so in the last several years. Sometimes I just have to quit reading it for a while, but I usually come back, at least to scan the blurbs on the home page, read Keef and his K Chronicles (I love that dude), check on Carol Lay’s wacky alternate universe, read the beloved Opus and occasionally see if Cary Tennis’ advice is poetically spot-on or just wordy and has no point. Oh ya, and I read Stephanie Z’s movie critiques, cuz usually she is right on in her reviews.

Anywho, so I’m reading Salon, and find that they have instituted a nifty little feature series called Pinched: Tales From An Economic Downturn and today’s article is on growing yer own recession garden. You can read it right here. It’s a great article, about how the author decided to quit giving Whole Paycheck so much of his paycheck and started a garden to save money, and discovered its many faceted joys, other than saving money. I loved it.

Then I started reading the reader comments. Ugh, the whiny intellectuals started on their negative rants early this a.m.!  (Cue whiny, intellectual nasily voice): It’s too expensive, it’s too much work, you don’t really save any money, you people who are gardening are idiots fer trying and yer idiocy is polluting the gene pool yada yada yada ad nauseum.

Well, ya bet yer pal Ms. Zippy got in on the action! I don’t often post to forums, but gardening and self-sufficient living has become such a passion for me that I just had to put in my two cents and let peeps know that not only is it not that expensive, it’s also not that difficult, especially if you try some of the less conventional techniques such as SFG, lasagna gardening, Mittleider gardening and even cheap hydroponics! That, and start out with some stuff that’s easy to grow, and save seeds from produce and bulk beans and grains ya buy at Wholieristic Than Thou Foods or yer local organic food source.

I don’t want to reiterate the whole post in this here blog, but in future blog posts I want to expand on the things I said in the Salon post. (If ya wanna read in its entire, click here).

One of the main purposes of this blog (besides letting me ramble relentlessly, unfettered, and unhinged) is to show you, dear reader, that it is possible to do things to live more self-sufficiently, such as gardening, and it is possible to do it at a fairly low cost and fairly easily.

That’s not to say it isn’t a challenge at times (wait til my heart-breaking post coming up on the resurgence of the evil terrorist squash vine borer in my beloved butternut squash), but it is rewarding. To enjoy one’s own basil in one’s own homemade pesto is sublime, to eat one’s beautiful, easy-to-grow and prolific Malabar spinach, stir-fried in olive oil with onions is divine. And the fun I’ve had watching my green babies pop their little heads out of the soil and grow with a vengeance, and encountering various critters such as geckos crawling over the Malabar and eating bugs, and frogs making little dens in my potted plants, is worth any effort I’ve put into these endeavors. I’ve just gone nuts over gardening, I can’t hep it!

And while I’m certainly no expert, you get to tag along with me on this blog and see how I conduct this experiment in self-sufficient living, learn from my mistakes and get the advantage of some of the research I have done. Of course, you’ve already witnessed some of my experiments and challenges, but I will continue to do more experiments, do more research, and post on all of that so that you can learn too, maybe avoid some of my mistakes and find an easier path to self-sufficient living.

Stay tuned for future posts – coming up soon: yes, we’re gonna get to the promised posting on the fall greens I’ve started – mustard, kale, bok choy and spinach, and they’re already taking off (dadgum good thing my fave veggies are greens)! We’ll also have the heart-rendering, tearjerker post on the evil squash vine borer, of course. And yes, I have completed my experiment on chia-brown rice bread and have come up with a yummy, wheat-free recipe that tastes (to me anyway) like whole wheat bread, and is great for a gluten-free or wheat-free diet.

So tune in, don’t drop out and keep those comments and emails coming – I love to hear from ya!

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I tell ya, raising veggies and fruit (and cats) is almost as nerve-wracking as what I imagine raising kids is. After a day at the old soul-sucking job, I get home, love on my furry babies, change clothes and go check on my green babies, and whatta ya know, I’ve got two more wilted squash fruits. Fear courses through my veins – is it the dreaded squash vine borer redux? I pulled off the very brown and wilted smaller fruit and dissected it — no larvae. Then I took the larger one, one of the many that I thought were fertilized and getting big, but that I’d noticed was looking kinda withered even when I got home from out of town earlier. Now it was looking sadder, though not brown and withered like the other one. First, however, I decided to remove my contacts and put on my glasses, because irony of ironies, as I get older, I get more farsighted with my contacts, but can still see OK with my glasses. I still needed to wait for my eyes to adjust to the glasses before I dissected the other fruit.

