You are looking at one of this year’s serendipitous brainstorms. I feel perhaps a little bit too genius for coming up with it, when really, it’s just an enamel colander filled with ‘Sea of Red’ cutting lettuce and hanging in a wire basket. I quite like it. So much so that I haven’t had the heart to harvest it! Yet.
Here’s how this happy marriage came about. I had this heavy wire hanging basket sitting around, going unused. It’s the sort that is typically lined with coir, which is fine in most gardens but hard to keep hydrated on a hot and sunny roof. While, I’ve found it difficult to use as-is, I’ve kept the basket waiting for a new use to present itself. Despite the issue with hydration, stylishly understated and black hanging baskets made of a sturdy materials are hard to come by so I wasn’t about to get rid of it.
I bought the colander at a local secondhand store with the expressed purpose of growing greens in it. I liked the pairing of butter cream with bright red trim. The holes are small enough to hold soil without adding an extra liner, and the drainage they provide is perfect for growing small greens or herbs.
Once I had planted up the colander, I thought it might be better served sitting up off the ground. Low and behold it fit perfectly inside the otherwise useless wire basket. As an added bonus our digging mammal visitors (squirrels, raccoons, etc) have not been able to get at it, while a second pot of ‘Sea of Red’ cutting lettuce has been dug up several times over the season.
Incidentally, I have experimented with this particular variety by growing the heads spaced at a distance from one another and tightly clustered as you see it here. I prefer it grown together and like the way the spear-like leaves create a literal sea of rich, mahogany that lights up when the sun hits it just so. It’s as satisfying to look at as any flower basket I have grown and I might even eat it for lunch sometime soon before the plants bolt.
Project “Let’s Not Kill the Corsican Mint” is well underway and so far so good. You see, I tried to grow one in my community garden plot last year and failed. If I can manage to move from not-killing the plant to encouraging it to grow lush an over the sides of it’s pot I will be very happy indeed.
Looking back I have a few theories around that failure that I am testing on plant number two, the sequel. I was naive and a bit lazy with plant #1. I just shoved it into the part of my garden where the other mints grow and called it a day.
Done and done. Literally.
But Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) is not the same as tough as-nails mint. It is very diminutive, spreading plant — more like a moss than a mint. It has delicate roots, while regular mint can bust through all sort of barricades.
- Good Drainage: Corsican mint is the sort of creeping plant that grows well between paving stones. It is sometimes used as a ground cover and can take a bit of foot traffic. This leaves me with the impression that it requires very good drainage. Regular mints like good drainage too, but they are less picky. I have worked hard on the soil at my community garden and it is good. However, I lost a thyme (also requires good drainage) in that exact spot so I think the drainage may not be as good as other parts of the plot where thyme has survived. Although, wild strawberries live there now and they have overwintered and happily spread themselves about. Go figure.
My strategy with Corsican mint #2 is to grow it in a pot in which I have added a bit of sand and grit for extra drainage.
- Dappled Light: Mistake number 2 was planting the Lilliputian Corsican mint (they don’t grow more than an inch tall) nearby much taller mints. Over the course of the summer, the monster mints grew and took over the space as mints are want to do. Corsican mint likes dappled light, but I do not believe it likes to be shaded out completely. I am currently keeping plant #2 on this shelf, which resides in the partial shade portion of my roof. So far it looks happy and is growing. Life on the roof is hot but it is protected in that spot and I can check on the plant daily. I only visit the community garden plot weekly or twice weekly. The most fruitful observations are made when you can check on a plant every single day.
- Soil Moisture: This was the one thing I did right, but without the proper drainage. Corsican mint likes to be kept moist, but not too moist. It should never dry out. In a word, it is finicky. It likes things just so. The trick is to figure out what that means exactly and keep doing it.
My second article of this season’s Globe & Mail column was published last Saturday: BEANS! It’s still not too late to get started. When I wrote and submitted the article we were experiencing a very hot and dry spring: great weather for planting beans. Immediately after the article was published the weather turned cold and wet: not so great weather for planting beans. What? Regardless, the beans I planted are popping up through the soil and look great. No rot or germination problems. Get those beans going!
Oh and if you’re wondering what I narrowed it down to: ‘Royal Burgundy’, ‘Dragon’s Tongue’, ‘Trionfo Violetto’, and two types of ‘Yard Long’ beans (green and ‘Red Noodle’). Basically everything I wrote about in the article. Writing the articles tends to renew my own excitement about plants or specific varieties I haven’t grown in a while.
This is me back in January in St. Lucia standing next to a gigantic tripod of ‘Red Noodle’ beans and holding one up against my arm for length.
While I’m on the topic of the Globe & Mail: I’ll be doing a live web chat tomorrow, Friday, June 11 at noon EST over here.
My first ever Japanese Maple (Acer)!!!
I have always wanted one, but it was one of those plants I stayed clear of under the condition that I would get one eventually, but only when I got rich and/or became a homeowner. I bought a Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria) instead; the poor man’s Japanese maple. Nearly ten years later, the Purple Smoke Bush is a monster [ed: I just checked and it turns out I bought the smoke bush in 2003, although i wanted a Japanese Maple long before.] and I am still gazing longingly at other peoples’ Japanese maples.
Looking back, it comes as no surprise that I would still be pining for one. Chances were pretty good that I would never meet the ridiculous self-imposed conditions required.
And so I decided that this was the year we would get one and grow it in a pot rather than waiting for the magical moment that may never come. You see, way back then, I was under the mistaken impression that Japanese Maples are uber expensive. And it is true. A single, mature tree can cost hundreds of dollars. But seedlings are affordable, and growing your own from seed costs nothing but patience and time. What’s more, every seedling is unique, offering you the chance to grow a few and then select the one you like best to grow on.
In the end we got ourselves a little 10″ tree, but it’s not a store-bought tree. Our tree comes with a story and a personal history. A friend collected the seed and another friend (Barry) grew the subsequent seedlings on for three years. It’s a special tree and a strange step forward in my gardening life.
Now all I have to do is keep it alive!
The first new radishes have been making their way into our salads over the last week — what a treat! First up is ‘Sparkler’, a tender, two-toned variety that reminds me of a flattened ‘French Breakfast.’ The later is long and elegant but only appropriate for the very deepest containers, while ‘Sparkler’ is short and squat, perfect for window boxes and smaller pots.
The trick to growing tender radishes in pots is to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Dry soil turns out small, woody radishes. Deeper containers are easier to keep moist. If you are having trouble growing decent radishes, try supersizing your container and growing a smaller variety.
This year I am experimenting with a big wash basin that is about 8 1/2″ deep by 18″ wide. I made lots of holes in the bottom of the container with a big nail and a hammer before filling it with potting soil. I then planted the seeds in concentric circles within the container, spaced about 2 inches apart so the radishes would have room to grow. Approximately 20 or so radishes can grow in there at one time — I could have fit a few more had I not sown a patch of wild arugula in the center for the heck of it.
More About Radishes: