The third chapter in the Origami planter container gardening story took a turn for the worse. Weather and pestilence were not my friends.
I planted and staked a lovely, sturdy, eight-inch-tall Sun Gold tomato in the center of the container garden and surrounded it with golden French marigolds for a color echo, as well as to encourage the pollinators. I sowed the seeds of purple-podded sugar snap peas in each corner and created a four-post pea trellis for them to get tall and pretty. The new plants and seeds were tucked in amongst the thriving greens.
About a week later, I went to see how the new plantings in my container garden were doing. The tomato had disappeared. Well, that’s not accurate. The top half of it disappeared. My husband had been snipping away and eating those yummy fresh greens. I wonder if he ate the tomato plant with the greens? The marigolds were struggling. We had 103 degrees one day and fresh snow in the high country and 40 degrees in town just a few days later. I’d race out and cover them at night, wrapping bubble wrap around the pea stakes protecting everything inside from the cold. In the morning, I would run outside and remove the bubble wrap. There was a run on frost cloth and plant protection cloches across the valley. Things were not going well in the “annual department” at my house. The plants were experiencing a severe “failure to thrive” and could not hold up to our crazy weather. The peas only grew three to four inches and stopped. Not what I was hoping for! And then there were the earwigs. Earwigs ravaged what was left of the peas and were starting to munch their way through the greens.
Since everyone else in town was having trouble with container gardening as well, I decided the best plan was to keep planting. I’ve moved past the vegetable plan right on into summer on the patio. After removing the battered/frozen/beheaded greens and sad tomato from the setting, I started fresh with what promises to be a gorgeous, tall, double blossomed Mandevilla vine, ‘Tango Twirl.’ I surrounded the vine with a half dozen Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green.’ This plant can take the heat, comes on strong in the evening with a lovely soft fragrance, and happens to be a night moth magnet. I added a slow-release, organic fertilizer to the soil when I planted these annuals. If you remove the spent flowers (regularly), the Nicotiana will bloom and bloom. I cut back every other plant – by about a third – two weeks apart to keep them bushy and full of blooms.
I can report “so far so good” with the flowers in the container. You have to keep at it as a gardener, and don’t let killing a few plants get you down. There’s even an old adage about gardening that I take to heart every year: “until you’ve lost at least a couple dozen plants, you can’t even call yourself a gardener!”
I am still very pleased with the container’s resilience, eye-catching shape, and ability to hold the water in this arid climate. The extra-large container is almost mandatory here in the high desert, as smaller pots dry out in a heartbeat. Even full of planting mix, plants, and freshly watered, it is easy to move around the patio. Remember, I put it on a large plant caddie before I planted it. I rotate the planter one-quarter turn every week to keep the plants growing evenly.
The summer plan is to sit on the patio in the evening, admiring the swirly pink blossoms on the vine, inhaling the fragrance from the Nicotiana, and sipping wine while watching the sunset. And, I will remember the generous helpings of those cut-and-come-again mixed greens.