Grow Bags, Again!

Last year, I grew my tomatoes and peppers in two different types of grow bags. The tomatoes were grown in 5 gallon felt bags, and the peppers in 5 gallon plastic grow bags. It was a huge success. Below is a couple of picture of my set up…

I used Pro-Mix All-Purpose Mix as my main planting medium. You can buy it in 2 cubic foot compressed bales that expand to around 4 cubic feet. It was the first year I tried the mix after spending some time trying to find an economical, but good quality potting mix for my containers. Previously, I used Ferti-lome and Black Gold Organic, both of which I love, but didn’t want to use for this project. I’ve started using Pro-Mix for everything I pot! For each bale of Pro-Mix, I added 1-2 bags of .75 cubic foot composted cow manure. I did add some granulated slow feed fertilizer, but I can’t remember what I used! This year, I used Jobe’s Vegetable and Tomato Food. I planted up my seedlings with all of the tomatoes in the felt bags, and most of the peppers in the plastic grow bags. I set them out in the lawn where I liked them and drove my stakes into the ground next to the tomatoes that would need it. I also topped my bags off with a layer of mulch (just leftover clearance stuff I had around).

While I did need to water more often, I had no blight and no weeds. All of my tomatoes produced well and the peppers did especially well. We have a short growing season and some times cooler temps, I think the addition of the black containers helped add some heat to the soil.  I fertilized with a water soluble fertilizer once a week. I’m not too picky about fertilizer. I’ve tried everything from expensive organic varieties to just Schultz. I’ve had good luck with all of them. Eventually, I hope to settle on Espoma or AlgoPlus. Espoma is easier to find and typically my go-to choice for any fertilizer I use, but AlgoPlus makes an amazing product too!

Here are links to what I used to grow my tomatoes and peppers last year and again this year. The grow bags specific grow bag are unavailable, but there are plenty of other sellers, just check reviews!:

I planted out much later this year because of our unseasonably cold spring. I like to push it and plant out Mother’s Day weekend, this year it wasn’t until Memorial Day weekend. Things are looking good though! This year I put down weed barrier so I don’t have to try to mow around the bags. Eventually we will put a border and some mulch down. I haven’t set stakes yet either, I will when I need to. My current water soluble fertilizer is Schultz Tomato…it was on sale.  Here’s how things are looking today:

 

2019 Seed Starting

Every year, towards the end of the holidays, I start looking forward to seed catalogs. This year, I think I had the majority of my seeds already bought before the new year, or at least in January. I evaluate what I liked about the previous year’s choices, keep my favorites, and archive or share the varieties that didn’t make the cut.

The number one factor in what I continue to grow is taste. If it doesn’t taste good, what’s the point? After that, I look for care-free, interesting, and short-day. Central Wisconsin was a bit of challenge after the longer, hotter summers of central Indiana. Most of the seeds I buy are heirloom, for the ability to save seeds (even though I never get to it) and the huge variety. Every year, I pick out one novelty to grow just for fun.

I am sucker for the occasional $.25 seed packet at the hardware store but for the most part I buy my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange. I also have quite a collection from Jung’s because I used to work there!

I also buy a few plants in the spring mostly herbs, Jet Star tomatoes (grown in honor of my Grandma Pete), and a few peppers.

Here’s what I’m growing this year (with a link to where I purchased it, if still available, I keep seeds for years!):

These are seeds I started March 18:

These seeds I started April 18 in peat pots:

Seeds that are going to be direct sewn:

The direct sewn seeds are always a crap-shoot for me, a lot of times, I forget about them and some just get thrown into the garden. We will see how organized I am this year.

April Garden Update

Well, I still haven’t finished that gallery wall. March was just not my month. I did get seeds started though, I have a post started about what I planted and when. That should be coming up soon!

February was the snowiest month on record for our area of Wisconsin. March followed with cold and rain. My beds sat under water quite a bit during late winter/early spring. Last week we had several inches snow/sleet/ice that squashed a lot of the bulbs and iris starting to wake up. A couple of days ago, we received to inches of rain. It’s been gloomy and depressing here.

That being said, I am pretty happy with what survived. There are few iris that I’m a bit worried about, but so far they are hanging in there. Most have a handful of nice increases. I am most excited to say that as of right now, my grandmother’s peony survived, as did her iris, which sat under water a good portion of the winter.

Bulbs are coming up and plans are being finalized for bed improvement and expansion! This year it’s all about getting more planting space and better drainage!

