Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Green Zebra Redemption

Green Zebra Seedlings (3/22/12)
It has been a while since I’ve had a fresh Green Zebra. Last summer, I bought one at the grocery store, hoping to remember why I loved this pretty little tomato with its yellowish green tint and characteristic zebra stripes. Since I was buying tomatoes, I also bought a gnarled looking pinkish heirloom (maybe a Brandywine, I’m not sure because they were not labeled other than being called “Heirloom Tomatoes”). I built them up to justify their prices. Yeah, I just spent close to $4 for 2 single tomatoes, but wait until we slice them! We were going to be in for a real treat!

Any true tomato lover knows how this story ends. Sadly, the Green Zebra tasted like a mealy green tennis ball. There was none of the pleasant tartness, no juicy green flesh, nothing appealing at all about it. The same went for heirloom tomato. It was a mouthful of tasteless pink goo. It’s little wonder that many people do not care for these “different” tomato varieties, since most of our experience with them comes from over priced fruit that sits in the produce section for a week or more waiting to be purchased.

Due to this experience, I really, really wanted to make sure that I had some Green Zebra tomatoes this year. I had a duty to the humble Green Zebra to help it find redemption, one 7 gallon pot at a time. Dreams of prodigious vines loaded with striped green fruit filled my mind as I surveyed the porch space I could devote to them.

There was one small problem, though: it had been a good 10 days or so, and not one Green Zebra seed had sprouted. I had Heirlooms, Yellow Pears, Sweet 100, Jellybeans, Best Boys, even a Tomatillo. But there was still no sign at all of the Zebras. With the logic of a novice, I figured that since they are a really cool kind of tomato, they must be particularly hard seeds to germinate. So I did what any impatient gardener would do: I planted the rest of the seed package just in case. I was determined to get at least a couple plants.

The next morning I brewed a cup of coffee and shuffled off to the seedling room to take a look at what was going on. What was going on was that I had about 5 Green Zebra sprouts that had used the cover of night to sprout in secrecy! A few days later, and I had at least 15 seedlings, all from the original planting.

Does this mean the second planting is doomed not to grace the urban terrace? Hardly! It just means that I now need to figure out where they will go….

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seedling Update

Well, it's been about a week since I've last updated the goings on at the seedling table. The plants are loving these 75-80 degree March days just as much as we are! New arrivals include okra, chard, many types of herbs, and some more of the flowers. The mint and petunias are still tiny little green dots that you can hardly see, but everything else seems to be doing well. You can click on each picture for a larger view.

Black Krim Tomato
Seedling Table View
Seedling Table View

Bright Lights Chard

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Got a favorite garden vegetable? Vote in Garden Madness 2012!

What is your favorite garden vegetable? This is an often asked question, so I thought we could conduct a contest in the spirit of March Madness. Here is your chance to help your favorite crop achieve the glory that every seedling dreams of: the honor of being named Garden Madness 2012 Champion! 

The poll to the right will take place for the rest of March, so vote early, vote often!

May the best crop win!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seedling Update: Individual plant pages are now up!

Big update today: all the info for the 2012 seedlings can be found on the corresponding variety page to the right. As of now, what you will find is a table listing the seeding date and days to germination. Some things, like the peppers, sage, and mint, are taking their sweet time, but everything else seeded in late Feb is up!

As the season progresses, I will use the tables to update the container sizes, planting medium, and harvest yield of each planting situation. I will also blog in the main page about my experiences with each variety as time goes on. 

And of course, there will be PLENTY of pictures! 

For now, here are a few pictures of the seedlings. Almost time to thin......

Happy Gardening! 

View from the table




Thyme and Oregano (with tomatoes in front!)


Friday, March 9, 2012


Welcome to Captive Roots: a blog chronicling my adventures in container gardening! For years I've tried my hand at growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, house plants, and even aquatic plants, so I figured I would share my experiences with others who are interested in this rewarding (and addicting!) hobby. 

I don't claim to be an expert. In fact, much of what I do is experimental in nature. My dream garden would be in the enormous side yard of an old farmhouse, where space wouldn't be an issue. However, living in an apartment poses a challenge in that regard.

Container gardening for me is a battle between my desire to grow just about everything that I see in the store, and the practical reality that the porch only has so much space. To that end, my goal is to grow as many different varieties as possible, in the smallest containers that will still allow a good harvest and a healthy plant. In the past, this involved buying whatever I wanted to grow, then searching around the apartment for whatever containers I had that seemed appropriate for the plants. Often this meant planting things in containers that were way too small. Still, I was amazed at some of the results I was able to get.

All that said, this year I really wanted to do things "right." Getting a few Abe Lincoln tomatoes from an extra plant stuck into a little 2-3 gallon pot was nice and all (see the title of the blog for a pic of them when they were green), but I wanted real harvests! As I was spending countless winter hours researching container sizes and different vegetable varieties, I soon realized that concrete information on container gardening was sometimes difficult to find. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to create it here.

The tabs to the right will chronicle each plant variety from seed to harvest. I am going to include as much detail as possible, from all the seeding specs, to the container size and growing medium, to the plant size and growth habit, and finally the harvest and yield. Each page will also contain the results of the experimental planting, which will be my attempt to push the limits of what you are "supposed" to do for that plant. As anyone who starts plants from seeds knows, you always have a few extra small plants, so why not see what surprises the balcony holds this summer?

Many updates are coming soon. In the meantime, check out the seedling setup page, which details the seeding table I put together for this year's garden.

Happy gardening!