I know I’ve been absent from the blog for a while, I am probably one of the laziest gardeners in the world. My last baby chard harvest was on in mid-July, and after that, I basically let my garden go a little wild—at least as wild as it’s possible to go in the middle of South Philadelphia. There are weeds everywhere, and things are looking a little… spent. About the only garden task I’ve kept up with is refilling the bird feeder, and that’s not really gardening.
Fortunately, I’ve learned from previous years that I am a lazy gardener. Back in May, I had set up a soaker hose with a smart timer. It took a little tweaking, but the plants now get watered every day for 5 minutes at 6am and 5 minutes at 7am—without me having to lift a finger. It’s a smart system, so it automatically delays watering in the event of rain. And if I think the garden needs extra watering, I can turn it on using my phone.
You have no idea how much I love how lazy this allows me to be. No. Idea. Now if only the garden would weed itself.
Last week, I was looking at my “blue” plants and thinking that really, they’re more like purple. Then a few days later, a gardening podcast I enjoy listening to, called Let’s Argue About Plants,released an episode called “True Blue Beauties.”Of course, even on the podcast, there was some argument about whether some of these plants weren’t in fact purple. Overall, I think they did a good job, and I might have to add some of these plants to my “Someday” list.
My not-actually-blue (but I still love them plants) include Salvia Blue Hill and Phlox Swizzzle Blue. Salvia Blue Hill looks more purple to me, though apparently it’s more blue than some of the other mounding salvias. Phlox Swizzle Blue is more of a lavender color with some pink in the center. Meanwhile, my purple coneflowers are more on the pink side, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, in another part of the color wheel, there’s the red/orange issue. This year, I planted painted lady runner beans, which are now flowering. The blossoms are lovely, but I was expecting something red and white. Instead, in my garden, they look more like orange and a lighter color ranging from white to creamsicle.
This is just the spring and summer flowers. I have two asters that won’t bloom until autumn: Crimson Brocade and Bluebird. They got a bit burned last summer, though, so I’m not really sure what color the flowers will actually end up being. Maybe red and blue? Maybe pink and purple? I’m looking forward to finding out, but I suspect it won’t be quite what I expected.
Like most of the northeast, we had some unseasonably cold weather last weekend. I had already planted several cold sensitive plants and was worried that they’d freeze and die. I devised some covers out of old clothes and bedsheets for the beans and basil seedlings. I didn’t manage to get everything under cover though.
It turns out, I probably needn’t have worried. Everything pulled through—even the beans that didn’t get covered.
The patio is almost all concrete, which traps heat. In winter, or during a cold snap like the one we just had, it’s often quite useful. I can often start gardening a little on the early side and continue later into the fall.
The difficult months for my garden are July and August, but I’m slowly learning how to deal with those—mainly by carefully selecting which plants I try to grow. I suspect the beans will be fine this summer. We’ll see how the basil does.
Interestingly, my perennial salvia (Blue Hill) has put out some flower buds. I’m not really sure if this is normal timing for it. I got this plant last June. It thrived last summer, and was already lush and green even in early March. We had a strangely warm winter, so it may have just gotten an early start, or it might be that the cold snap tricked it into thinking it was later in the year than it actually is. Either way, I’m eager to see how the salvia does this year, especially since these will probably be the first flowers to bloom on the patio this year.
Saturday was gorgeous, and I took advantage of the weather to mix up some potting mix and plant some seeds. The cats, meanwhile, rolled around in the dirt and chomped on the baby chard.
I love mixing up potting mix, and I take various approaches. Sometimes, I take previously used potting mix and add amendments. I did that on Saturday with potting soil from empty containers and some worm castings. In those, I planted some catnip, cat grass, sage, and lavender seeds. The catnip and lavendar are in small pots that are now living on my kitchen windowsill. The catnip and cat grass are for my garden supervisors (to distract them from the other plants), and the lavender will move outdoors if it survives. The catnip, cat grass, and sage seeds were leftover from previous years.
I also have started mixing coconut coir with compost and perlite to make my potting mix. The coir comes in compressed bricks that expand with water. A lot of folks use peat, which is included in a many commercial potting mixes. I definitely use those, but my understanding is that peat isn’t that sustainable, so I try to go with the coconut coir when i can. It also means I don’t have to fiddle with the pH.
I used the coconut coir and compost potting mix to move re-pot my mint into a bigger container and to plant several basil seedlings into a large pot.
It rained all day today, so I only had a few minutes in the garden. However, that was long enough to see that one of my painted lady runner beans had germinated!
I still have some annual salvia and rosemary seeds that I’d like to plant. The rosemary is another from my collection of leftovers.
The garden is a 9’x14’ patio on which live a 3’x3’ raised bed and many containers. The walls are cinder block, so it’s basically a concrete oven in the summer. I’ve finally learned to work with what I have, although I expect this year to be really bad. The cherry tree out front bloomed 3 weeks earlier than it did last year, and last year already felt early to me.
The perennial salvia, phlox, coneflowers, and asters have all coming back, as has the mint. The asters were mostly dead last year, and I may have to baby them a bit this year. (Also, Leo keeps chomping the leaves.) The coreopsis hasn’t come back yet.
For annuals, I’ve scattered some alyssum and heart’s ease seeds in the 3×3 raised bed. I also have some annual salvia to start from seed, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Of course, we’re still getting bursts of cold, so that’s probably okay.
This year, after a long hiatus, I’m trying food things again. That’s not because of the virus. I ordered my seeds in early January. I’ll be trying painted lady runner beans, baby chard, basil, and alpine strawberries—all from seed. (I do realize that the birds will probably get the berries before I do.)
I also have some lavender seeds, but i”m not sure if I want to try and experiment with it, as I’ve heard lavender is really hard to grow from seed. In addition, I have lots of old herb seeds from previous years, and I may see if they’re still viable. Ultimately, it might depend on when I run out of space, containers, or potting mix. I do have a bag of seed starting mix, a bunch of coconut coir, several quarts of perlite, and about 5 gallons of compost.