Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Garden update and photos

I decided to do a garden update blog, show some photos, and talk about how the unseasonably warm weather has been affecting the plants.

Currently planted and growing:  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, bush green beans, cucumbers, melons, citrus, blueberries, and an assortment of herbs and flowering annuals for some color. The weather has been unseasonably warm this Spring. We really never got any freezes over Winter, and the afternoon highs have been steadily in the 80's with a few days all the way up into the low 90's. Some of the plants are growing fast and spindly. But, they are growing, and the tomatoes and eggplants are fruiting. No baby peppers yet, but they're blooming. The bush beans, cucumber, and melons are seedlings, but coming along nicely. The mint is already starting to look worse for the wear, and I've moved their pots into more shaded areas, hopefully with daily watering they'll hang in there.

Above is my bay laurel tree, it's been growing in this pot for a few years now, next year it'll be time to move it into a larger one. When I got it, it was one little stalk with maybe six leaves on it. I've been cutting it back a bit every Winter to encourage it to bush out more. I've got four branches going now, maybe I can get it even fuller. In the ground, the trees can grow quite large, but you can keep them pruned to a managable size in a large pot. I had one at least eight feet tall and with at least 8-10 branches growing at my parents' house, but they're temperate trees, and it died in a rare Houston hard freeze. So, I decided that since they are so slow growing, it'd be best to grow one in a pot that could be moved against the house or even into the garage if we get another hard freeze. It's the true bay, and the leaves have a really pleasant aroma and flavor fresh. They're stronger when dried, but fresh does work for cooking.

These are some blueberries, ripening on one of the blueberry bushes. I don't know which specific variety this particular plant is, I forgot to check the tag, but they're from the "rabbiteye" type of blueberry bushes that tend to do well here in our climate. They look nice and blue, but are nowhere near ripe yet, I expect they'll need another month at least. If all the berries on the four bushes ripen up well, I'll have enough to make one batch of muffins. Which is fine, they're not mature specimens by a long shot, it was nice to be able to get enough fruit to sample this season. I'd love to plant an entire hedge of blueberry bushes, but have no idea where it'd go.

This is my Marrs orange tree, I have growing in a large pot, actually it's a storage or laundry bin from Walmart, I just cut off the rope handles. This tree is possibly going in the ground next Spring, so no need to invest in a fancy pot for it.  It just bloomed, and there are a few dozen tiny oranges on it, about the size of raisins. But, I have to pick most of them off, and at most let four grow and ripen. It's still too immature to even think about supporting a full crop. It needs energy to go into growth, not making fruit. If I keep it pruned and in pots, it'll only get about 6' tall. But in the ground it can get twice as tall and very wide. It's fairly cold tolerant, and after a couple more years of growth, would be able to handle all but the worst freezes we get in this area.

This is my main tomato planting area, several varities in 5 gallon hardware store buckets. They're great for tomatoes as long as you use good soil and keep them well fertilized. The pots in front are two types of basil. Plain old sweet basil in the larger pots, and a spicy globe basil in the smaller pots.  The basil is absolutely loving the hot weather, so I am going to get several little starter pots going with basil seed for later in the season.  The tomatoes are growing and blooming and setting fruit. I decided not to pick off the blooms until they grow bigger because for all I know by the time they fill out, it'll be too hot for the blooms to set into fruit. I figure with the screwy weather we're having I'll just be glad for whatever I get.

This is a little cluster of three Patio variety tomatoes. They're compact and sturdy little plants, perfect for containers, but they make decent sized fruit. Not a big slicing tomato, but not a cherry either. I had a lot of luck with them last year, so I planted four of them this year. I have five altogether set on the four plants and several more blooms that will probably set fruit within a week or so.

These are all my containers at the side driveway, where I also get full sun. The large orange pots in the back are where my blueberries are planted. For this year at least, we may build a bed for them at the side of the yard next year. The two larger green pots on either side with the cages/trellises have melon seedlings. An unusual heirloom variety called a "Rich Sweetness 132" melon, that makes fruits that are about the size of a peach. I figure that if the vines outgrow the trellises, I can just anchor them to the top of the fence, and grow them right across. The smaller green containers have peppers and tomatoes. 3 of them have "Yummy" variety sweet peppers, and 2 have "Husky Cherry" tomatoes.  Both the peppers and tomatoes are smaller bushy varieties that are good for containers. The little gray pots have yellow chrysanthemums in them for now, and probably where I'll put my basil seedlings if I have any luck and they make it transplantable size.

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