Containers, Cicadas and a New Batch of Weeds -G. Totten, Sioux Falls

As we round the corner into mid-summer, I thought it might be a good time to offer a few observations about this year’s plunge into container-grown tomatoes and peppers. I have roughly fifteen pots divided between the two, and so far things look pretty good with only a few concerns.

The tomatoes are full of blossoms and have green fruit, so that looks good. I am finding that a strict watering schedule is required, as the pots dry out much faster than a standard garden plot. As usual, I learned this the hard way. I skipped an evening and had several stressed plants on my hands, resulting in a few tomatoes with blossom end rot. I discarded the affected fruit of course, and am hoping the rest will be all right. I used a moisture control potting medium (mostly because I needed so much, and it was on clearance and light to lift), and although that allows a little more wiggle room, on these hot, hot days, a daily soaking is essential. The tomatoes seem to be more susceptible to stress than the peppers, which are also setting up well. I have to say that the plants I bought on opening day from Seed Time and Harvest are now just huge, and are loaded with my favorite Anaheim peppers! In fact, the heat is making everything jump.

The observation here is the bigger the pot, the better, not so much for the root ball of the plant, as most don’t go that deep, but to keep the soil moisture more constant. Another observation may be that the tomato cages don’t have enough soil depth to properly support the mature plants; we’ll see as the season progresses. I have marigolds planted in the pots along with the vegetables, and there is plenty of room. They help to keep the soil from splashing up on the plants and cut down on the mulch. Although the flowers require regular dead-heading, it’s a pleasant addition. The orange and yellow blooms are a nice contrast to the dark green of the plants. My granddaughter thinks the old marigold blooms smell like skunk! That may be why the rabbits won’t eat them. One big benefit is the portability of the potted vegetables. They are mostly all in foam pots, and with the lighter soil mix are easy to move around for weeding or what have you. If hail threatens, one can push them to safer ground with ease.

My greenway neighbor had a water feature installed, and I have to say that aside from its visual appeal, the sound of the falling water is a welcome addition to our quiet area, as I begin to work my way through the miasma of weeds in my back beds. Although the problem is not as extreme as last year, without sufficient ground cover and rock or bark in the open areas, the weeds have crept in again, and in a different array. No more towering stands of black nightshade, but certainly a good amount of those low-growing vines with the heart-shaped leaves. I also think I’ve discovered just how large and colorful dandelions can become if ignored for six to eight weeks; either that or I’ve got an entire new weed I’ve never seen, and I suspect this is in fact the case. Either way (note to neighbors) I have a serious plan, a vision! Please bear with me. By September, my back yard should look as if it actually belongs to the neighborhood. I’ve mentioned to several acquaintances that it feels to me like uncovering the secret garden back there, a square foot at a time.

I also realize that the hackberry tree did indeed impart some early to mid-morning shade in those same areas, and now that it is gone, it is in full sun all day. In this hot and muggy weather I’ve no choice but to return to my former solution. I open my patio umbrella right out there in its stand, and get my big garage fan going. All one needs is a good long extension cord. Unfortunately, I can’t do much about the humidity, but working in the shade with a bit of a breeze sure helps. One can control one’s environment to some extent, at least. Of course, this only works on days when the weather is still, otherwise the umbrella becomes airborne. I’ve chased it down the greenway more than once.

And lastly, I’ve been hearing cicadas for a week! If the old wives tale holds true, that would put our first frost at mid-August! As unlikely as that seems, it could indicate an early cold spell in September. Nature offers its own predictions (think I’ll check the almanac).