Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Garden: Seattle

Seattle presents great challenges for veranda gardening. Especially in my particular case where I have a giant tree blocking a lot of sunlight in the mornings. Also, although the days last from 6:00am until 9:30pm during the summers here, it never really warms up and the light itself is not very bright. There is a lot of fog in the mornings, so mold is almost guaranteed. The lack of sun means a lot of popular vegetables will be unproductive. The cold means slower growth and later, shorter growing periods.
This is the view from the veranda. You can see the tree that is blocking my sun. Just a few meters over, there is a lot of sun, but that area gets mowed frequently so I can't use it.

Forgetting all that, I went out and bought some supplies and transplants.

I bought a nice, deep planter. On the right is a big bag of Miracle-Gro soil which claims to fertilize plants for 6 months. Inside the planter are three plants I've selected for this year's garden: Japanese Cucumber, Japanese Eggplant, and Red Bell Peppers.

The problem is that these plants need full sun, but I can't offer that to them. Worst case, they will meet their doom in a week or so. Best case, I hope they can produce a few fruits.

There were a lot of pots already here, but I wanted a long, deep one so that I could effectively use the space on the porch. I can't believe it cost $17 at Home Depot. How can a plastic planter be so expensive?

Seattle also has a slug problem. They seek out gardens and munch. I considered lettuce, but I've seen how much slugs like it, so I decided against it. In order to help prevent slugs, I used bricks to raise the planter off the ground. You can see it in the final picture.

Cucumbers need to grow upwards, but garden netting is extremely expensive here. One net was going for $15 a square yard. There is something really uncomfortable about paying that much for disposable materials.
I'm a bit proud of the cucumbers on the left. In lieu of paying an arm and a leg for garden netting, I built my own. The materials used are a thumbtack, twine, and staples. The thumbtack (not pictured) holds the twine to the wall. The twine is stapled to the pot, and each of those "steps" is a piece of twine stapled to the vertical twine. Home-made and probably costing less than a penny.

Things are started!

Garden Round Up: Tokyo

Vegetable gardens, when productive, can be extremely productive. Some people are so overflowing with green peppers and squash and zucchinis that they can't give them away fast enough. When they are non-productive, you'll sit there nursing your one and only vegetable only to have it stop growing at half size and fall off the plant before you ever had a chance to eat it.

This year I had a lot of success with strawberries, potatoes, and tomatoes. On the other end of the spectrum, my green peppers and watermelon were merely decorative. I also had a few unexpected plants show up, like the new avocado tree. If I needed to survive on only my plants, I would not have made it.

However, I learned a few things.
  • The pepper prefers to be closer to the veranda wall where there is more morning sun. Although the afternoon sun is longer, it is dimmer and less direct than the morning sun.
  • I need to teach people taking care of my tomatoes *how* to remove the "waki me". I had a very productive year, but because one branch grew out of the side, I spent a lot of time trying to find ways to prop it up. I should have been spending that time eating more tomatoes.
  • Watermelons need to be started earlier. If left to their own devices, they will sprout a month too late and won't reach maturity in time to harvest. Also, they probably need better soil and more room to grow.
  • Strawberry plants die. I didn't think about this until just this summer when all the plants that bore fruit this spring dried up and died. The one that didn't produce any fruits at all is thriving and is currently sending out runners. I'll catch these and start again next year. I may try a different pot and retire the one I'm using now.
  • Potatoes need more time. I probably harvested them too early. They were small, but they were tasty! Next year I'll wait a little longer before pulling them up.
The garden in Japan is still producing tomatoes and everyone over there is enjoying them. I had a couple before I left and thought they were a bit tough and sour. I bet if I waited just a couple days longer they would have tasted much better.

That's it for this year. I'll be heading back in December, so the next time I write about it, I'll be deciding what to plant in the winter. I'm thinking of a few things, but it'll take a little more research to do it right. More than anything else, I've found that planning and research leads to better results than seat-of-the-pants gardening. Planting is fun, but harvesting is better.