In the meantime, I poured over searches on squash bug, and found that squash bug just eat the leaves and vines, not the fruit so much. Then I read more about the borer. Supposedly butternut squash are pretty resistant to that, and the borer seems to also go more for the leaves and vines than the fruit. But I know I had larvae with the first batch of squash. Then I find out about pickleworm – ah, yes, they also produce larvae, and the larvae do like the fruit! But again, B-nut is suppose to be more resistant to that. But still, there are always exceptions, and I did have larvae the first time. I figured it might have been pickleworm then, and was worried that it was pickleworm, or borer, this time.

With my eyes good and focused, I took the other squash fruit and started dissecting it. Nothing, no larvae, nada, zip, zilch. There was still plenty of good fruit, unlike the other one I’d dissected, so it wasn’t like it had been destroyed and the larvae had moved on. There still should have been something in there still munching away. Also, no tell-tale entry holes.

Then it occured to me — is it possible that these fruits hadn’t been fertilized, and so were withering up like barren old maids? Did another search, and yep, that looks to be the case. I guess I had assumed that since I had a bunch of big healthy young female fruits when I’d gotten home from out of town that the male flowers had burst forth like hormonally driven teenage boys and had impregnated my girls while I was gone. But then I couldn’t remember any male flowers on the cusp of blooming when I left. Which may mean, unless some boys did indeed bloom when I was gone, that my four or five beautiful big young girls are gonna drop off too, wilting from lack of male attention. It is possible that some guys snuck over while I was gone, did their dirty work and dropped off before I got back, but we will just have to wait and see what happens.

There are male blooms starting to come out and mature now, but like the case with humans, there have been several girls that have blossomed forth and matured much faster than the boys have, of course. There are several baby girls starting to show their tiny green and curvy selves, but they are smaller than the boys, so I hope everybody gets it together and matures around the same time! I want some butternut squash dadgum it, and the more teen pregnancies I have here, the better! And no, we won’t talk about Alaska on this blog — I try to keep it apolitical here cuz I want everybody to feel welcome, Republican, Democrat, Libertine, what have you, though I do admit I’m waiting excitedly for a tee shirt, buttons, yard sign and car magnet from my favorite Chicago-area politician, and it ain’t Mayor Richard Daly!

Anywhoo, we’ll just have to wait and see. In any case, I hope my girls did get fertilized while I was gone. I was really hoping I had a good head start to some B-nut squash!

My meager b-eyed pea harvest

My meager b-eyed pea harvest

On another front, I’d forgotten last night to include an update on my black-eyed pea experiment. Well, as you can see, I did get a few pods, which I shelled, see pic to the right, though I think I picked them a bit too soon. I ate one raw, which was OK, but not great. I left the peas out and they just dried up, so I threw them away and put the pods in my compost pile. In any case, I realize that if I grow black-eyed peas I’m either going to have to use several seeds to get a decent harvest if I use seeds from peas I buy at the grocery store, or I’m going to have to buy a high-yield variety and plant that. I’m not sure even planting a whole 4×4 SFG with nothing but b-eyed peas from the bulk bin at the grocery store will produce enough to eat at more than one meal! But it was still fun to get some pods, and opening them reminded me of the time when I was about 11 years old visiting my grandparents on their cotton farm in West Texas. My Mamaw had a huge veggie garden, and that summer she had harvested a bunch of what I think were black-eyed peas, and then she taught me how to shell them. Course this time around I’d forgotten what she’d taught me, and didn’t remember til I shucked the last pod. Oh well!

This concludes this round of my garden update. I do have a goji berry bush and blueberry bush in containers, but they need another year before they start fruiting, and there’s not a lot to report there. And I plan to devote a future posting to goji berry in general, and mine own bush to some extent in particular.

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Them's some big squash leaves thare . . .

