Despite a slow start this year, spring appears to have arrived in Madison. We’ve been enjoying more pleasant walks around our neighborhood, renewed interest in our patio (see Aaron’s post about our new drainage system), and abundant sunshine–except for when it tried to snow last week.
As Aaron alluded to in his post, we lost most of our plants during last summer’s heat, drought, and subsequent watering fiasco. But, this gives us the opportunity to make new plans this year. I will quickly admit that I am not the gardener in our house–I am likely responsible for much of last summer’s poor watering, and I have very little intuition about the entire process. That said, I love having all kinds of flowers, herbs, and vegetables on our balcony (we cannot have indoor plants because our cats devour them).
Once we decided how our pots would be set up this summer, we set out to pick plants. We first acquired these hyacinths from the farmer’s market. The colorful baskets are from Target, if you’re curious.
We then made a long stop at Menards to purchase seeds. After much deliberation (and consultation with the ASPCA’s toxic plant list), we settled on:
- vegetables: beets, green beans
- flowers: snapdragons, impatiens, alyssum, pansies
- herbs: parsley, mint (to be purchased from the market), basil (we will receive a basil plant in our first CSA share)
You’ll note that hyacinth is actually poisonous to cats; we’re planning to mitigate the risk by not allowing the cats out on the patio unsupervised.
Last year, we grew pansies and bell peppers from seeds. Unfortunately, before they were ready to be planted outside, Luna devoured them. The bell peppers survived, although you could see that the leaves had been attacked for many weeks. The pansies did not survive the attack.
So, this year, we decided to try something a bit different. We still wanted to grow things from seed, but we knew that doing so inside was a lost cause. Instead, we decided to make a mini greenhouse, using an old cage from our late guinea pig and some painter’s plastic tarp.
The seed packets are just in the picture for decoration; they are now safely stored in our “garden” box. And yes, those are knives we’re using to label the various sections of seeds.
The plastic cover actually turned out pretty well. We placed a small thermometer inside, so we can monitor temperature in our “greenhouse.” The first day, it was quite sunny, and we saw a high of 122. Yikes! During the cold spell we had last week, we saw temperatures in the low 40s. If it gets cold again here in Madison, we may bring the greenhouse inside temporarily. The cage will protect our seedlings from feline predators.
When I checked this weekend, we were starting to get growth in a few sections–the alyssum is coming up, and we have the beginnings of green beans.
The finished potted plant arrangement looks like this:
We’ve been enjoying keeping the patio door open while we’re home in the evenings, and we’re starting to lounge out there also. Now that all the pots are in place, we have a lot more room to move around out there, and I expect we’ll start eating dinners out there soon.
Of course, the cats don’t want to be left out of this enjoyment!
Hairy frequently dashes out onto the patio when we open the door. Last night, we pulled out his leash so we could let him lounge on the patio (still strictly supervised). Hairy, however, is in the middle of a rigorous weight-loss plan. He’s down 3lbs from when we got him a year ago, and 3.5lbs from the highest we’ve seen him. For those keeping track, that’s over 20% of his total weight lost. We would be very proud of his hard work and progress, but this has been sheer calorie-counting (you too can count your cat’s calories–it’s fun!), and Hairy isn’t too happy with it. But, we look forward to many future years with Hairy, and hopefully this weight loss will contribute to a happier, healthier life. In any case, his harness no longer fits. At the tightest setting, it can easily be removed without unfastening. We adjusted Luna’s harness (which is a size smaller) to fit Hairy so that he could come out on the patio. If you look closely, you can see “Luna” written on the back of the rabies tag on the harness. Next weekend, we’ll get a smaller harness for Hairy, and return to multiple cats on the patio.