Eat (and Produce) Good Food: 13 April 2014

Great news: the tomatoes are starting to show! In other nightshade news… buds are forming on the “Jalapeño M” and “Garden Salsa” pepper plants.


Flowering tomatoes



Tiny “Sweet 100” baby tomato


“Big Beef” Big baby tomato


“Garden Salsa” buds


“Jalapeño M” buds

My plan to rehydrate the trough soils worked very well. Unfortunately, the parsley, cilantro and chives are still not very healthy. It is clear now that I need to re-transplant them into deeper pots. While I am at it, I may as well move the spearmint and dill into pots as well, completely vacating the troughs. Maybe my upstairs neighbor would like them for some flowers that would be better suited to that style planter.



While the troughs cast a shadow that I will be glad to remove, additional planters may cause a congestion problem. Then again, maybe not: I’ll be able to place some right up against the rail and I won’t have to dodge the shadows anymore. We’ll see. Also need to get some cages for those tomatoes soon. One of the “sweet 100” vines is grabbing another, but I don’t expect they’ll lend each other enough support.


4: Eat (and Produce) Good Food: 2 April 2014

So I finally got all my (surviving) plants transplanted Wednesday; the thyme didn’t make it. I can’t believe how quickly the soil is drying out. It has been somewhat cool and humid, but I am clearly not watering enough. The plants in pots are doing reasonably well, but those in the troughs are struggling. I got the sage into a pot a few days ago. One of the sage plants was really busting out of the starter pot, and now that it is in a full-sized container it is really taking off! I tried to get the basil in at the same time, but was unable. I had to drill a drain-hole in the pot, but the battery for my drill was dead. The basil was the last to be transplanted, yesterday.

As mentioned above, I have a number of plants in coir-lined troughs hanging over the patio railing that are really suffering. Since I did not plan properly, I did not place enough soil in the troughs. The shallow soil combined with the aeration of the coir and not watering enough is really drying it out. The soil is so dry that it is rejecting new water. I thought about taking them out and adding soil, but I have been informed that working the soil while it is too dry or moist can really mess things up. After pouring a generous amount of water over all the planters (much of which just ran straight through) I used a spray bottle to distribute about a quart of water evenly over the surface. This got created a saturated layer over the surface. Then I placed fresh potting soil over the surface that was near optimum moisture content. Finally, I watered the new soil into the existing. Hopefully, this will help infuse the whole bed with moisture. I will need to watch closely.


left to right Cilantro and Chives in Trough


left to right Parsley, Dill, Spearmint and Cilantro in Trough

The plants in pots are mostly growing, though some are simply holding steady. Both varieties of tomatoes are showing some yellow flowers! I need to find out when I should put up a cage around the tomatoes for support. Since the plants are all reaching for the sun, I have begun a rotation plan, simply turning each pot 90-degrees clockwise. I’ll have to see how quickly they respond to calibrate the frequency.


clockwise from bottom Serrano Pepper, Basil, Purple Bell Pepper, Sage, Garden Salsa Pepper, Rosemary, Oregano, Jalapeno Pepper, Beefsteak Tomato, Cherry Tomato in Pots

Back on the 23rd of March I sprayed all the plants with a foliar application of John’s Recipe. This will be a bi-weekly application continuing this Sunday. I’ll check the packaging about the recommended frequency for soil soaks, but if it is also bi-weekly, I reckon I’ll alternate the foliar and soil applications on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, I don’t recall when I did the first soak (which would be for all plants, but sage and basil because they were still in starter pots), but March 19th is a pretty good guess.

On April 2nd, while planting the basil, I also spread some fertilizer, raked it about with a small cultivator and watered it into all the beds. I hope I don’t regret not being more careful with the measurement.

1. Eat (and Produce) Good Food

So, I just moved to the Austin area and finally have my garden started. Well, sort of. I could, no should, have planned it better, but I found myself in a $#¡+ or get off the pot situation. That tends to happen, probably because I am a perfectionist. More probably because I tend to swim in abstraction to the exclusion of the concrete. When I try to plan these things out I will easily spend months or years reading and watching videos to learn about my interests (theoretically) and never really get around to doing anything since I am not perfectly prepared.

I am also very uncomfortable in situations where I am not an expert. I know everything, you see, but I can’t seem to remember things I’ve never done before, like investing in gardening capital. Realizing that if I did not throw myself out of the comfort zone of books, the internet and daydreams and into action now, I may never do so, we hit the road.

Now, the The Natural Gardener in Austin is a slice of paradise blossoming on the border of the Texas Hill Country. We first went on Pi Day, but we spent so much time marveling at the gardens, guests and animals that we ran out of time to actually buy anything. We had to get the kids fed before an aprandial breakdown. We came back the next cool, foggy, lightly drizzled morning. We found the  employees to be pleasantly engaging, knowledgeable and glad to be of service. They would have been much more helpful had I been prepared to ask the right questions. The wife and I went hog-wild buying plants, but had no idea what to do as far as containers and soil. To say I had no idea regarding containers is a misstatement. I was totally excited about doing this recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter. While this will probably be a great idea sometime, it neither addressed nor considered the more practical concern of what volume of soil placed in what apportionment of planters do I need? We picked up a bunch of plants and not nearly enough soil then headed off to a big box home improvement retailer for containers.

I grabbed a couple of homer buckets and was demonstrating to my wife how the recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter works, but all she saw was a tacky orange bucket on the balcony. So we picked up some more stylish planters instead, cheap plastic with a weathered bronze appearance. We grabbed three fairly large ones that could be nested into the smaller ones to create the self-watering effect. We also got a couple of English horse trough planters that can hang on the rail of the patio; they are metal frames with coir liner. Finally  we got a hanging planter from which I was considering to plant a tomato upside-down.

Once I got home and was faced with actually transferring soil and plants into containers, it quickly became apparent that I was unprepared. I dug out my documentation and started assessing what size these plants may hope to attain and put a pen to paper to see which plants I’d put together in which containers. I did not have enough containers The recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter concept was going to consume two planters for each application, making matters worse.

I started with two Gorizia rosemary plants in a large container. Then I placed two Italian spice oregano in another. That used up about 3/4 of a bag. I put the three Nelly onion chives in half of an English horse trough and ran out of soil. That hardly put a dent in the queue waiting to be potted, and I may need to re-pot some of these when they grow to full size. I watered them all in and gave a quick shot to all the other little startlings, being careful not to get water on the leaves of the garden sage.

Total plant inventory:

  • 3 Italian spice oregano
  • 3 Sweet Basil
  • 2 Garden sage
  • 2 Gorizia rosemary
  • 2 Cilantro
  • 1 Plain Parsley
  • 1 Spearmint mint
  • 1 Lost the Label oregano
  • 3 Nelly onion chives
  • 3 Sweet 100 tomatoes
  • 1 Big Beef tomato (grafted for improved performance)
  • 2 Garden Salsa peppers
  • 2 Purple Bell peppers
  • 2 Jalapeño ‘M’ peppers
  • 1 Serrano pepper

Once I get some more containers and soil and get everything planted, I’ll post some pictures. I claim victory not on account of preparedness, but on execution. The execution was far from flawless, but I have moved beyond reading, watching and dreaming. Commence phase one of my one man (and a woman and three boys) revolution in America: Eat and produce good food!

It has to start somewhere

It has to start sometime

What better place than here

What better time than now

All hell can’t stop us now

 Guerilla Radio, Rage Against the Machine