When I was a kid, my mom would spend a few minutes every weekend puttering around our odd little garden while my dad specialized in mowing our tiny lawn. Shrubs too large for our cramped suburban lot burst at sharp angles, aimed for take off, their branches almost parallel to the ground. Roses thrived in the dry California air and succulents stood sentry from their rusted coffee cans on the patio. A large corner had been sectioned off to use as a raised vegetable garden. It gave my mom a chance to start seeds and further reduced the postage stamp sized lawn my dad mowed into submission.
My mom specialized in zucchini the size of baseball bats and bitter bok choy. I don't recall anything else ever being grown. My sailor father, having been born and raised in rural Montana, once asked loudly as he sat for a dinner of stir fried bok choy, "What the @#*&! is bok choy?" I don't remember if he ate it or not, I just remember how deeply funny it was. I remember laughing until I cried. When my dad asked what was so funny, I just laughed harder.
I don't grow bok choy but if my dad were still alive, I would. Instead, I grow a tiny group of veggies in containers I call the NanoFarm.
The NanoFarm contains a pot of purple carrots, sweet potatoes, a tomato plant, and ground cherries.
Some of the carrot foliage is a bit purple but it's supposed to be green. Only the carrots are purple. Do you know why the foliage is tinged purple?
Last year my carrot harvest was rather pathetic. I harvested enough to make a carrot cake, but that's it. Part of the problem was that I didn't thin them enough. These are a few tiny carrots I pulled today. This will give the rest of the carrots more room to grow.
Last year my carrots grew carrot brains. This is a Parisian Ball carrot with a rather well developed brain. The knobby growth develops when the soil around the seedling settles and part of the root is exposed to sun. To solve this I sifted compost over the carrot seedlings after rain had begun to compact the soil. It raised the soil level just enough to avoid carrot brains.
Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars love carrot foliage.
This seed is leftover from last year! It started growing this spring as a volunteer. It's a big yellow carrot.
I started ground cherries from seed after reading about them on Bumble Lush's wonderful blog. They were slow to start but worth the wait.
A ground cherry is an heirloom fruit that tastes like the love child between a tomato and a pineapple. They grow wider than tall so I only have one plant in this pot. I gave the rest of the seedlings away to friends. The sweet potatoes have taken over part of its pot.
The fruit is small, like a cherry and hangs under the large leaves. Something has been eating the leaves, but it doesn't seem to be affecting the plant so I'm not worried about it. You can see a ground cherry flower on the far right.
They grow within a little husk like a tomatillo and are ripe when they fall to the ground, hence the name ground cherry. They're sweet and fun to open up.
If eaten green, the fruit will make you sick but this is true of most fruits. When the husk is completely dry, the fruit is ripe.
The fruit is yellow.
Despite being blown over in a storm and accidentally mauled by a teenager, my Heatmaster tomatoes are doing well and covered with green fruit. Heatmaster was bred to be disease resistant and thrives in hot, humid environments. I bought my seedling in March when it was absurdly hot. In April, which was cold and very rainy, I had to bring it in every night. One night I left it outside and I found it at the bottom of the patio steps the next morning. Wind, you say? Maybe. But I think it had thrown itself down the steps in a desperate attempt to escape our weird weather for good. I promptly planted it in a pot, covered it when I had to and told it to hang on.
I have yet to eat a ripe tomato. I fried up all the green ones that fell in the storm and a squirrel ate half of my last almost red one, before letting it fall to the ground and roll into the bushes. He couldn't even be bothered to go after it and finish it off.
These are Bush Porto Rico sweet potatoes and were purchased as slips from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This cultivar does well in containers and is more manageable in small spaces than other varieties. Baked sweet potatoes are my favorite fall snack. The vein margins are a bit pale. Time for liquid seaweed and fish fertilizer along with a small dose of Dr Earth's vegetable fertilizer. Vegetables grown in container need to be fertilized much more frequently than veggies grown in the ground because they lose nutrients when water drains from the bottom of the pot.
My veggies grow in cheap resin pots.
Smokey bronze fennel grows near the tomatoes. I've had so many swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in the fennel, it's constantly regrowing new leaves.
Fennel attracts a lot of pollinators.
A tomato seed germinated in a crack between the patio pavers and is coming up between my containers.
I think these will be grape tomatoes.
From the NanoFarm you can see part of my container garden.
I have two big pots of pink, purple, white, and salmon zinnias just because I love them.
Zinnia and agastache 'Ava
The pollinators love them, too.