Wow, now if only the squash fruit gets just as big, I’ll have a fab crop of B-nut squash! I am so happy to report that after my failed first go-round with planting butternut squash in a large container earlier this summer, I’ve now got vines out the wazoo, with big, healthy leaves and lots of big healthy baby squash and squash blossums. It is truly amazing what some good fertilizer and vigilance will do!

It was really heartbreaking earlier when I first planted the squash seeds from an organic butternut squash I’d bought at Whole Paycheck, I mean, Whole Foods earlier this spring. It started out so beautifully. I got it on the trellis, and it started popping out some little baby squash, but then it started getting yellow in places, and some of the squash started shriveling up. It reminded me of the disappointing venture I had last year at the apartment when I tried to grow some container cukes. They did the same thing, and I’d thought then it was disease. But nope, turns out that the likely culprit of both devastations was a mean little critter called a squash vine borer.

Late at night and early in the morning these little pests land on the curb family (I’m using the abbreviation cuz I don’t think I can spell the proper name without having to look it up, which I’m too lazy to do), which includes all squashes and cukes, lays little dark eggs at the base of the plant, and when the eggs hatch, evil little larvae burrow into the plant, suck it dry and then crawl into the soil to mature. This bore (no pun intended) itself out when I pinched back a dying baby squash to find a groddy little larvae high-tailing it into the stem, hoping I didn’t see it — but I did. Then as I did research, I realized that the little dark specks I’d seen earlier on the stems were the eggs- wish I’d realized it then. I had no idea. And I’m certain this is what destroyed my cukes last year — the vines grew, and little cukes would come out, but they’d wither away before they had a chance to grow. And that was what was happening to my beloved butternut squash plant.

So with a heavy heart, I yanked them out of the container, grabbed a couple more seeds, let them soak in water about 30 minutes, and planted them again. I was determined to have me some B-nut squash this fall! This time I didn’t shield them from the sun, and this time they popped up, I think even faster than the other ones did. And man, did they grow fast! They were growing fast even before I decided to put some organic fertilizer I’d inherited from my next-door apartment neighbor when she moved. 

And then boy, did they explode! The leaves got huge, and so did the budding squash blossums. I’d decided to add fertilizer, because I kept reading that the healthier your plants, the more resistant they are to pest and disease. Now, don’t tell ol’ Mel B ( of SFG fame, not the Spice Girl) that I did that, cuz he feels that if you’ve got good compost, you shouldn’t need fertilizer. Now the compost I used in the container was some I’d had left that I’d bought from Whole Foods last year, and not the really great LadyBug Compost, which I used with the malabar spinach in my tiny SFG to great success. So ol’ Mel can rest assured that great compost gets you great healthy plants, while not-so great compost gets you so-so results. When ya got not-so-great compost, ya add some great organic fertilizer.

In any case, the fertilizer I used seemed to do the trick. Green, green vines and humongous green leaves,

Beauty-ful yellow squash blossum

Beauty-ful yellow squash blossum & healthy baby squash

huge yellow beautiful yellow squash blossums and healthy baby fruit (see pic, right), and so far it seems, no infestation of squash vine borer! I have also made garlic tea and sprayed it periodically on the whole plant, which seems also to help a lot. I had to go out of town for a few days last week and contemplated putting row cover over it to protect it while I was gone, but I didn’t want my cat sitter to have to deal with removing it to water, so I let it go. The plant was still very, very healty when I got home, and the baby squash looks very healthy and is getting bigger by the day.

I had a little bit of a scare when I saw one of the squash looking a little withered, and I decided to go ahead and remove it, open it up and see if there was any larvae. I couldn’t find any. There may have been a squash bug (also known as stink bugs) that sucked on it. Those are a different sort of pesky squash critter that munch on the outside, as oppose to the inside, of squash. I also found on the backs of the leaves some patches of what looked like squash bug eggs. I sprayed the vine with garlic spray, and did my best to remove as many of the eggs off the leaves as I could. The vines weren’t that infested, and the eggs come of very easy and seemed to be destroyed just by rubbing them off the leaf. I will continue to be vigilant however, and look to have a successful crop this fall.

