Saturday, April 30, 2016

Plants Teach Me Persistence

The plant shelf in action.
One of my yearly obsessions that comes to life every spring is my porch garden. Yes it's small- the porch is only about 6X8" total, but every year I fill it to the brim with plants. J.D. and I even built a plant shelf for more room!

I grow a mix of things from seed and from plants we buy at the garden shop. Over the years I've had several failed experiments and many things that grew despite my lack of knowledge in all things veggie. Growing things from seed is my favorite, as it's fascinating to watch a giant plant grow and give me tomatoes when I planted it initially as a tiny seed I could barely see.

Unfortunately there are a lot of factors that can destroy a plant before it reaches adulthood. I'm not just talking about over or under watering (which I was definitely guilty of the first year). I had to learn the hard way about soil fungus which can kill all of the seedlings in a matter of days. Their stems just shriveled up at the top of the soil and they fell over. Now I get fresh baked out seedling soil every spring.

I learned about good and bad bugs- the tiny green aphids or swarms of gnats were bad, but the creepy-looking red caterpillar-type things were good because eventually they'd be lacewings to guard my plants against the aphids. When I decided to grow broccoli last year (note: broccoli does not grow well in pots) I suddenly found myself pulling off and squishing dozens of green caterpillars per day before they ate all the leaves off. It's amazing how fast those caterpillars could eat and grow! I started to appreciate spiders and wasps more.

The thing I appreciated the MOST were the bees. Come to my porch, bees! Pollinate all of my pea plants and tomato plants and the tiny porch peppers! It turns out that I need at least three of each type of veggie in order to produce any vegetables. I made the mistake of only getting one squash plant a few years back and it had a great vine, but the flowers never made a single squash. Once the plants are there it then becomes my job to get the bees to show interest in my porch. It's situated facing a paved parking lot with no other flowering plants around so I try to find bunches of flowers that will bloom through the summer to act as a big neon sign to the passing bees. It seems to be working. I get more pollinators now that I've focused on the flowers!

The surprise perennial columbine plant means more flowers!
Every now and then my garden surprises me. We had a mild winter this past year and the chives, mums, and columbines all made it through to the spring. J.D. also found an African Daisy which blooms waaaay into the cold weather and is drought tolerant too! This year I'm trying out pea plants which I haven't grown in pots before. We'll see how it goes! One of my favorite parts about vegetable gardening is being able to eat a salad that I grew. :) I hope that when I get a yard someday I can grow even more!
Mmmm...porch lettuce!

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