Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Red Siberian Pole Tomato Update

Red Siberian pole tomato seeds
While I've gotten a late start with my tomatoes, and I haven't been the most attentive container gardener this year, I do have an update about my Red Siberian pole tomatoes from Botanical Interests.  I am very pleased with these seeds and hope to be as pleased with the fruit.

My Tomato Timeline

In March I made an early visit to the garden center and chose some seeds by Botanical Interests.  I am attempting to learn more about heirloom seeds and plants (in preparation for my retirement to a country home and a large garden).  I ended up purchasing a pack of Red Siberian pole tomato seeds by Botanical Interests.

Normally, I would have started the seeds in my makeshift greenhouse (a large aquarium in front of an east-facing window) that week in March. But I put the seeds aside and nearly forgot.  Unfortunately, I did not write down the date that I did finally start them.

I started three seeds. Only three seeds. I expected one (or none) to sprout.  My balcony garden space is limited and I thought I'd just try one of these plants. Of the three seeds planted, ALL THREE SPROUTED! Yes, I am internet shouting.  I do not have a green thumb and I truly expected zero to sprout during the first attempt. It excites me that 100% of the seeds sprouted.

On April 26th, I had these three, healthy sprouts and was confident enough that they would continue to grow, that I took a photo of them.

Then promptly forgot about them.

They wilted, I'd remember to water them then forget again. They wilted again, then bounced back when I remembered to water them.  All in all, and in spite of the neglect, they grew very well.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally transplanted them to another pot and moved them out to the balcony. When re-potting tomatoes, I always strip off all of the leaves except the top few and plant them deep. Whether it is accurate or not, I believe that technique creates a better tomato root system and a stronger plant.

Today, on June 28th, this is what these little plants look like.  Despite the continued drought and flood that my gardening style has taken on this year.

What I have learned is that these seeds sprout easily. The sprouts grow very well. And despite the neglectful gardening style this year, the plants are growing quickly.  I am looking forward to being able to sample the tomatoes that this plant is sure to bear.

Related Information

While I purchased my seeds at a local garden center, you can also find them online at the official Botanical Interests site. I really like their collections and selection.  I just need to get moved out to the country so I can attempt a larger garden.

It is also important to understand that balcony and container gardens require additional watering to begin with.  I am convinced that using a self-watering planter has been the only reason I haven't killed off my entire balcony garden this year.  If your life is hectic, or you are forgetful, definitely use self-watering containers.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mint: Easy and Beneficial

Last year's mint
Mint is a wonderful plant. It is a perfect plant for a balcony container garden. It is so easy to grow that it is a great plant for folks who doubt their green thumbs. Not only is it a pretty and full plant, it is a beneficial plant. Mint is useful in the kitchen, makes refreshing drinks, and is reported to have a variety of health benefits.

Mint - An Easy and Vigorous Plant

The joke about me and plants is "How long until you kill it?" There are many, many plants that I cannot grow.  I am definitely not a green thumbed expert.  There are a few plants that have done well in my gardens over the years, but not many.

Mint is a great plant for beginners and people who aren't good with plants either due to lack of skill or lack of time.  It grows profusely. In fact, I think it is better suited to container gardening as mint is known to take over gardens if allowed.  I seem to only have photographs of my mint as young plants. I will have to remember to take photos of how large and bushy they become over the summer. In the second photo, you can see where I have pinched off the top few leaves for use in a smoothie.  It seems that the more I pinch, the better the plant grows.

My mint on my balcony is so hardy that when I've not watered my plants frequently enough, the other plants take some time to bounce back after I water them.  If they bounce back at all. But the mint will turn from droopy and water-deprived to lush and upright almost before my eyes.

This year's mint

Mint - the Tasty Thirst Quencher

In the heat of summer, I'm thirsty but nothing quite quenches my thirst.  Then I found that floating a few mint leaves in a glass of ice water not only tastes great, but takes care of that feeling of thirst. I moved from ice water with mint leaves to smoothies with mint leaves. Whether it is a green/fruit smoothing or a simple cucumber smoothie, they taste even better with mint added.

Reported Health Benefits of Mint

Mint reportedly soothes stomach aches. I have found this to be true.  Mint is also reportedly also soothes skin irritation via topical applications as well as providing health benefits such as antioxidants.  As I'm not a doctor, I don't know these things to be true. But I am very aware that when I am consuming smoothies, with mint, on a regular basis, I feel better physically.

Please do your own research about the health benefits of mint. Sites such as Medical News Today are easy to find and list those reported benefits with more detail.

Mint Smoothies are the Best!

I recently purchased a NutriBullet Pro, after my old blender completely wore out.  I love the NutriBullet and you can read my review here.  My favorite ingredient in smoothies is my mint. Depending on how much you use, the mint can give a subtle, refreshing bit of flavor or a BAM of strong minty freshness.

In fact. just talking about mint smoothies made me so thirsty for one that I paused while writing this in order to make one. Today's smoothie contains: a generous helping of mint, watermelon, a splash of orange juice, and a few spinach leaves.

Mint Resources

For more recipes, uses, and how-to-grow mint directions (which is a little silly since it basically grows itself once introduced to dirt), I recommend that you search for mint on Amazon. Looking at that list reminds me of how important mint is in our lives. Mint chocolate, mints, mint colored clothing, mint extract, and mint lotions, soaps, and beauty aids.

Top 50 Mint recipes

And because I am less talented in the kitchen than I am in the garden, I probably should keep a jar of mint chutney in the cupboard. If my little balcony garden ever produces enough ripe tomatoes at the same time, I plan on making some fresh tomato and mint salsa. How delicious does that sound?

Premium mint cilantro chutney