This is the seventh installment of our season-long adventure in elevated gardening. Our friends at Gronomics provided the Western Red Cedar planters we are using. In our first installment, we received the planters and documented putting them together. Both of us were quite pleased with how easily they went together without using a single tool. In our second installment we filled them with our growing medium and planted them with seeds and transplants. Both of us chose a combination of edibles and ornamentals and in the third installment, readers were shown how things were growing. In the fourth installment, their planters were brimming full of ornamentals and edibles and their harvest was beginning in ernest. In the fifth installment, Terry and Melody made plans for their cool-season gardens. In the sixth installment, temperatures have moderated and their plants are thriving. This seventh installment provides us a lesson in container gardening. Terry and Melody experienced success and failure, related to water and temperatures.
Melody:Cucumbers and squash were a good idea, but since the temperatures cooled, pollinators weren't as active. I harvested several wonderful cucumbers and a couple of zucchini, but due to the bees being less active, I didn't have an overabundance. An up side to growing organically is the constant parade of insects and wildlife right at my back door. I'm amazed at the variety of creatures that come to visit. The greens are doing great. I think they will be fantastic as the season progresses. I've planted some asian mustards along with the lettuce and familiar turnip greens. I'm careful to keep things watered and am very happy that I added the composted manure to the planting mix. It is good for moisture retention and I feel that it has been instrumental in preventing excess stress on my plants this year.I'm cutting lettuce nearly every night for salads and the cooler temperatures are perfect. These beds are really starting to shine now that summer is over.
Terry: Fall is a hard time to be a warm-season vegetable plant. Our temperatures ride the roller coaster from upper 80s to low 40s, and we've had frost in low-lying areas. Raised beds make it easier to avoid frost's kiss of death for a few more weeks, but as Melody mentioned, the pollinators have become much less active. Despite all the detractions, this last month saw a final flush of ripe tomatoes, both full-size and cherry toms, which we've enjoyed in a few recent meals. While I introduced some cool-season plants last month, they have suffered from neglect as fall is a busy time for our family, with football and fall break trips. I was too late to get lettuce or any cole crop seeds this year, but I will definitely have some at the ready when springtime rolls around.
Melody's beds are still sturdy and attractive. The natural one is weathering to a silvery-gray, while the tung oil bed, while weathering, still shows evidence of the treatment. She's seeing absolutely no deterioration on either bed and they should remain beautiful for many seasons to come.
Melody's radishes bolted. It may have been the warm temperatures, but she made lemonade out of lemons and added the flowers to her salads.They actually tasted like very mild radishes!
The lone zinnia is still cranking out blooms and the bumblebees are grateful. Melody has noticed a drop in pollinator activity around the beds, but since it is autumn, that is expected.
The last of the peppers are listing and leaning, along with the lanky cool-season crops. Unfortunately, the weather didn't provide much rain while we were away on fall break, so the plants were left to fare as best they could.
Terry's 'YumYum' mini bells are now almost microscopic, but they are still sweet and tasty and are colorful additions to salads.
The soil's nutrients and fertilizer is defeinitely exhausted by now. Another lesson learned is to be sure to mix in plenty of humus and compost when planting, and be sure to maintain fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Melody's fresh salad with lettuce, pac-choi, mustard greens and cucumbers. Her chicken breast is topped with fresh rosemary, thyme, sage and chives.
One of the zucchini that Melody harvested. She didn't get very many, but they filled the gap between summer and autumn plantings.
The cucumbers were great. Melody was hoping for a bigger harvest, but given the time of year and fewer pollinators, they bridged a gap in the succession of edibles.
The bright spot, literally and figuratively, was the last flush of tomatoes. More than a pound of cherry tomatoes ripened at once; finally enough to enjoy in a recipe instead of eating one at a time.
The fennel is still growing and ferny, despite the extreme temperatures and weather they hav eendured.
The full-size tomatoes also kicked into high gear within the last few weeks, ripening as thhough they sense the end of the growing season is fast approaching.
Melody has been covered up with Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) butterflies. They are large, yellow butterflies that seem to love the pentas. The female is in the foreground and the male is in the background. It isn't unusual to see 8 or 10 of these hovering around at any one time.
Melody's greens are thriving. She's been harvesting lettuce every night and the mustards are getting big enought to clip a few leaves here and there. A second succession planting has young plants coming right behind the more mature ones.
Melody managed to catch one of her hummingbird visitors through the glass of her storm door. She's pleased with her decision to go organic in these planters. Wildlife and insects are in no danger and she can nibble on lettuce any time she wants to.
We've really enjoyed this experiment in elevated gardening this year. Both of us have learned valuable lessons that have added to our gardening knowledge. Terry and Melody plan to continue with their Gronomics articles at various times throughout the rest of the growing season and possibly beyond. We hope you've had as much fun as we have!