Upside-down Gardening

I admit I haven’t tried topsy-turvy or a homemade version so that I can grow tomatoes(or other vegetables) upside down–I figure I would still have the deer problem. (No triple-pulley system for me!) But I just read this article in the New York Times and am curious what others have to say.

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Tomato Restraint

The restraint doesn’t apply to the number of plants that I will have in raised beds (18) or the number still in my house (more than the 10 I have yet to plant). This was restraint from getting yet more! I was just at the Trenton Farmers’ Market and one stand was selling two-packs of plants for $1. And not your generic Burpee varieties either, but heirlooms. What’s an Abe Lincoln? And they had mortgage lifters, and krims and pineapple and banana (both tomatoes) and and … They swear they’ll be back next year. Maybe next year I’ll grow fewer and buy a few varieties?

Remind me of this.

So We’re Farmers

Our pepper (and eggplant) patch

A neighbor came by to pick up some seed-grown tomato plants I’d promised him, got his first look at our five raised beds and promptly pronounced us farmers.

This weekend certainly was a weekend for planting. The smaller of the two tomato raised beds is full — three pairs of seed-grown plants, a Ramapo we got for free at Rutgers Day and a volunteer pair that I figured were big enough to leave alone. Wish I could say what varieties the three pairs are, but I’ve managed to lose the labels. Sun golds? Bloody butcher? I have no idea, only that they are three different types. I’ve got others that need a couple more weeks, I think, and then they will go into the bed for 10, sharing space for a while with garlic. The first tomato bed may share space with radishes for a while. Why not?

All the leeks are now in. We were thrilled to spot seedlings at a local produce shop and bought three four-packs, with at least four seedlings per square, or so it seemed. I haven’t counted but I would guess five dozen. Oh yeah, there are a few still in the basement that we’ve grown from seed. No idea where we will put them. Maybe we’ll wait til the peas have been harvested and have some fresh squares to fill. A nice problem to have!

Peppers are in too. Thanks to another neighbor who bought three four-packs and only wanted two of each, we have sweet, bell and hot peppers. We returned the favor by sharing our cherry hot four-pack. The ninth pepper is Trinidadian perfume, bought at Rutgers Day and is not supposed to be hot.

Next to them are three rosa eggplants, also from Rutgers Day, and a mix of regular green zucchini and the scalloped pattycake variety. I figured I had to plant more than one seed per area just in case, so you know they will all germinate and we will have a glut.

The 12-foot bed, also known as our Fort Knox, is filling up with peas and burgundy beans that we hope the groundhog won’t get to this year, plus some salad greens, three types of cucumbers (glut!), beets, brussel sprouts, collards (though they looked just like the broccoli plants so who really knows?), coriander and lime basil. Other varieties of basil will go in by the end of the week. We probably get some parsley plants too.

Our fifth bed is leek and potato soup — four different potato varieties, plus leeks. Three of the potato types were planted a while ago and the plants look simply huge to us novice farmers.

Here’s a look at the potato plants, about nine days apart:

Potatoes, May 17

Purple May

The garden has gone from yellow (with hundreds of daffodils) to heavily purple. Purple columbines, purple catmint, purple Siberian irises, purple alliums that are starting to bloom.

There’s also white bearded irisis (the purple and yellow ones in the “iris bed” were flattened by last weekend’s winds, a few white daisies and a scattering of other flowers. Here’s a look at what’s in bloom:




Yard Play

I have never claimed to be an organized gardener, armed with a firm design and a definitive list of plants to buy. Even my vegetable beds, which come closest to having a plan, always end up … different.
So after two plant sales in two weekends (and the Mercer County Master Gardeners’ sale is not to be missed!), I knew it would make sense to take two days off work and play in the yard–weed, move things around and plant. We bought 15 plants at the Mercer County sale and a few others (mostly vegetables .. that’s easier!) at Rutgers Day. Yeah, we had a list, but we didn’t exactly have homes for just about any of them.
We did score some that were on my most-wanted list, including two Jack in the Pulpits and a pot of Virginia bluebells. I planted both in a shady spot near the house — and near the faucet, figuring they are more likely to stay damp all summer that way. I hope they spread!
We loved our blanket flower last year and bought two varieties, putting them in two spots. (I know, not a drift! But they’ll expand.). Picked up a red version of a black-eyed Susan that was in the annual section at Rutgers Day but which my Bluestone catalogue lists as a perennial. Hope it at least self-seeds!
The “swamp aster” is our $1 gamble on trying to find an aster the deer won’t eat. I guess it needs to stay wet … maybe near a downspout?
I spent 50 cents on a pot of a pink/purple ornamental grass that I am sure will spread. But I really warmed to grasses last year. But I’m still not sure where this will go.
The master gardeners were selling lemongrass, so I bought a small pot that looks a lot healthier than the one I have been trying to grow indoors. They advised burying it in a bigger pot so it will be easier to bring inside come winter. I”m hoping it will fill it!
What else? David Phlox, another phlox, lemon basil, a rosa eggplant, brussel sprouts, a free Ramapo tomato, lavender, Rosemary Arp (winter-hardy in zone 6!) and then some leek seedlings and cherry peppers from a produce shop. We didn’t find everything on the list; I’d have liked more sneezeweed. But last year’s plant has grown and I’m sure I’ll eventually find it again.
Here’s what’s in bloom:

First irises (10 at once!) of 2010 on May 2
Last daffodils of 2010
Azalea that escaped the deer