Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Update On My Little Container Garden

I recently wrote about how I made a compost in my apartment, even without a yard or a porch to call my own, just in a container on my window sill, and there I shared how I planned on turning my brown thumb into a green thumb, using that compost to attempt to grow vegetables in my window boxes.
Well, after two weeks I needed to show a "garden" update, which basically can be summed up with "you win some, you lose some".

Until recently I only had 4 small aloe vera plants growing in my pots, and I wasn't even doing such a good job of keeping them alive. Whenever my mom would come to visit, she'd water the plants and chastise me for not watering them; I'd kill them if I didn't water them, she'd say. But I still didn't remember. And so my aloe vera didn't die, but turned this dark brown color instead of its standard green. And part of it dried up and looked sort of dead looking. 

Since I planted a bunch of new seeds and wanted them to grow, I set myself a daily reminder via email and pop up on my phone reminding me to water the plants. I didn't even need them, since I've remembered to water them even before I get the reminder!

My aloe vera now looks healthy! It's been growing better and faster, and the new growth is bright green just like it should be! That is definitely a win!

See the bright new green in the middle? This is even a few days old- there's even more green now!
In the same planter box as the aloe vera I tried planting some lemon verbena and mint cuttings that my husband had rooted in water first, but the lemon verbena didn't make it. The mint, though- most of them survived and are growing new leaves.

See how great those look, and the new leaves on some of the stalks?
There were some mint plants that didn't looked like they survived, but at their base, new growth popped up beneath the dead looking stalks, fresh new mint plants, so I guess something did survive over there! This is super exciting!

Look at those new mint leaves growing out of the ground!
That would quantify as a win, mostly, though the lack of lemon verbena is a little sad- but I'm glad the mint- spearmint specifically does seem to be thriving!

The other planter was the one I was more nervous about, so when I saw the first sprouts popping up from the compost, I was super excited about. I'd planted a bunch of different salad greens, and couldn't wait for them to grow.

And then the leaves got bigger and bigger and I was so eager to see which I managed to grow successfully, but finally I was able to identify the vast majority of them. The biggest leaves turned out to be mallow plants, which I have no idea how they got into there, since I didn't remember putting any mallow into the compost and I certainly never planted them...

See the mallow in the center- the largest plants there.
There were a bunch of other little sprouts growing in there, taking over nearly the entire planter, tiny little round leaves with red stems, that I was hoping might be the plants that I'd actually intended to grow, but in the end as they've grown more I see that they are actually purslane. That's what I'd had growing in the planter three years ago, but the last two summers they never grew- because of lack of water, I guess, so I assumed they were dead, but now that I have been watering them again they are growing. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't manage to actually grow what I was intending to grow, but not upset about the proliferation of purslane (also in the planter with the aloe and mint), since purslane is actually my favorite summer wild edible (ok, maybe tied with cactus paddles and lambsquarters) but is hardest for me to find locally- specifically why I had grown it in my planters in the past. So having so many plants of purslane is actually not something I'm upset about- its a definite win, even if the lack of lettuce and spinach is not.

In addition to the purslane there are a few other plants that I don't know for sure what they are yet.

Some of the plants look like tomato plants, which I'm also ok with, and I understand how they got there- from my compost pile- tomatoes grow nicely from compost, and often even just start growing in random places where people dribbled seeds, and fresh tomatoes taste really wonderful.

There's still some plants that I am unsure what they are- like the one in the above picture in the middle along the top, with the leaves that look like figure eights. The ones with pointy leaves might be tomato plants, but maybe they'll turn out to be something else. We'll see. I also identify two sow thistle plants, and two that might be a vetch, which isn't edible.

I am really glad for my knowledge of foraging, because if not, the results of my window box gardening experiment would be pretty disappointing, but since I know which wild plants are edible, I see that it wasn't a fail, just a different result from what I'd been expecting, but just as good, and in fact, in many ways better, since purslane is so versatile and more nutritious than store bought plants.

In addition to what I grew, a friend is moving and when she heard I was starting a container garden, gifted me with this planter filled with kale plants, since she was moving and could no longer keep them. 

We've been enjoying them, and this is exciting too because kale is very expensive to buy from the grocery store.

We've been harvesting a few of the bottom leaves from the plant, for a continual harvest without killing the plant, and so far so good- the plants are not dead or dying yet, despite the extreme heat we've been having the last few days.

I see a few of the leaves have turned yellow- not sure why. Will gladly take ideas as to what would cause that- but in the meantime, I pick any yellow leaves and eat them.

So gardening? Well, I don't know if I can say I have a green thumb yet, but this still is good practice... and maybe in the future I'll manage to actually grow what I planted.

And the kids and I are really enjoying it- Rose especially is my watering helper.

Oh- and one more update. I did pull out all the mallow plants this morning. They are very big plants, and I had enough of them in the winter; I want something else now, and if I let them grow they'd stop the other plants from growing since they can get quite bushy.

Any ideas about the identities of the plants I am not sure about or why some kale leaves are turning yellow?  Ever happen that you ended up growing something other than what you'd planted? What did you do then? Did you use what grew instead or pull it up and try to start fresh? Were you disappointed?


  1. Great looking plants.

    Just a thought. I find that even if I try I cannot kill mint! I also always plant mint in its own container since it will often spread and take over everything in sight. It can be quite invasive, so you might want to keep an eye on your recovering aloe vera plant.

    1. Thanks- will keep an eye on it! I dont know if its possible to kill aloe vera either- i certainly abused it over the years and it still is alive!! But will keep an eye on how it is with the mint.

  2. The pointy two leaf plants do look like tomatoes. I am no expert gardener either. I call it a win if anything edible grows intentional or not! "Oh look, it's a dandelion! I can eat that! See I can grow things..." LOL. Try large leaf sorrel. It is super easy to grow and comes back every year. Perilla is a good one too. It also comes back, in the mint family.

    1. Ha, ya, if its edible its a win! And most stuff are edible round these parts! :-D I'll have to find out about perilla seeds.

  3. When my kale turned yellow it turned out I was overwatering. Oops. But that was in a very humid area.

    Nice-looking garden!

  4. You have a good assortment of plants. I agree with the suggestion above of growing sorrel. I planted it once and have had a steady supply for years. Another weedy type that's easy to grow if you can transplant it from somewhere is perennial arugula. With those two I never have to worry about running out of salad makings.

    1. Sorrel is something I want to try in our yard in our new place. And wall rocket, which is basically a wild arugula. :-D

  5. Yellow leaves come from over watering or under watering. I'd google the proper amount of water needed for the plant. Daily watering isn't always needed for some plants.

    1. The problem is its hard to find a balance for the right amount of watering because I live in a hot place where things dry out quickly. I do think it might have been from overwatering though, so I'm watering less and we'll see how that works.


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