May, 2009

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Pepper Update

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Peppers are growing nicely. Have several jalapenos and poblanos, but none large enough to harvest yet. No further signs of the dreaded BER yet either. It has been 53 days since I planted the seedlings. The jalapenos in particular seem to stop growing larger when they reach about 1.5″. Maybe they are ready to harvest, but I thought they would get a bit bigger.

Muchos Poblanos babies

Muchos Poblanos babies

Poblano Close-up

Poblano Close-up

Lots of Jalapenos

Lots of Jalapenos

EarthBox, EarthTainer, GrowBox, etc.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I am finding more and more evidence of EarthBox-like container gardening online. I was first tipped off to the EarthBox when watching a cooking show on PBS featuring chef Rick Bayless of Chicago. They were interviewing him on his restaurant’s rooftop garden in downtown Chicago. It was unbelievable–a lush forest of tomatos and peppers up there in the middle of Chicago. He mentioned that he used “self-watering self-fertilizing containers”, and that’s what led me to look into them and get one of my own (I have yet to try it out–missed the spring planting dates. Am planning on trying some squash in it in late summer). There is so much guesswork (for the novice gardener at least) involved in both watering and fertilizing that something that handles both of those tasks for you is very appealing. Also the ability to garden anywhere is attractive, especially for those of us in areas with lots of deer. The deer won’t come up onto the deck!

Since reading about the EarthBox here and there online I have run into other similar commercial planters as well as some DIY variations. One in particular, called the “EarthTainer” (that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as “EarthBox”), seems to have some momentum behind it. It has a larger capacity than the EarthBox (3 cu. ft. of mix vs. 2 for the EarthBox) and can be made for $23.00 from easy-to-find materials according to the detailed instructions available here (PDF). The creator of this version is a frequent poster (as “raybo”) to the annoyingly ad-laden but heavily-trafficked GardenWeb forums and there are lots of informative posts there about his experiments with the EarthTainer, including many tantalizing photos of EarthTainers filled with corn and tomatos.

So we have the EarthBox and the EarthTainer. And I have also found an unnamed version that appears to perhaps be a predecessor to the EarthTainer. Detailed instructions are here for that one. And another DIY one with instructions is at the Inside Urban Green site. Their site calls these things “Sub-Irrigated Grow Boxes“, which seems like a suitable generic name. Have also seen “Sub-Irrigated Planter” or “SIP”. Inside Urban Green seems to be leading the charge for the use of SIPs in urban areas. This post in particular discusses one of the dangers that SIPs neatly avoid–lead-laden urban soils–and also provides a good set of links to further resources.

Googling around for more info on the EarthTainer led me to an Austin garden blog, the Crazy Billionaire, that has a discussion as well as a test of the EarthTainer. Good blog by the way, check it out.

Just found another commercially available one called the Garden Patch GrowBox. And another called the Organic Tomato Success Kit. And another DIY version at The Rooftop Garden Project. They’re everywhere!

Anyway, looking forward to firing up my EarthBox.

Shrub Ideas

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Asked for some suggestions on GardenWeb for a shrub that would work well against one side of our house. Here’s the requirements:

-Would like something that gets 3-5′ tall
-Has to be deer resistant
-Will get a few hours of late afternoon sun (2-3 hrs I am guessing, but not positive. We had some aspidistra there but it got fried.)

Capturing responses here since GW does not keep posts forever:

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Texas Sage would probably work if it is not too wet there.

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The deer never bother my abelia. They also never touch the red tips that grow in full sun on the south side of our house. They grow fast and keep the sun out, but get much larger than 3′-5′ unless you trim a lot. The same for elaegnus. Dwarf yaupon works, but takes a while to get to 3′ high.

Some people have had problems with red tips, but ours have been in for 18 yrs. no problem.

No pittosporum or indian hawthorne, it’s deer candy.

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Dwarf wax myrtle is my best suggestion. It’s smells strong so deer avoid it. A delightful smaller version of the tree form Wax Myrtle. Aromatic leaves and pale blue berries. Makes a nice low hedge.

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I vote for abelia. Nice fragrance! I highly recommend Rose Creek variety because of better compact form. I just don’t know if deers would avoid it or not.

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Texas Mountain Laurel will take that hot afternoon sun and still be decent in shade. Evergreen sumac

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Leaning towards the sage, but not sure yet.

BER

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

The dreaded Blossom End Rot has hit my jalapenos. The first peppers are getting larger and now have black spots on their blossom ends. A sure sign of the scourge of tomatos and peppers–Blossom End Rot (BER). After some online reasearch, it looks like I should have added some source of calcium to the soil before planting. Read on one site that this is especially true if you are growing in a container. Oops. Hopefully it’s not too late to get the calcium to the plant. In retrospect, I did other things wrong for container plants as I have learned–used soil instead of a soil-less mix, which appears to be the proper way to do container plants.

BER Dammit!

BER Dammit!

Yuck

Yuck

Other causes of BER are uneven watering and uneven fertilizing. But I will try the calcium first. I headed to a couple of nurseries today and tried to find some agricultural lime, to no avail. So I decided to try some gypsum after finding a page online that says it might work fine, so shaved off some scrap sheetrock I had in the garage. Worth a shot. Might be too late to amend the soil at this point. We shall see. Have also read that sometimes only the first round of fruit will have BER and it will work itself out in subsequent fruit sets……

First Poblano

Friday, May 15th, 2009

First poblanos are forming finally, about 39 days after I planted the seedling. The first jalapeno appeared much sooner, by the 27th day or so after planting the seedling. Still no harvestable peppers yet, but getting closer!

First Poblano Forming

First Poblano Forming