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September 1, 2014

In My Cottage Garden: ABG Conference–Growing In Containers (& My Herb Seeds are In!)

When I saw Verna Pratt at the front of the room, I had no idea she was the author of several of the Alaska wildflower books I have on my shelf as well as wonderful pressed-wildflower pictures I’ve always wanted to hang on the walls of the little English Cottage I’m going to have some day!

But I digress…

Verna was there to talk about the joys of growing vegetables in containers. I was actually rather surprised that she chose to do it that way because I knew she had beautiful gardens and lots of space. However, there are things that will drive a gardener to do almost anything and the reasons became quite clear as she explained:

Big Alaska slug

She has slugs the size of rodents!

And she also has issue with the bane of Alaska gardeners…

The hungry moose!

So as a result, Verna started growing her vegetables in containers on her deck. Some examples of the sizes:

I actually have some of the blue ones for storage so I’ll be giving them a shot.

The session turned into quite the anti-slug discussion, with some folks talking about how they try to humanely rid themselves of the pests and others talking about how they liked to pour salt on them and watch them bubble.

I don’t like watching them die, I just like making sure that they do.

Verna said, after years of trying, she has given up trying to get slugs out of already slug-tainted soil. However, she’s found the fool-proof solution on how to keep slugs out of an already slug-free bed — copper.

Putting copper around the top of your containers will keep slugs out because it gives them an electric shock if they come in contact with it. However, the copper must not be tarnished or it won’t work and the soil inside the bed/container must be slug and slug egg free or it will just keep the slugs inside.

Verna has been growing every kind of vegetable in containers: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage etc…She hasn’t found the need to use a container any bigger than the two she displayed. And yes, she does punch holes in the bottom for drainage.

Verna’s session and all of the talk about hoop houses and high tunnels made me realize what I wanted to do here.

I found the instructions online for this hoophouse greenhouse. The dimensions are 10′ x 21′, but I’ll make mine 10′x 12′. (And when I say “I’ll make mine,” you know that Josh is doing the heavy lifting. ;-P ) The plan is to plant the vegetables (and herbs like watercress) that I want covered all summer in containers inside the hoophouse. Then, I can use the hoop house to cover my vegetable bed around September so I can extend the time that I can harvest.

Now that my herb seeds came in, I can get started…well…starting them!

How are your gardening preparations going so far?

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24 Responses to “In My Cottage Garden: ABG Conference–Growing In Containers (& My Herb Seeds are In!)”
  1. AKMagpie says:

    I’m thinking we will be having floating gardens in Anchorage this summer. Two more inches of snow called for today on top of the 14 feet or so Mid-Hill has received this winter. We have 12 foot berms along the roads. I wonder if getting large styrofoam chests and putting slightly smaller containers (with drainage holes in both) inside would work.

  2. Zyxomma says:

    That moose photo is too adorable. Cute and sinister at the same time.

  3. UgaVic says:

    I did container gardening for years, mostly due to lack of space as an apartment dweller but then when I had lousy soil I took them again!

    I can see this as working in such places as on porches in our more northern villages will little ‘high land, to areas like us where it can be too windy to not be able to shelter them.

    I have used low tunnels since the second season I came to Alaska. The biggest deal was being able to keep them anchored in the winds. Using rebar stuck into the ground to put the 1/2″-3/4″ PVC over then using drilled holes thur the top of those arched PVC hoops to anchor to the ground.

    Those clips you can get through a number of different seed companys help keep the heavy grade plastic attached.

    All of this can be done fairly inexpensively and could help lots in the move to produce more of our own food.

    So wish I could have attended but since I did not….is GREAT to see such great reporting of what did happen.

    NOW I have to find a place to hang some baskets so I too can have those pretty flowers :-))

  4. merrycricket says:

    I spent three days weeding and mulching all the flower beds this past week. I have never been this early before. I also built a small hoop house to move my seed pots into now that they are sprouting. I can’t put them in the Windows for sunlight because of the cats.

    Potatoes, onions and garlic are in. I have lettuce and spinach half grown, broccoli, cabbage and swiss chard all off to a good start. Thrilled by this weather we are having.

  5. Alaska Pi says:

    I’m with Ms Pratt on planting greens in containers!
    Not only can I beat the slugs but I can also move the containers under eaves when we get our wet, wet, wet July and August spells. Don’t have near so much “melting” of good food greens now.
    We had almost 13 inches of rain last August.
    Can now extend greens of many varieties into September and October too with shuffling round of containers.
    My yard is too small for a hoop house even as small as the one you are planning, Linda. So looking forward to your experiment and hearing about it :-)

    • benlomond2 says:

      Pi… I made a smaller version of a hoop house to keep the deer out last year– I used rebarb for the hoop, and ran 10′ pieces of 1″ pvc pipe lengthwise to hold it all together with drilled holes in the PVC for the rebarb to go thru.( 1 at the top, two on each side) By bending the last foot of each end of rebarb parrell to the ground, I can easily lift/roll it up to get to the veggies. you can make a tall narrow “hoop”, that should work in your garden space.

      • Alaska Pi says:

        I’m going to try something like you describe here this year along the easterly fence- narrow and tall. (Southerly fence gets too many %#%^&%^%ing bears jumping over it and those boogers just smoosh everything .)
        I moved a bunch of perennials on that easterly side last fall to make room to try a skinny hoop- wish me luck!!!!