My next challenge, I think, will be managing the vines. Like the last time, I let both vines from each seed grow, even though Mel and the literature tell you to remove one of them. I just couldn’t do it. So now I gotta a lotta vine. Eventually, I may have to remove one, but I hope I can grow them both without too much trouble. But the vines are just growing like mad, and I’m not sure the trellis I have will be big enough. Then I’ll have to figure out how to support the squash fruit themselves on the trellis as they get bigger. I’ve read that if you’re trellising squash you can support the fruit with pantyhose(!), but I’m concerned that I’m going to have so much squash that there won’t be enough room to support them all on the trellis! It may just look like one big pantyhose convention as it is! Not that I’m complaining — I love butternut squash, and will be happy if I can grow a ton of it. It would be nice, however, if I could find pix of butternut squash, or other big winter squash growing on a trellis to see what others are doing. I also wonder if the vines can be trimmed? I need to find that out as well. If any of you readers know, please, pretty please with squash on top, leave me a comment below.

It does excite me, in my little B-nut squash experience that thus far: 1) I’ve been able to grow big, healthy vines from seed I saved from organic produce I bought and 2) that I’ve been able thus far to grow it in a container. When I started out in this experiment, I couldn’t find much on how to grow one in a container, only that it might be possible with a large container. Also, I wanted to do this as much for others who can only grow things in containers, like apartment or condo dwellers, or those who can’t bend down to garden, as much as for me, and I want others to see that you don’t need yardage to grow veggies and fruits.

Before I even got the house, I aspired to become self-sufficient even in an apartment, and my original idea and goal was to show how anyone, anywhere, can become self-sufficient. I had already started to do some container gardening at my apartment, and was looking to expand further. The house came to me as an unexpected blessing and surprise, and enabled me to expand my horizons to urban farming in an urban backyard, utilizing square foot gardening, and perhaps other methods, like lasagna gardening, and Mittlieder gardening that I hope to experiment with later. But, partly because I wasn’t ready to do full-on-out urban gardening and SFG, and partly because I wanted to help those who can only do container gardening, I decided to do things like try to grow butternut squash and black-eyed peas from seeds saved from organic produce at the store in containers, and grow malabar spinach and fruit (like dwarf pomegranate, blueberries and goji berries) in containers, along with my SFG experiment with the other malabar spinach plant and basil.

In any case, I hope that as I experiment others can learn from what I am doing and become inspired to do some gardening, and even become more self-sufficient, as I am doing. Right now we are living in some challenging times economically, environmentally, health-wise, etc., but these challenges are providing us with some really fab opportunities. More people are taking up urban farming and learning to rely less on the grocery store and more on themselves, while saving money, the environment, their health, and heck, maybe even their souls! I know that it has given me a wonderful passion that has enriched my own life and soul, and that I know will continue to deepen as I garden more and more and do more things to become self-sufficient. I am excited about this little adventure that I am on, and I hope you get inspired to embark on your own!

Ah-hum . . . well, guess I got a little carried away there. But, to partially quote one of our former local deli owners in a commercial he did for years and years — I just can’t help it! I gotta tell ya!

And now, inspiring speech over, I gotta go to bed! 😉


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Look at them babies!

Soon I will have some yummy pomegranates!

I have loved pomegranates since seventh grade, when I was introduced to these exotic fruits in two classes, my social studies class and my French class. I first ate the fruit in social studies when we learned about ancient Greece. I can’t remember how it appeared in class, if we had a spread of Greek food (if so, I obviously don’t remember what else we had), or if our teacher just brought it in to show us what a pomegranate looked and tasted like. Being a typical kid, I was a little hesitant to try something new, but I was kind of fascinated by the red jelly-like seeds, and when I put one in my mouth and bit into it, I was pleasantly surprised by how its sweetness popped inside my mouth. It was really good!

Then in my French class we had a class where each of us brought in French food. I brought in French onion soup that my mother and I had made, and my fellow students brought other dishes. Someone brought in grenadine syrup (made from pomegranates) and tonic water, and we made grenadine sodas — delish!

