2011 was a pret­ty good year farm­ing wise at home. For an urban (I do con­sid­er myself urban) back­yard con­tain­er farm we did pret­ty good. And more impor­tant­ly, we learned a lot to apply for next year.

Start­ing out we added sev­er­al new con­tain­ers to our farm. I was sur­prised my wife went along with it! I want­ed to add even more but next year. Nev­er­the­less, we had a good assort­ment of veg­eta­bles and herbs.

The herbs just couldn’t be stopped! Our basil was strong and even some errant seeds from last years’ plants took root in oth­er parts of the yard which added to the crop. We learned late last year that to extend the crop you need to pluck the flower stalks before they blos­som. Once basil flow­ers the leaves die quick­ly. Applied this year we real­ly got a good crop that as fresh was good and dried will last all win­ter.

The oregano once removed from the stems and dried also did very very well and will last all win­ter. Same with the sage.

Our lemon ver­be­na was unstop­pable! It can be added fresh when mak­ing soap for a nice fra­grance or dried and used as a tea that sup­pos­ed­ly is good for an upset stom­ach. Fresh or dry it smells great any­way to have around.

Pars­ley was tough as it always is for us but we did scratch out a fair crop. Same with the thyme and rose­mary. Have to work on it more.

And our chives just keep com­ing back year after year! Maybe add anoth­er con­tain­er next sea­son just to boost the yield.

On the veg­gie side, things were even bet­ter.

We had a bumper crop of jalapeno pep­pers! Bell pep­pers did good too but need­ed lots of water.

We tried egg­plant. We got a few nice ones from a sin­gle plant. Going to add more plants next sea­son.

Cucum­bers for pick­ling didn’t do so great. I think the seed pack­age was mis­la­beled. It was sup­posed to pro­duce lots of small­er fruits for pick­ling. Instead it only pro­duced a few very large ones. Still tasty but not the num­bers we want­ed. Will try again next year.

On a brighter note, we tried a string bean plant that did very very well. Not enough to add as a side dish for any par­tic­u­lar meal. But cer­tain­ly enough to add to a soup or stew. Also tried blanch­ing, vac­u­um seal­ing and freez­ing some for the win­ter. Seems it will be good. Will try more plants next year.

Final­ly, the toma­toes were a chal­lenge. Many of the fruit devel­oped “bot­tom rot” where the fruit turns black and starts to rot from the bottom/base and works its way up. Accord­ing to many sources the rea­son is 1) Too much water and 2) not enough cal­ci­um! Who would have thought toma­toes need cal­ci­um too! I added some fer­til­iz­er that con­tained 2% cal­ci­um as well as cut back the water­ing to every oth­er day (in spite of the sum­mer heat) and that seemed to help a bit. Next year I’m going to add a more toma­to spe­cif­ic fer­til­iz­er with more cal­ci­um and nitro­gen. One web­site I read said to save your egg shells then grind them up and put it in the soil when plant­i­ng. Going to try that too.

Also saw a video from a guy that described a very aggres­sive form of toma­to plant prun­ing. He says it forces the plant to quick­ly pro­duce big­ger fruits. I tried it and it seemed to help a bit. Will try more next sea­son.

The rac­coons start­ed nib­bling on the toma­toes in late Sep­tem­ber. I found that pick­ing them just as they start­ed to turn red and let­ting them ripen in a paper bag on the counter saved many. A slow­er process than on the vine ripen­ing but it helped.

Over­all the con­tain­er farm is com­ing along well giv­en the very lim­it­ed size to work with. My wife doesn’t want me to dig up the yard itself for plant­i­ng so we just added more con­tain­ers. I’m sure the crop would be bet­ter in the ground. My father-in-law had an incred­i­ble toma­to crop this year!

We thought about mak­ing large planters but decid­ed con­tain­ers work bet­ter. Eas­i­er to shuf­fle around the yard as need­ed. Not going to be able to live off the crop but we def­i­nite­ly have reached a point of reg­u­lar­ly being able to add some fresh herbs and veg­gies to the table that does help to start mak­ing a dent in the food bud­get (didn’t have to buy a toma­to all sum­mer!) with­out a lot of extra dai­ly work.

Next year, in addi­tion to what I men­tioned above, we’re going to add some more con­tain­ers as well as a rain water cap­ture sys­tem (that can have a dual pur­pose). And going to try some oth­er seeds like cel­ery, radish­es and maybe heir­loom toma­toes.

Very excit­ed about the pos­si­bil­i­ties!


Print Friendly, PDF & Email