Over the month since I gave my first garden update, we’ve started to enjoy the first fruits of our labor. We’ve enjoyed the herbs for a while, but now the vegetables have started to arrive. We’ve eaten several lovely zucchinis and tomatoes. Our family has happily discovered that the quality of fresh-off-the-vine veggies beats anything you can buy.
All was going well until we took off for a week at my dad’s lake house.
A week of high temperatures and little rain meant my once-lush zucchini plants wilted. My thriving mint and tomato plants were peppered with brown leaves. The just-budding cucumbers stopped growing. The basil leaves shriveled.
We left our patio container garden vibrant and green and returned to a mini-drought.
It’s the Containers, Silly Wannabe
We’re learning the downside of container gardening.
We’d chosen container gardening because it was easier to set up than garden beds. Instead of a bunch of digging, we just had to fill some containers with potting soil and add a few seeds. In no time, we had our garden. Since it was in a small space, we found it easy to water, monitor, and tend our plants.
Putting everything close to the house also kept the deer and other varmints from eating all the plants. Considering that deer have managed to eat everything we’ve previously planted in the yard, including apple trees, this was a major factor in our decision. Aside from some beetles that got into some of the pepper plants and basil, the animals have stayed away.
Unfortunately, though, container gardens require a lot of watering. With garden beds, roots can keep reaching down into the soil to find more water and nutrients. In containers, that doesn’t work. Once the plants use up their water, that’s it.
We’d been out of town for a week at the beach in May, and 3 days at Great Wolf Lodge in June. We lucked out with the weather for both of those vacations, however, with mild temperatures and plenty of rain.
This time, though, the weather turned hot and dry and our little garden suffered.
As soon as we got home, Little Bit and I watered the plants as best we could. I’ve kept watering, too, and maybe it’s not too late.
Aside from the zucchini and cucumbers, which are notoriously thirsty vegetables, the plants have mostly recovered., They aren’t quite as beautiful as before, but the leaves look green and healthy on most of them. The tomatoes ripen, and the basil and parsley are back to normal. We’re even starting to see some peppers developing.
The zucchini and cucumbers seem done, though. We still have a few on the vine, but they’re looking worse than they did on Friday when we got back to town. I may just pick up a little potting soil and do something else with the container. We have a good 3 months before we need to worry about a freeze, and I don’t see us going out of town before November.
And if we do, we’ll try to move whatever plants we have to where they don’t get quite so much direct sunlight.
Eating the First Fruits
Before our trip, however, we managed to enjoy several zucchinis and some tomatoes. Got to say, we really enjoyed the first fruits of our labor, and that made the post-apocalyptic garden we saw after our vacation that much harder to bear.
Zucchinis have never been my favorite vegetable. I love yellow squash and cook it all the time. Zucchini, though, always seemed to have a bitter aftertaste. I only picked out the seeds because they were part of the limited selection at Dollar Tree.
I guess I never ate zucchini fresh enough. The stuff we’ve been getting off our vines completely lacked the bitter aftertaste. Fresh off the vine zucchini, with a little salt and vinegar, is tasty enough that even Little Bit grabbed slices off of the plate before dinner.
That’s never happened before.
And while I’ve had plenty of vine-ripened tomatoes, I’ve never had ones I grew. Until now.
In the hot weather, I’ve channeled my Nana with lunches of tomato and pimiento cheese sandwiches. And we all love tomato and cucumber salad with fresh basil.
Summertime and Container Gardening Ain’t Easy
Maybe I got cocky. After years of subpar results, our garden looked good at the end of June. I was so excited.
Summertime made it a lot harder to successfully pull off a container garden, at least in central NC. While we got to enjoy some veggies, I can’t help but feel we squandered our garden’s potential yield by not arranging for someone to water our plants.
Or at least providing them a little cover for the heat.
As we move through the hottest month of the year, I’ll have to pay more attention if I want the rest of our plants to thrive. And I do. If nothing else, our first fruits have shown me the potential joys of growing your own food.
It’s also made me begin to plan next year. If I try a bed instead, do we have a good place to put it? What’s the best way to build it? How do we protect it from wildlife? What other changes would that involve?
And If I continue with containers, how can I avoid a repeat (and still enjoy summer vacation time?)
What gardening setbacks have you suffered? What do you do with your garden when you can’t tend it for a while?