The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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Small Space Vegetable Gardening

20180517_200357I’m not a vegetable gardener. I think I have made the clear in the three or four years I have been blogging. I’m into flowers and shrubs.

But that’s not to say I don’t appreciate vegetable gardening or gardens. I’ve tried my hand at tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and peppers and have had a few good results and a fair amount of bad results. The truth is vegetable gardening intimidates me. I’d like to say that I don’t have the right space for a vegetable garden but a recent visit to Italy dispelled that notion. Small space gardening isn’t just for flowers.

20180517_200419I stayed in an apartment in suburban Perugia. One day I locked myself out of the apartment but thought my sister might be in the apartment and could open the door. However, she didn’t answer her cell phone. But I was sure she was in there. So, I walked around to the back of the building to call up to her window and that is when I discovered the garden behind the apartment building next door.

 

20180517_200524And as luck would have it I got to meet the gentleman who created this lovely space. We had a lively conversation even though he did not speak a word of English and I do not speak Italian. But that did not stop us from discussing his garden.

What immediately struck me was the confined space for this garden and his joy and pride for this small space. It literally butts up to an athletic court. Fennel, table grapes, sage and rosemary grow up against the fence. It is long and narrow, running the length of the apartment building and is terraced. Its depth is probably no more than 10 or 12 feet. And it is abundant with vegetables.

20180517_200349He invited me around the fence where he was proud to show me his insalata, pomadoro, artichokes, beans and, yes, they are for his family only. A cherry tree sits on the edge of the garden. 20180517_20033520180517_200545He pointed out that the garden that abuts his is his neighbor’s. Its small space includes an olive tree. Making the most of his space, the garden extends into the backyard next to the play set for his grandchildren. Or maybe it’s the other way around–the garden extending beyond his yard into the common space by the athletic courts.

Either way, the garden speaks to the ability to grow vegetables in small spaces. And its tidy appearance speaks to the owner’s deep pride in this space.

 

 

 

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Salad Gardening Experiment Update

Salad fixins

Lettuce, spinach and broccoli grow from seed in my veg trug.

I’ve enjoyed my first home grown salad of the season. Tender lettuce and spinach leaves gingerly harvested from the veg trug. Truly a satisfying feeling. A salad that was fresh, delicious and grown from seed in my own backyard.

Yet I seriously doubt I will grow vegetables from seed again.

DSCN4483

Freshly picked, washed and ready for tossing.

It’s not that I didn’t derive a great sense of accomplishment from harvesting my own salad fixins. I did! Honestly, though, I did not enjoy the growing-from-seed experience. I did two experiments: Starting seeds in eggshells (what I affectionately call The Pinterest Salad) and direct sowing seeds into my veg trug (what I call the No-Fuss-No-Muss Salad). And if I had to choose one over the other, I prefer the latter.

Daily I misted the eggshells and the seeds quickly began to sprout. Joyous, I envisioned gently positioning my eggshell seedlings into the trug beside the No-Fuss-No-Muss experiment. The race would be on! But wait, what’s this? My eggshell seedlings became…leggy. Apparently my bright sunny window was not enough. I actually needed a grow light which would provide the appropriate light so that that lettuce would grow bushier.

Uh-oh.

egg carton growing (960x1280)

Leggy lettuce, broccoli and pelargonium get their start in eggs shells.

Meanwhile, the seeds in the trug were, well, trugging along. They were very slow to get going. Day after day little progress greeted my pre- and apres-work inspections. Was I watering enough? Too much? Not enough sun? Too cold? I moved that trug from sun to shade to partial sun/partial shade. Time would soon tell. Wouldn’t it? The broccoli plant looks wonderful but has yet to bear broccoli.

Veg Trug April (960x1280)

Direct sown into the veg trug, spinach and lettuce begin to sprout.

