Thursday, May 17, 2012

PHS City Gardens Contest.... More Musings

by Lois Fischer

Recently planted lemon thyme with parsley and Greek oregano
With the warmer temperatures over the past several days, it seemed to be the right time to liberate the herb plants from the indoors and begin planting them in their summer homes. Given the limited space in my vegetable garden, the herbs are mostly planted in pots of various shapes and sizes. The cold hardy ones (chives, sage, marjoram and mint) are transplanted from their wintering spots in the raised beds to various containers scattered throughout the garden. I purchase the tender herb plants (tarragon, parsley and rosemary, among others) from my local garden center in Chestnut Hill and transplant them into larger pots. I added Russian tarragon to the mix this season. It is meant to be more cold hardy but less flavorful than its French cousin. We'll see what happens over the coming winter. In spite of the contest judges' pension of plant labels, I do not use them in my herb pots as it seems to spoil the visual effect. Because the judges also give brownie points for plants started by the gardener from seed, I direct sow the dill and cilantro and begin the basil under lights in the late winter. Dill is one of those more uncommon seeds that need light to germinate. Consequently, I just place the seed directly on the soil in the pot, gently press them down to make contact with the soil and water as needed. Because the basil is always the most flavorful when harvested before the plants begin to flower, I will start seed again under lights at the beginning of June to replace those outside that have begun flowering.

Potted herbs on space saving shelf
Having finished with the herbs for the time being, I have begun direct sowing some of the summer crops in the space set aside for them in the raised beds. Having such a limited space makes the choosing process difficult.... string beans or shelling peas, carrots or parsnips?? I want them all!! This year, the string beans and carrots have won. I have planted two types of French fillet beans -- Soleil, a tasty yellow variety and Masai, an excellent green one. Both are thin and stringless. The judges will be pleased that I have chosen two different types. I will plant them again later in the season when the salad greens are finished. Succession planting increases the yield and impresses the judges! In order to save space for other things in the raised beds, I have planted the carrots and Swiss chard in containers. The carrots are a Nantes-type called 'Short and Sweet' that grows no longer than seven inches, perfect for a pot or two. Carrots like a lean soil so I will be careful not to over fertilize them. Otherwise, they will be very hairy when harvested. Swiss chard grows easily in a pot by itself or can be included in a pot mixed with flowers providing handsome, edible foliage. I like the cultivar 'Bright Lights'. My tomato, pepper and eggplant seedlings are still too young to set outside. Another ten days should do the trick. They will be grown in pots too. Because I begin each season with clean containers and potting mixture, there is no need to rotate their planting location.

The PHS E-News arrived late last week with a reminder that the deadline for entering the City Gardens Contest and/or volunteering to be a judge is JUNE 10.  The PHS web site is:
I hope that all of you Master Gardeners who live in Philadelphia will enter the contest! We could have a MGSweep!!

No comments:

Post a Comment