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June 04, 2016

Saturday Gardening Thread: Inside Out [KT]

Good afternoon, gardeners. A special welcome today to apartment dwellers and homeowners who might be thinking about growing just a few plants on the deck or balcony. There is an open thread below this one for non-gardening topics.

Growing a few plants can be more rewarding and less risky than, say, using a flame thrower on the deck (h/t Insty). Squirrels CAN be a problem even for gardeners, but the flamethrower-on-the-deck thing does not meet typical risk/benefit criteria for dealing with these critters, dead or alive.

Today, for inspiration, I thought we could start by doing a little preview of the upcoming Singapore Garden Festival, in case any of you will be traveling.

Best Construction Award (Landscape Division)

Actually, Singapore occurred to me because here in the San Joaquin Valley we have had our first few days of highs above the century mark. Viewing plants from indoors sounds real inviting right now, at least in the afternoons. Singapore is one place where living space and, hence, garden space is limited. The government is trying to boost the number of family-sized homes, partly to increase the birthrate. For the time being, people are lucky if they have a balcony or deck on which to garden.

Viewing your Garden from Indoors

The Singapore Garden Festival has experts ready to provide practical advice on both ornamental and edible gardening in small spaces. The piece linked below the photo seems to me like it could have been written for an American publication. Wonder if the author or a web designer went to school here? I liked the restful, green-only design below.

Tips on Dressing Up Your Balcony

Do you have a favorite close-up garden view from a window or glass door?

Half a world away, in Switzerland, they know how to do colorful window boxes. For now, anyway. A perceptive ONT commenter noted a seriously bizarre opening ceremony for the opening of the new Gotthard Tunnel. On time, on budget and then this. If this is post-modernism, it does not look good on Switzerland. Hope they don't do something similar to their gardens.

Swiss Window Box

There are some lovely European window and balcony boxes pictured here. And there are tips for winter care of these plants at a Swiss English Forum.

Ivy Geraniums

As noted by a visitor from Cape Town, the iconic Swiss window box ivy geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum) came to Switzerland (and America) from South Africa. They thrive best where days are warm (not hot) and nights are cool.

If the rain ever stops in Texas, there are now some inter-species hybrids resembling ivy geraniums that classify as summer survivors there.

In our climate, geraniums are not low water-use plants - not now and they probably never will be. Our high day and night temperatures and low humidity require us to keep all geraniums heavily hydrated. We have found all geraniums perform better in containers rather than in the landscape. We have discovered that not only is heavy watering necessary to keep them alive, but also consistent moisture.

They sound like perfect candidates for self-watering containers. Aggie Horticulture has an excellent summary on recent (well, to 2012) developments in geranium breeding.

Caliente Hot Coral, a Texas A&M Summer Survivor

Texas flooding, self-watering containers and mosquitoes

I have been concerned about our Texas gardeners. How are you doing? After the terrible flooding subsides, there will still be concerns about mosquitoes, especially those that carry the Zika virus. We have mentioned in the past that the water reservoirs in self-watering containers can make good breeding locations for mosquito larvae. Two solutions to this problem are (1) screening the overflow openings and/or the water/air tube that extends into the reservoir and (2) Bt mosquito dunks or granules. Does anybody out there have some specific tips for mosquito control?

Some of our favorite commenters here at the Saturday Gardening Thread use Earth Boxes to grow veggies. The developer of these boxes was exasperated not only by drought conditions, but also by too much water in his fields at other times. I am interested in your experiences with these boxes and other self-watering containers. Noticed any mosquitoes flying around them?

One container-adaptable garden veggie that I think is ignored too often is the filet-style green bean. They are a lot like American (Blue Lake type) green beans, except skinnier. The ones sold in stores, often bred for mechanical picking, are likely to be much tougher than those grown at home. They are meant to be cooked briefly. At a restaurant, they may be tied in a bundle with blanched chives. Grown at home and simply prepared, they are nummy.

The year I trialed green beans here, Maxibel was the most heat-tolerant filet cultivar I tried, lasting into the beginning of June some years. It is not as heat-tolerant as some of the new American-style cultivars. I am aware of two shorter cultivars bred specifically for containers: Masai and the more recent Mascotte. These beans will produce in surprisingly small containers. Not sure about there heat tolerance.

Mascotte Filet Bean

Has anybody out there grown filet beans or some geraniums in a container? Anything else going on in your garden?

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:30 PM

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