After these two cultural brushes with the fabulous pomegranate, I rarely partook again, except for an occaisional grenadine soda. Of course, back in the seventies (yes I’m dating myself) we didn’t have grocery stores with a lot of exotic fruit, though now, at least in Austin, you can throw a rock and hit a fancy and unusual fruit even in the pedestrian local HEB. I’m not even sure how my social studies teacher got a hold of a pomegranate in the first place back in the day. Maybe she had a pomegranate bush!

It’s only been in recent years that I have reaquainted myself with this lovely fruit. Of course, pomegranate is one of the latest health crazes, with people paying 3 bucks for a bottle of pomegranate tea or 9 bucks for pomegranate juice. I like pomegranate tea, and I like pomegranate juice, but I really do like the fruit. Our local food coop, Wheatsville, occasionally carries organic pomegranate, and when they do I like to get me one every so often. They are kinda expensive, however. In my old hood in 78704, I use to walk by a rental house that had a big pomegranate bush in front, loaded with fruit that was just going to waste. I kept wanting to knock on the door of the house asking if I could take some, but I never had the guts to do it. I wish I had.

Anywhoo, when I still lived in an apartment, I’d read about dwarf pomegranates, and thought they would be great to grow in the apartment, but I couldn’t seem to find any locally. When I moved into the house, I thought about the pomegranates again. I could get a regular pomegranate bush, but those get pretty big, plus I didn’t have any experience growing them. I thought the dwarf variant still might be the best thing for me to at least start out with. But I still couldn’t find any locally, not even at the Natural Gardner.

One day, however, I happened to be back out there, looking just to buy a few inexpensive things, when I heard a man ask one of the workers if they had any dwarf pomegranate bushes. She said yes, and I surrepitiously followed them to the back of the place, where, lo and behold, there was a small gathering of dwarf pomegranates. I kind of hung back, watching the man pick up various containers and waiting for him to pick one and go away so I could look for myself. He then sat them back down and started looking elsewhere close by. I couldn’t understand why he was looking at something else other than what he’d seem to come for. Well, I decided just to go on up and look myself. I found one with lots of flowers and one little fruit starting! I was so excited! And it was only $15 — granted, $15 more than I had intended on spending when I set out on my little trip, but it was still a good price.

In the meantime, the man came back, and he looked at me and the bush I’d picked and said, “If I was going to pick one, that would be it.” I felt bad and said, “Oh, I’m sorry — I didn’t know you’d picked this out. You can have it back.” He said that was OK, he’d pick out a couple of others. Then we started talking about gardening. He said he didn’t know anything about gardening, but then he told me all that he was doing, and he certainly seemed to know a lot more than I did. We talked about raised beds, and he told me that you could do raised beds up against a house, which I’d been thinking about doing, but didn’t know if it would hurt the foundation. He said it wouldn’t, and that actually it could protect the foundation. Then he proceeded to tell me how he’d created raised beds out of tires and the soil mix he used. He said though he didn’t know anything, he loved gardening and trying to grow all kinds of stuff. He added that his wife thought he was crazy, but he didn’t really care.

Then he took his two containers and took off. I bought mine and brought it home. That was about a month and a half or so ago. Since then, the one little fruit has gotten bigger, and now I’ve got two more fruits starting! The fruit is suppose to be ready to pick when it turns red, and I noticed today that the big one is just now starting to blush, so I hope I’ll be able to pick it soon. They are a lot smaller than regular pomegranates, but they are very cute, and the flowers the bush produces are a beautiful red orange. If the flower gets pollinated, the petals fall off and what looks like the shell of the flower starts puffing up on the stem end and gets bigger. Some petals and shells just fall off, and I guess those are ones that don’t get pollinated. I’ve just given the bush some fertilizer I bought at Natural Gardener to use on my tomatoes, but it’s suppose to be good for any flowering and fruiting plant. In any case, I’m excited to try my first pomegranate fruit from my bush!

Lookit them babies!

Lookit them babies!

I also picked up the baby bell pepper from the Natural Gardener, but earlier, in June. It produced a couple of little bell peppers, but then it exploded with several peppers, some of which have turned, or started to turn red. They are also very cute. It’s good, however, to let them stay on the bush a week or so after they turn red. They seem to get sweeter the longer they stay on the bush. I need to search some more to see when they are suppose to be picked. Today I picked off three for a salad I was making for lunch, and I wondered if maybe they’re suppose to be picked when they’re about to fall off the bush. They were pretty sweet when I put them in the salad, but I think they might have been even better if I’d let them stay on the bush a few more days.