 

I decided this was too much anxiety for a salad. But patience saved the day and eventually the lettuce and spinach produced lovely leaves worthy of picking and drenching with salad dressing. It occurred to me that I should have written down the date I planted the seeds so that I could generally expect when they would mature. (I think I was looking out the window during science class.) The brocolli has yet to produce.

I continued to mist the Pinterest Salad. I had read that blowing a small fan near the seedlings would strengthen their stems. Whose got time for that! It’s no wonder I prefer the No-Muss-No Fuss method to salad gardening. I eventually took my Pinterest Salad outside and attempted to plant the eggshells in a small pot. That did not work. The shell fell apart and the seedling root structure was far to fragile.

Next year, I will fill my trug with salad fixins, but I plan to buy small starter plants from the nursery, which I expect will be equally satisfying.

Do you grow vegetables from seed?

 


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Whistle While You Work

This blog title pretty well describes my day yesterday. First, it was Friday. No explanation needed there. Even better, it was planting day.

A group of us at work have come together to plant a container garden outside the patio of one of the buildings. We’ve been planning this for quite some time and have had several meetings to discuss what we’d plant–veggies; when we’d plant–Earth Day; steps needed to take to get this done–get seeds, containers, soil, signs, building approval, watering schedule, weeding volunteers, etc.

As these things tend to go, one thing led to another. I’ve mentioned before that I work with seed and plant experts, so at sometime along the way (like Meeting One) we decided we needed their, ahem, “engagement” in this project. And by that I mean we went begging, asking for quality seed, assistance to grow out the seed and maybe even a little bit of agronomic support. We’d do the rest! Honest. Especially the planting on a Friday part.

“Engagement” wasn’t an issue. This small project taps right to the roots of the joys of gardening. Lots of us love to get our hands dirty; and are as passionate about home gardening as we are about farming. Even one volunteer brought everyone rosemary plants he started at home from seed. Kind of a party favor, if you will. And Nick, a marketing manager for Seminis Vegetable Seeds, was more than happy to provide seeds and supplies so we could showcase the products he is so proud of on campus.

Planting site (1280x960)Here’s the lineup of what we’ve got going on. Many are AAS selections. Maybe you’ve planted some of these seeds in your own vegetable gardens:

  • Lettuce: Amanda
  • Spinach: Green Beret
  • Brocolli:” Artwork (AAS)
  • Peppers: Flaming Flare Fresno (AAS), Emerald Fire Jalapeno (AAS), Hot Sunset Banana (AAS), Sweet Sunset Banana (AAS), Flaming Jade Serrano (AAS)
  • Squash: Bossa Nova (AAS)
  • Tomatoes: Better Boy, Rugged Boy SV0056TD, Dixie Red
  • Cucumber: Gateway
  • Custard Beans

Eric, one of our planting experts, explained over lunch that our patio garden will have some challenges. The garden’s location gets lots of sun, which is good. It also will give off lots of heat retained by the patio. Fruiting plants like tomatoes will require lots of watering–even on weekends. And we’ll need to be coordinated in our watering schedule. We don’t want to drown the plants and we don’t want to overwater them either.

M Building Before (1280x960)

This is the patio bed before the plants were removed. It’s the perfect size for a container garden. Bonus: It gets tons of sun.

Full serpentine planters (960x1280)

The cool season crops like broccoli, lettuce and spinach will soon be replaced by more peppers, zucchini and other warm season vegetables.

I did learn this tidbit: Water deeply to encourage the roots to reach down to the water. I’m guilty of watering too lightly. That encourages shallow root growth. I’ll be more mindful of that in my garden this summer.

And he explained that we’ll need to be on the watch out for leaf molds and fungus, as well as critters who enjoy the fruits of our labor. You’ve heard me complain about squirrels and rabbits. This garden will in all likelihood also include deer.

What started as lots of gardending enthusiasts thinking “Wouldn’t it be neat to have a garden at work?” has become a reality that turned into a really neat way to meet and know new colleagues. We have more in common than where we work. We all love to garden. I’m thinking we could have a plant swap down the road.

Does your office or company gardening opportunities?