Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Containers awaiting soil and seedSo, sometimes I awake at 1 in the morning panicking that I haven't brought in the flats of transplants or handful of containers susceptible to the precipitous nighttime lows of a clear spring night. Most often it's a well placed emotion and i'll don my favorite Patagonia 'dirtbag' jacket and a pair of Crocs and then spend the next 5-15 minutes carrying flats inside or spreading bed sheets over sprouting rows in the sharply cooling night air.
The most strenuous of these middle of the night tasks is carrying in the 5-gallon containers of cherry tomatoes. While strong fingers and back are a pre-requisite for repeatedly carrying 40 lbs. of damp soil around the house past midnight, I've found the determining factor is mustering the gumption to get out of a warm bed. Sometimes I gamble and stay in bed. I've been lucky this year. And yet despite the up-front costs, the benefits of starting some tomatoes and peppers early in containers will come with time. The key is both are perennials in their natural environment and moving large containers of soil around the yard and house, while cruel to the back, effectively simulates theyear-round growing season. And, oh, their so tasty when the first snow starts to fall in November.
Life is the best art: uneaten thai peppers
I've grown cherry tomatoes and thai hot peppers in containers for the past two years (they also grow better in the ground), and brought the fruiting fall plants inside to my classroom. The harvest continued well through October, but I only let the students sample one of the two fruits. The latter being hotter than fire, and so damn pretty I couldn't bear to uproot the plant or harvest the pods (I also had a ton of outdoor grown thai red peppers already preserved). Numerous varieties of peppers and tomatoes have been selected to excel in the confined root space of a large container and offer a great low-cost season extender for anyone with large south-facing window and some commitment. I've read numerous accounts of digging up and transplanting different pepper varieties at the end of the summer to keep through the winter and then transplant again as well developed plant. I've yet to try it. Maybe this year. Another weird container planting concept is the upside-down hanging containers for tomatoes and other indeterminate vining perennials. Check out this recent NY Times article, Growing Vegetable Upside Down. The technique seems to have some salient attributes in certain circumstances like gardens with limited space and problems with soil-borne pests.