Sunday, October 7, 2007

After (and Before) the Rain

It has been raining nearly non-stop for the past week or two. We need the rain after an unusually dry summer--water tables and rivers are low, and of course landscape plants have been suffering.

When there was a brief break in the monsoon today, I went outside to take stock of my poor neglected plants in preparation for fall gardening. I emptied container saucers so the plants wouldn't be in standing water and took some photos while I was at it. Then it rained again.

My roommate has a thing for aloe and spider plants. Here's a shot of the patio behind the back porch. In the middle you can see the two avocado plants she pulled from the compost a few weeks ago.

Here's a close-up of one of them. I am so excited that we might have avocados, if we bring the plants into the house or garage during cold snaps.

I was a little worried about the vegetable seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago. I haven't really checked on them, haven't transplanted them yet, and uh...I left them right under the edge of the house--where all the rain pours off from the roof. I had a good reason for putting them there, but I can't remember what it was now.

When I went to look at them today, I was afraid they'd been washed away. But most of them were actually doing well! (Two of the pots, unbeknownst to me, couldn't drain, so those seeds drowned. Sorry, seeds.) I planted two kinds of lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, onions, and radishes. But I can't remember which are which, so I'll just have to see what happens when things get bigger. I still haven't transplanted them into containers--didn't have time this weekend.

Here are two banana plants we've been raising since they were wee little babies. Kate transplanted them a couple of months ago and they exploded since then. These are two more tropical plants, like the avocados, that will be fine if we take care of them when it gets cold. Container gardening makes so much sense for tropical plants in North Florida.

There are lots of other reasons to garden in containers. I can put plants inside or on the porch. I can move them when they need more (or less) light. I don't have to worry about weeding or nematodes. I can experiment with growing more high-maintenance plants without having to do too much. And I can avoid having a planned landscape, which is helpful since I don't like commitment, I rent, and (most importantly) my roommate/landlord likes having grass.

I mostly have natives and herbs in pots. The bulk of my container garden is in the backyard on some shelves I built out of stair risers and closet shelves.

This is a native fern. Just looking at it makes me happy. It's very soft.

One of my salvias has started recovering from my summer neglect. It's my favorite, so I'm pleased. I have a red one, a white one, and a pink one. The pink is so dang cute.

That salvia is great, but it's always trying to infiltrate my other containers. I have to keep an eye on it. And it grows fast! Here are two seedlings in my cyclamen pot. Be gone, intruders! (That's Swedish ivy creeping in from the left. It's kinda yellow from a nitrogen deficiency. Swedish ivy is a pretty groundcover with tiny lavender flowers, and it grows very, very fast. I cut it back frequently.)

My chives, though, is (are?) about the only plant that's truly happy with both me and the weather right now. It's going nuts!

Finally, I checked on the compost. I don't know why everyone doesn't have a compost heap. If you have an out-of-the-way spot in the landscape, compost is very easy to do, and if you do it right, you won't attract varmints. You just have to mix brown stuff with green stuff. I use dirt and dead leaves for the brown, and kitchen scraps for the green. I even compost wet paper towels!

After I took the below picture, I added more dirt (a couple of days overdue). Yes, the compost is another casualty of my summer yard avoidance.

On the left, you can see a Florida avocado plant growing from a pit we threw away. A clove of garlic had also sprouted, and in the middle are a ton of little sproutlings. I'm not sure what they are, but if they push through the soil I added today, I'll probably pull them out and plant them in pots to see what happens.

Compost keeps what we send to the landfill down, our kitchen trash isn't stinky, and we get free seedlings. I don't know what this country will do when we run out of land where we can put landfills--I know I don't want to live next to one. I've read that food waste is 30% or more of the garbage that fills our landfills, so it makes sense to try to keep it out of the trash. (And people who compost can usually pay less in trash pickup fees, by getting a smaller trash can.)

Seattle even recently passed an ordinance to charge all residents for food waste containers--like recycling containers, but for food. They'll pick the containers up each week just like with garbage and recycling. Pretty cool!

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