Below is a quick look at how things are looking as of today!

 

And yes, I have totally gone off the rails for my new year’s resolution of posting each Sunday. Be prepared for some random, rapid-fire posts coming your way! I plan to get back on track and keep on working!

2019 Garden Plans

Last week, I wrote about my dreams for my 2019 garden. In my mind they are pretty grand. Because Todd said he would help me with the hardscaping and remodeling of the garden…my imagination took off with big ideas. Now that we’ve talked more, and I’ve gotten my head out of the clouds, I feel like my plans are maybe not super exciting, but within in reach.

So…some of the basic plans:

  • Create a “holding bed” with good soil and good drainage while better permanent beds are made
  • Paint my existing shed, add better shelves inside
  • Move plants from the “Big Bed” to holding bed, and dismantle “Big Bed”
  • Replace the Big Bed with space/pad for new shed (coming in 2020?) and two new 8×8 square beds flanking each side
  • Replace existing raised beds with better quality materials, refreshed soil, and good drainage
  • Add two large 8×15 spaces with landscape timbers and mulch as pads for my grow bags
  • Add large row for cut flowers in front of the garden
  • The most expensive but the most important addition will be the privacy fence. It will probably the big project of the year
  • Pour cement for new patio slab (this is all Todd)
  • Extend and clean up the rock area along the backside of the house

All of these plans concern our backyard, I have some thoughts on the front of the house, but I haven’t really put any on paper, yet. Our biggest constraint is budget. This little house has been quite the ‘fixer upper’ and we are still working on the inside. Not to mention, this year we hope to replace the doors and windows, and get the fireplace working again. It leaves very little money to throw into the yard. Fortunately, most of our work will be rearranging. I have to remind myself, we are going into our 4th Summer here, and all great gardens take time. I’ve also focused this year’s garden plan to mostly the large backyard garden. I hope to eventually add a lot more beds along the fence lines, but will wait for the fence to be built.  I am sure there will be plenty of amendments to the plan and some final measurements need to be made too. Below is my basic plan for the year, some of last year’s map, and my garden sign hope to add at the front!

Aside from the practical and basic layout, I’ve been thinking about the aesthetics too. Todd and I sat down and tried to figure out what my garden style is. I have no idea how to pin it down…except for tons of pins on Pinterest! Above all, I like gardens that look like they’ve existed a long time. Old gardens are the best. Some are kind of wild, nothing overly shiny and new which is perfect. I like structure and neat lines, but nothing sterile or overly-suburban-cookie-cutter-landscaped. I love color and texture too with bright flowers and soft grasses.

I am of the belief that you should decorate with things you love, no matter if the styles conflict…so long as you like it and don’t cram a million things in, most things will balance out. I feel the same way about gardens.

Here are a handful of my favorite inspiration photos. All of these images and the links to their content and credit can be found on my shamefully huge Farm & Garden Pinterest board. 

A Garden Post!

It’s mid-June now! My iris blooms are done, we’ve had three tree stumps removed, and I’m just now ready to share what’s happening in my garden.

Typically, Central Wisconsin plants out veggie plants on Memorial Day weekend. It’s been a warm Spring though, and I planted out May 19th. We went from 30+ inches of snow in April to 90 degree temps in May.

I lost a lot of varieties of Iris and pretty much all of my roses. I’m not too worried though! The most important plants (my collected heirlooms) survived. I will post in-depth about my perennials, especially those I’ve collected from family.

Our yard is a work in progress, just like the entire house. It’s needed a lot of attention, and will take years to get right!

A few photos from our first few months at the house:

We have a lot of plans for the yard…but we’re still working on the inside, so I’ve just been stashing plants where I can for now.

This year the garden is going strong, despite losing a lot this Spring, and my first attempt at growing tomatoes and peppers in bags! So far, the grow bags are already more successful than my last 3 years of tomato growing attempts. Almost all of them have little green tomatoes set on them.

I grow almost all heirloom varieties, mostly because I love the crazy options, ability to save seeds, and some of the stories that come with them. I do grow two hybrids, and for a special reason. Jet Star and Celebrity were both favorites of my Grandma Petersen. She bought me some Jet Star for my garden during her last summer (and I still have the little tag for it). It’s a way to honor her in my garden every year. Plus, Jet Star and Celebrity are just good tomatoes, anyway.

Here’s a little a taste of whats happening in my yard this year, right now:

 

I have a lot more to come and later this week, I am going to attempt my first post that really focuses on what I want this blog to be about. Stay tuned!