But they were still a lot better than the first one I pick off the bush. I definitely picked that one too soon, as a matter of fact, right after it completely turned red. That one was still pretty bitter. For the next pepper I picked, I waited a lot longer, and it was very sweet.
These are very easy to grow. Just make sure they get watered every day in the summer, and have a little fertilizer, and they do great. I haven’t had any problems with pests or anything like that. I’d bought two plants, and one seemed to grow more vigorously than the other, but now that one is really starting to take off and coming up to speed with the other one.
I like these, but I think next year I’m going to plant regular sized bell peppers. Even though there are several peppers on the bush, it would take several to equal just one regular sized bell pepper. I’m sure that they are probably grown as much for presentation as for food, meaning they are probably served whole in salads at nice restaurants, is my guess. The funny thing is that the seeds are about the same size as seeds in a regular bell pepper, and the seeds really take up the inside of the pepper, which makes it a little difficult to hull them out. Maybe in nice restaurants you’re suppose to eat them whole with the seeds? Maybe I should try that sometime!
Next in my Garden Update series: Butternut Squash and Black-eyed Peas

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Well, I had hopped to keep things up to date a bit more with this here blog, but life just kinda conspires against ya sometimes, doesn’t it? I’ve been a busy little beaver this summer, though unfortunately I haven’t been as busy as I would have liked to have been with my green babies. In spite of this, quite a bit has been going on with my little garden. Everything seems to be thriving, and I’ve actually been able to eat some of the foods that I grew mahself! 

I’ve got quite a bit of updating to do, so I’m going to break this down into several parters w/ pix. Tonight, we will start with the Monster Malabar and Basil!

Lookit them thar greens!

Lookit them thar greens!

I am particularly proud of my malabar spinach and basil, which have grown by leaps and bounds. Both of these have been very, very easy to grow. I’ve grown basil before, but the malabar has been a new adventure. I highly recommend growing it — it has got to be the easiest thing I’ve ever grown. All you have to do is make sure it gets enough water, especially in the summer, give it something to climb on, and it just takes off. It is a beautiful climbing vine, with lovely heart-shaped rich green leaves, offset by deep gorgeous purple stalks and veins. The photo here really doesn’t do it justice.

One caveat though: I don’t think it does as well in a container. I am also growing another malabar spinach in an approximately 3 gallon container, and I really think if it’s grown in a container, it needs to be much larger. The stalk does grow long, and it looks healthy enough, but the leaves do not get nearly as big and full as it did in my little SFG, and the color isn’t as rich. I think it might have done well in a 15 gallon container, like the one I’m growing butternut squash in. It just seems to need a bit more room to really let itself go.

But whether you grow malabar spinach in an SFG, a container, or in the ground, you really need to give it something to climb on, because it is definitely a climber. For the SFG, I took some steel posts that I bought from Home Depot and then I attached plastic chicken “wire” to it. However, you have to train the spinach, and you will have to help it by periodically weaving it through the holes in your trellis. I have kind of haphazardly woven mine, but I think next year I will make a taller trellis for it, rather than weave it around in such a katy-whompus way, though I still think it’s really pretty and interesting that way. For the malabar in the container, I just took the plastic chicken “wire” and attached it to a bambo trellis.

Malabar spinach is also wonderful cooked. Stir-fried in olive oil and onion, it is absolutely delish! You do want to cook it, though — the flavor is too strong for a salad, I think. I have also eaten it with my miso and tahini sauce on it, and this seems to give it kind of a smokey, almost bacony flavor, which is very nice. To make the sauce, I take mellow white miso and then it with water to a creamy consistency, then I add a little tahini and stir it together. You can also add some lemon juice for a little zip, but I often just use water. It is really good and easy and is wonderful with any kind of greens. Yum!

As for the basil, I have used some of it in my homemade lasagna, and it was fab. But I have so much basil growing now, that I think I’m going to have to start making some pesto! Not that I’m complaining! 🙂

Next in my Garden Update: Dwarf Pomegranates!

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