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Category: Thoughts

June Update

Jun 19

This is the craziest time of the year for gardeners. Everything is growing so fast that we can’t keep up. For a while I managed to keep on top of everything but now I’m falling behind, in both the Kleingarten and my Balkongarten. The most pressing jobs in the Kleingarten, such as the grapevine roof trellis and winter rye cutting, are completed on time, but the balcony has taken a back seat. This past weekend I committed myself to the balcony, which is finally taking shape, although there’s still a lot that needs to be done.

Some of the chaos on the balcony

Some of the chaos on the balcony

My main task was to get plants into their final pots. Two tomato plants, dahlias, wallflowers, a cucumber, and pepper seedlings were all desperate for transplanting. All but one tomato plant made it into new pots. Unfortunately, it has to wait until I can get more soil, which adds to the delays.

One tomato plant planted in the pallet container

One tomato plant planted in the pallet container

Between the two tomato plants, I planted the worse-looking one. I was afraid that if I didn’t I would lose it. But on this seed-to-plant journey I’ve noticed a difference in stress and plant growth based on what type of pot they were grown in. The weaker tomato plant was in a peat pot and significantly shorter than the other in a plastic pot. The plastic pot tomato is taller, has dark green leaves and, even more surprising, has not one but two plants inside. Having multiple plants in a pot like this normally stunts their growth. I find it very interesting that the two tomatoes are doing better than the one alone in a peat pot the same size. This also conflicts with my desire to reduce plastic in the garden.

Both plants were doing equally well up to a certain point— the point when they needed to be planted out two weeks ago. It appears that biodegradable pots are great but you need to keep on top of schedule and plant out the plants the moment they are ready. Plastic pots may allow for a flexible time frame, keeping the plants happy awhile longer until you’re able to transplant them out.

At the moment, the plastic pot tomatoes are just now showing signs that they are desperate to get into their final place. Their lower leaves turning lime green/yellow, and they are beginning to produce flowers even though they are not yet at their mature height: since they are annuals, their goal is to grow, reproduce, and then die. These particular plants assume they need to reproduce sooner because of the poor conditions. From their viewpoint, producing a few fruits is better than producing none. So my plan of growing two meter tall plants, for both some shade on the balcony and a bountiful harvest, may be lost if they don’t get planted soon.

Keeping to the theme of biodegradable pots, I have mixed feelings about the newspaper pots I used to start seedlings. They are great but, again, only if you keep on top of the plant care, otherwise they turn into a nightmare. The pots dry out faster so they require constant attention to the moisture levels. They also dry out unevenly, with pots on the outside drying faster than those in the middle. And once the true leaves appear twice the size as the seed leaves, they require immediate potting on into a nutrient-rich soil.

Newspaper pots in April

Newspaper pots in April

I still need to do a few more tests, but my current advice for biodegradable pots is to stick to the plant’s schedule, not yours. As soon as you see these signals, you have to act quickly no matter how busy your life is, otherwise they’ll end up stunted or die. Pay attention to what your plants are telling you and they will reward you in kind.

Welcome to Here's the Dill!

May 19

My name is Jayme and I recently discovered my passion for gardening, or rather, in plants and their interactions within the world.

I studied biology with a specialization in marine and aquatic biology thinking I wanted to research coral reef ecosystems—thank you Blue Planet and Discovery Channel. But it wasn’t until I started moving further away from home that I realized what my true interests were: digging in the garden.

On this journey I hope to go from a knowledgeable gardener to full out nerdy expert and share my geeky gardening tendencies with others who have the same passion. This is a space to gain a deeper understanding of the natural processes occurring in your garden. I’ll also explore agricultural and environmental topics surrounding plants in order to understand world wide conversations over climate change and what we as individuals can do to help.

Without further ado, Welcome to Here’s the Dill!

It started around the age of 9, watching my dad turn an overgrown 1.5 acre (0.6 hectare) plot of land into lawn and a series of garden beds. He worked hard digging out forgotten stumps located within a thorny, thistly, poison-ivy-stricken meadow and I got to help. Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent watching gardening programs with my parents on HGTV; you know when the Home and GARDENING Network used to air gardening shows. (Can you tell I was a nerdy kid?) Anyhow, one rainy spring morning, I asked him if I could have a garden bed, and thinking he wouldn’t take me seriously, I went upstairs to play. But within a few minutes he went out into the drizzling rain and dug a small egg shaped bed around a tiny flowering crabapple tree and a patch of peonies. Over the years the bed expanded as I stole one of my mom’s neighboring garden beds and unbeknownst to me, so did my passion for being in the garden.

Expanded garden bed in Ohio

Expanded garden bed in Ohio June 2015

I didn’t realize that every time I visited home from college or from my first job further away I was always drawn back to my garden. During college I even planted spring bulbs in front of the house my roommates and I occupied. It wasn’t until I moved from Ohio to southern Germany that I realized how much I craved being in one. My lifeline was cut; I could no longer visit my parents on a whim and work in the garden. I didn’t realize how much I relied on gardening to reduce stress and no matter how much you prepare, moving halfway across the world is a fairly stressful event.

I’ve been living in Germany for over 2 years and have since created a balcony garden and starting working in an allotment garden thanks to a kind member of the community. On Here’s the Dill I hope to share my successes and failures of organic gardening along with any interesting topics about agriculture or ecological interactions occurring within a garden. Together we’ll become better gardeners and more conscious citizens of the world!

The author on her flower balcony

The author in her Balkongarten