Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gardening Experiments

Earlier in the week I listened to my favorite pod-cast, The Alternative Kitchen Garden. In this week's edition of the pod-cast, the host Emma discussed various gardening experiments she has tried and those she will be trying in the future. It got me think about different experiments I've tried. Prior to this I really hadn't thought of them as experiments. I don't know what I considered them, but experiments seems to fit the description.
An experiment I tried last year was the potted pole bean trellis. I read in "The Bountiful Container Garden," that the roots of green beans only go down six inches, so they can be grown in relatively small pots. I discussed this idea with my father-in-law and the idea for the trellis was born! I bought 14 1 gallon pots at the nursery and a ton of garden twine. Between two patio posts I strung twine, from top to bottom, in rows at 5 inch intervals. Then I affixed 1 string of twine per pot, going from the top of the patio awning down to the pot. Is this making sense? The beans grew great on the improvised trellis and reached the top in no time. I didn't get many beans because of blossom drop due to high temperatures and humidity. And after the blossom drop passed the plants were overtaken by fusarium wilt. I mulched the pots with manure from the north, it carried the fusarium virus and all of the plants succumbed to it. Fusarium wilt is incurable and once it gets into your soil there is no way to get it out, it can lay dormant for decades. So I'm thankful that the infected manure went into pots and not the ground. I'm going to try the green bean trellis again this year, and reccomend it for any one planning a container garden or looking for a pretty wall screen.
The next experiment is one I'm trying for the first time this year. I actually got this idea from Emma (she of the alternative kitchen garden). We have an abundance of cardboard and paper in this house. I've decided to try a predominantly cardboard/paper compost. Of course I'll put some high nitrogen materials (like grass) in to kick start and speed up the process. But for the most part it will be torn up cardboard. I'm using a large cardboard box to house it and we'll see how it works out. If nothing else, at least it will begin to break down so that it can be added to the normal compost incrementally.
And now for an experiment that didn't go so well. Companion container gardening. Last year I tried to grow lemon ball cucumbers and a tomato in the same container. The idea being that the tomato would grow upwards and the cukes trail over the side. Ideal because the tomato and cucumber, though related, share very few of the same pests. What happened was the tomato took all of the water and the shallow rooted cucumber thirsted to death. I draw the line at watering something several times a day. Had it not been for that experiment I may never have tried the lemon ball cucumber. Which would have been a mistake. They are amazing! I had to buy six starts so quite a few went into the ground. They are very drought tolerant, very cute, very prolific and very tasty. I'm growing them again this year, of course. I'm really excited to juice them. We has sooo many last year I gave them away to neighbors. Some, oddly enough, wouldn't take them because they didn't look right. Apparently if it's not long and dark green it's not a cucumber. Whatever people.
Last year I also trained a container summer squash to a trellis. It was so cool! A ball zucchini is what I think it was called. Most summer squash trail and like to be trained upwards but some don't so before you go trying this make sure the squash is a trailer. If the plant sports some curly tendrils it's a good sign it'll train well.
I hope this post inspires you to be experimental and try some new and different things in your garden. Who knows what you'll find? If you've got a neat experiment story I'd love to hear it. Til tomorrow, people!


NIKOL said...

Tell me about these lemon ball cucumbers. Are, ball shaped? (Because I'm 12, I'm thinking of an unfortunate pantomime right now). What do they look like? And are they lemony? I'm intrigued. Cucumbers are my favorite!

Also, unrelated to your post, I did some reserach on grapes yesterday and I think that's how I'm going to put the trellis in the backyard to use!

Amanda said...

I like the idea of training squash, or any plant, to a trellis. My yard is a gopher/insect/critter/creature heaven! Anything to keep those plants off the ground and out of reach from those suckers is a very good thing!

Clong said...

I should have added as a tip not to trellis anything to your house if you have vents or any way for a critter to get inside. People in our neighborhood thought ivy would be quaint growing up the side of their house, until rats scaled the ivy and got into the attic. So keep it smart people.

Clong said...

Nikol (and anyone else interested) lemon ball cucmbers are completely round (read:not testicular) in shape. They aren't lemony flavored, they just taste like a regular, delicious cucumber. But they are round and bright yellow.

It's actually good that you may be getting grapes and I have brambles. Because in the fall we can each root cuttings from our plants and trade them. Then you will have free bramble starts and I, free grapes. See how that works? Glorious!