  6. Jag says:

    I have always enjoyed your garden pics, Linda!

    I remember seeing slug eggs for the first time– I scolded my little brother for spitting in the garden, deemed him “gross,” then our mom explained to me that what looked like spit spat in the grass was actually a clutch of slug eggs! I had to apologize to my brother, but then we were both grossed out!

  7. juneaudream says:

    Depending upon the size of birds..who are happily ingesting the produce..from tomatoes to berrys..I suggest you find a gillnetter or other fishing sort..who will give you rems. of their no longer useful nets..mesh size..to ‘be judged’. I have huge areas of my blueberrys protected by old herring nets. Only the small birds who come in to A. avoid the hawks/owls..and B. eat the insects..can get through. All other bigger birds..cannot..make it in. Since they are all..recyled nets..they are free.

    • mike from iowa says:

      We used to have a guy bale big round bales of cornstalks for cattle feed/bedding. He used a plastic netting to hold the bales together. In the Spring Robins found the netting attractive enough for their nests,but several got tangled up in the darn stuff and croaked.

    • Have you tried using old gillnets to support climbing peas? I was thinking of trying that this year.

      • juneaudream says:

        Support for pea vines? Oh yes indeed..does a beautiful job. At the end of the season..down come the old vines..interwoven with the old cotton mesh..pdq! ( yes..we are ones who still have old warehouses and old basements with..cotton mesh..and linen..handwoven..by..our Elders… ;)

      • leenie17 says:

        Before I made my full trellises, I used trellis netting strung between metal fence posts for my climbing vines. They worked well in the veggie garden (peas and beans) so I tried one along the 4′ chain link side fence between my yard and my neighbor’s yard. I strung it between 6′ posts with the intention of growing vines to create some privacy. As I was getting ready for work one morning, I looked out the window and saw a robin caught in the netting. The net was very thin and black so, until something grew on it, it was almost impossible for animals to see it until they were IN it.

        I called animal control and they were able to release the bird unharmed but I immediately cut the netting down and never used it again. I had been visited by a deer for several days around that time and all I could imagine was the deer jumping my chain link fence and getting caught in the netting above it. All I needed was a poor deer with a broken leg stuck in my backyard!

      • WakeUpAmerica says:

        No gill nets where I live AND no snails. We had plenty in our previous home, but it’s too dry for snails or fleas here.

  8. leenie17 says:

    I was very excited yesterday to attend the annual Gardenscape gardening show here in Rochester. It usually attracts about 20,000 people over a four-day period and has display gardens, a vendor hall and seminars. Since, most years, we’re sick of the snow and slush and cold weather by this time of the year, it’s always a welcome reminder that spring IS on its way!

    I’ve been going since I moved here in ’98 but I was rather disappointed for the second year in a row. They seem to have forgotten that the name of the show is ‘Garden’scape, not ‘Hard’scape. The display area was filled with more stone and brick than living plant material and looked more like a patio store than a garden show. I do NOT want to see a grill at my garden show, no matter how lovely that grill might be! Even the minimal plant material that was there seemed to be pretty much the same from display to display. It seems as though the businesses that set up displays are far more focused on selling their landscaping skills than in creating interesting and unique plant displays.

    The first few years I went, you could barely see past five feet in any direction and felt like you were walking through a jungle, there were so many plants. I always took lots of pictures and saw many plants that were new to me along with creative ways of using them. Yesterday I could practically see clear across the Dome center hall and saw very few things I’d never seen before. A few hyacinths and forsythias plunked down around a stone patio do NOT excite me!

    I WILL be contacting the organizers and telling them how disappointed I was. Hopefully, they will hear the same thing from other gardeners and place more emphasis on the plant displays in the future.

    • The Gardening Conference doesn’t have a lot of live plant displays, but someone brought a bunch of flowering hyacinths for sale and the perfume permiated the entire space, it was wonderful!

      I think that die-hard gardeners may have to unite and “flex their muscles” with some of these organizations. Who will and won’t spend money on their products is probably what motivates them more than anything.

    • merrycricket says:

      Our annual home and garden show can be a lot like that and can disappoint. BUT, there is a vendor there that sells seeds and bulbs at very low prices. Last year I bought enough seeds and seed potatoes and bulbs for the whole season for about 1/3 what I would have paid.

  9. laingirl says:

    Linda, good luck on your garden. I remember seeing pictures of your beautiful plants and flowers on your blog a couple of years ago. I’ve tried growing some tomatoes in containers, but unfortunately the birds got to them first.

  10. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Shallow dishes of beer work marvelously to rid your garden of slugs. Who would have thought? After my husband poisoned the dog with the slug bait -the dog lived- he went for a more organic method. It worked better than anything. Put them out at night. Collect them the slugs in the morning. I can’t remember if it killed them or just attracted them and enebriated them, but it was really effective.

    • fishingmamma says:

      My aunts would take 1 Lb coffee cans, cut a hole in the plastic lid, fill it halfway with beer and bury it up to the lid in the garden. Worked well for them, except they worried someone would see them at the store buying beer.

      • WakeUpAmerica says:

        Hahahahaha! That’s funny!
        I never thought of using a can like that and burying it up to the lid. Great idea. At least the poor little “suckers” die happy.

    • merrycricket says:

      The beer kills them. They usually drown.

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