04 May 2021

Out with the Old

I always try to put my indoor plants outdoors too soon. Every year. Never fails.

I had so many tomatoes still on the mature vines in my container garden last October, I decided I'd bring the huge pots inside and let them winter in the basement. I kept grow lights on them. They produced plenty of blossoms, but the basement just wasn't warm enough for new little tomatoes. However, most of the blossoms didn't fall off. So I thought perhaps they would set once they got some glorious 70-plus-degree spring out on the retaining wall.

Things were going well in March as I moved seven big pots and six little pots in and out each day (because the nights were still too cold). A warm but vicious wind took out three of the big, mature tomato plants. I replanted those pots with new seeds. April brought a bunch of snow, so everything had to stay inside for a few weeks again. I began putting all the tomato pots, including the new seedlings, on the porch and on the retaining wall during the day as soon as moisture began falling in the form of rain instead of snow. (We even had our first lightning bolts of the year!)

The mature tomato plants apparently had had enough. They did not survive the second day, which featured a garden-boosting gentle drizzle nearly the entire day.

I was somewhat bummed at first, but they'd been damaged by the windstorm, too, so it would have taken them a while to begin producing if I didn't change them out. Plus, there were those pesky little white flies, which apparently didn't care for the cool basement but celebrated and reproduced heavily once they got some outdoor weather again. They don't seem to mind the wind at all. And somehow, they hang on!

Lizard suggested I dump the plants AND the soil when starting over so not to spread the white flies to the rest of the porch containers. So out went that dirt!!! Now I have four new varieties of tomatoes planted from seeds (beefsteak, giant Belgium, Roma sauce and black plum), and I should be able to leave the pots on the porch now for the rest of the year (or at least until the first overnight frost of autumn). Because it could take the seeds a couple of weeks to sprout, an overnight freeze at this point won't really hurt anything. (Although I will keep an eye on the weather just in case we do get a really chilly night.)

I've decided I'm not going to try to grow tomatoes in the basement again next winter. We did get a beautiful flower about once a week in the rail planters I'd also brought in, but overall, especially with all the physical therapy going on in our house, the basement experiment resulted in mostly greenery and just wasn't worth the time, effort and space.

I got more mushrooms than flowers all winter long! But heck, they can be photogenic, right?

The seedling tomatoe plants, of course, came in at night until it was warm enough for them to thrive outside 24/7. All were planted from seed on the porch last April. None matured enough last year to produce any blossoms. Each managed to survive my inattention while Lizard was in the hospital for 14 days during the hottest days of August. (My neighbors watered them for me.) All the seedlings are on the porch now, and all but one seem to be happy. It's even warm enough now to keep the amaryllis plants on the porch.

The smaller tomato pots spent the winter next to the living room window. They did not begin blossoming until a few weeks ago, but they appear to be healthy. The jury is still out on whether I will bring them in again this winter. Given that tomato plants are productive only a couple of years, it might be worth starting over each winter. So the pots may come in next September or October, but with fresh soil and new seeds.

I ended up having to start the pepper plants I brought in for winter over again, thanks to spider mites. One new plant began producing blossoms in about February, but I've had only two pepper so far. We have wintered potted pepper plants next to the living room window for going on 12 years now. This was the first year I can remember such a small winter harvest. I had to buy peppers at the grocery store twice during the winter!!! (I used up my frozen stash.)

Last week I decided to start the porch peppers over again, too. Just in case the white flies had taken up residency, I dumped almost every pot on the porch, flowers and veggies alike. It's been years since I've started outdoor pepper plants from seeds. This year's planting includes Golden Macaroni, Sweet Banana, Ancho/Poblano, Serrano (our favorite), and Joe E. Parker Anaheim peppers.

I don't know what was in most of the flower pots. Now they are planted with Balloon Flowers, Brachycome, English Daisy and Stokesia. The bare parts of the ground garden are planted with cheap dahlia bulbs, cheap gladiola bulbs and six varieties of cosmos (Daydream, Candy Stripe, Picotee, Pink Pop Socks, Sonata and Sweet Sixteen). For the last three years or so, I typically have nothing but sunflowers in August. Perhaps this year I will have a full spectrum of pinks along with the sunflowers that are already beginning to poke through everywhere, including between the French drain rocks and in the driveway seams and cracks!

Columbine, Delphiniums, Lupine and Spiderwort are my garden favorites. I have three of each that come up again every year, thank heavens! This year I have a few volunteers I've spotted here and there, and a couple have been transplanted because they got started in no-grow zones. I also sprinkled new Spiderwort and Lupine seeds strategically throughout the ground garden. I've still got one more package of delphinium seeds I intend to plant somewhere in my new landscaping.

The bunnies won't stay out of my raised-bed gardens, so the Young Men from my church will be building a second tier of raised-bed gardens to install above the existing beds tonight. They've planned this for several weeks now, and it has snowed every single night they planned! Today we're just supposed to get rain. We'll soon see if May can keep the snow up in the mountains...

I'm wondering if I can incorporate a few more raised-bed gardens into the tiered landscaping I'm trying to achieve. But a new deck will have to come first. It will be much smaller than the one we had to pull out shortly after we bought the house. The old deck had not been maintained and was beyond repair. I ended up going through one of the steps. So we removed the entire thing and have been exiting the backdoor via a homemade brick stairway that is far too dangerous now for Lizard.

One of the biggest replacements in our lives this spring has nothing to do with the garden.

Our trusty, loyal 4 Runner is gone. My son was beyond thrilled to adopt the 433,000-plus-mile, 22-year-old time travel device. I'm happy I didn't have to sell it, and my son promises to take photos for me of the odometer each time the zeros turn.

He sent me a message on night one, after just sitting in the car for a couple of hours, sharing all the memories my Yota lightspeeded into his soul.

You know, I looked it up, and there are not many fourth generation 4Runners on the road, still running, with that kind of mileage. Plenty in the 200,000 range. But only a handful above that. Mine, oops, I mean, HIS is one. Everything I saw said if you're going to run up the odometer that high, Toyota is the brand you'll need.

I don't know if the new (used) wheels will provide that kind of longevity, and boy, is it difficult to get used to no clutch! Nevertheless, I do think Sooby Doo is a good car, and I think it will serve us well.

Take a gander at the newest member of the Snowcatcher family!

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