Garden First Vegetables Set

Just to document how fast a couple of square foot tubs can make something to eat, here’s the current status of the pots I planted and put in tubs in prior postings:

First off I’ve moved some to the back yard preparatory to having garden squares in service. Yesterday I planted a square with Runner beans and one of these pots where I’d made the soil layer too thin. I put a layer of “green manure” in the bottom but it was too fluffy and not enough potting soil on top. As it squashed and decayed, the soil dropped a couple of inches.

So it got potted on into real dirt. You can just see one of it’s leaves behind all the other 2 pots, just in front of the wire cages that the runner beans will climb. In the forground is one of the pots that has not been removed from the container but where it and it’s tub are now in the back yard. It’s a LOT bigger than before!

Tub at first vegetables set stage - End April

Tub at first vegetables set stage – End April

Note that at the middle of the left edge you can see some 20 cm or so leaves of horseradish. It has survived several years under way too shaded conditions and came back nicely after I pruned the trees shading (they had low branches basically taking all the sun). Horseradish leaves are edible, with a vaguely horseradish / mustard like flavor and a nice bit of spice to them. As a famine food they are nice and will survive drought and shade and neglect and still make the first greens of spring. Just behind it is the sorry looking remnant of what once had been a nice rosemary bush. It survived, but barely, and only by growing a couple of feet toward the fence in search of sun.

Back in the foreground: This is a mixed tub of 8-Ball squash and Contender Bush Beans. Note that green bean leaves are edible and were this an OMG situation, I’d plant a lot of beans just for picking off some of their greens. While watering this, I noticed some of the small flowers that had only appeared last week were dropping. I had little tiny beans forming! Here’s a close up in that pot:

First green beans set in April

First green beans set in April

Centered in the picture are the scraggly little baby beans. They will fill out to eating size very quickly. Behind them you can see the flowers for the crop after them ;-)

In another tub (one of real dirt, but poorly watered and not tended as well) a somewhat smaller squash has already set fruit. I found one on the other tub (pictured above) but it was smaller at about the size of a US Quarter. This one is about 2 to 2.5 cm (or about an inch) in diameter. It will be eating size in just a few days.

The 8-ball and the Ronde du Nice both make a spherical zucchini like squash best eaten at between 3 and 4 inches diameter. Jus the right size for one or two people. Here’s a close up of that little guy:

First 8-Ball squash in April in a small tub.

First 8-Ball squash in April in a small tub.

I will likely let this one run to seed. One of the things I do is to select for early and fast. The first one to make a fruit gets saved for seeds. I’ll also save the last. That plant that hung in their the longest and kept making food to the end. It does vary a bit by species and when planted though. Some just don’t grow all season (especially the small bush types like these). So usually I save the first of the bush types, and the last of the long season vine types.

The thing to remember about seed packet claims of things like “50 days to harvest” is that is from setting out plants already started in small pots. So these are both supposedly about 40 to 50 day types. But lets look at the actual dates (that also depend on your temperatures and water available).

Seeds started about March 5. Small seed pots “potted on” to the bigger pots March 29 (so about 24 days or a bit over 3 weeks). Now it’s April 28 and I’ve got fruit set. That’s about 8 weeks or 56 days. Call it about 60 by the time the first is ready to harvest. Some of the other plants have not even opened flowers yet, so expecting to plant one and eat in 50 days is just not reasonable. More like maybe 60 for one and 70 for enough (and 80 for WTF did I plant so many even the neighbors don’t want any more ;-)

So there’s a good guide point. You need enough emergency food to get through winter, plus about 2 to 3 months until the garden starts to come in. (And even that is only if you do things like start seeds indoors before last frost date).

So there you have it. What I found tending the garden today.

Now I think me, the mutts, and a “tall one” are headed out to the “sitting in the shade by the garden” chair having done my digging and planting out for the day ;-) (2 Giant Casacade pole beans and some of my Kale / Collards / Purple cabbage cross that I call Kalards – all in Real Dirt ™ now ;-) I don’t need another square ready for planting out until next week, but I’ll probably start to prep it in a few days. But for now, it’s lawn chair time ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to Garden First Vegetables Set

  1. billinoz says:

    My experience with horse radish is that it cannot be destroyed. So learn to enjoy the sauce.It’s good on lots of meats. But be careful when making it in the kitchen. Gloves and face mask for Health & safety !

  2. Ossqss says:

    @EM, you may want to start checking up on the growing season variations with Florida, since that is in your future. It is a little different here ;-)

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Did some of that during the 5 years I lived there (over 10 elapsed years…)

    Bought some Florida appropriate seeds while there. Lincoln Peas were one IIRC as they are heat tolerant. Biggest worry I have is lack of bug experience. California has a lot of types of bugs, but not a large quantity…

    I grew some stuff in pots. Even had a small lime and lemon trees. (Donated to a friend’s new house when I left ).

    There’s even a Florida squash I want to try… it grows in trees and is big animal resistant with a hard shell.

    That said, I know I’m facing an “everything you know is wrong” situation and there will be surprises. Like my use of tubs to conserve water and prevent drying… what is the inverse for 10 inches of rain in a day or two?….. We get about that in a whole year… in wet years….

    But the really good thing is that in terms of a preparedness plan, a boat and fishing gear is better in Florida anyway :-) I mean really, given a choice of kale and green beans vs bass and oysters, it isn’t a hard choice 8-)

    FWIW, I’m most likely to just explore indoor hydroponics anyway. I have had an itch for it for years, but no space. Having too much space there will make that easy. To some extent, my use of tubs and miracle grow is an ersatz hydroponics anyway…


    Why I like it. Attitude… FWIW, I eat sushi weekly and make a wasabe soysauce paste to dip it in… Wasabe is a Japanese horseradish relateive (slightly greenish and loves water but otherwise the same) Here in the USA the “wasabe” is often just our horseradish with green food coloring… (Even though Oregon has developed a wasabe grow industry. It is all exported to Japan).

    So I literally dip food in horseradish and stuff it in my mouth. If my eyes don’t water and I can still breath, it wasn’t enough 8-{¤}

  4. Another Ian says:


    Your message must be spreading!

    “VIDEO: 1 May: Sean Hannity: NOT A DRILL: Ocasio-Cortez Stunned by Her Own Garden, Says ‘Food That Comes from Dirt’ is ‘Magic’
    posted by Hannity Staff”

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    Oh Wow! Just think now Occasional C. can lead the movement to replace grocery store food with magic dirt food!

    (Does that get a smiley, a /sarc;, or an OMG…?)

  6. Larry Ledwick says:

    I think that qualifies for a face palm but yes – it is magic and – yes the rest of the world outside the cities have known of this magic for thousands of years.

  7. Another Ian says:


    The cities had a much better idea a generation or two ago as well.

    Something about information transfer and loss in there

  8. Bill in Oz says:

    Well Chief, I think someone at NOAA has been reading your posts. Look what has just been published on WUWT :

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    The cities and suburbs of the W.W.II generation knew about Victory Gardens… The asphalt jungle high rise & apartment block generation of post Flower Power generation knows about Starbucks and Burger King….

    FWIW my kids grew up knowing what a garden is, where food comes from, and how to do it (even if they don’t do it…) and my Daughter-in-Law grows her own tomatoes in suburban Chicago in a 3 story 3 “flats” building with shared yard. So it isn’t totally lost.

    @Bill in Oz:

    Ya Think? It’s only taken them about a decade to hear the screaming from a half dozen sites (where mine is a small one) about “siting issues” and airports. That they find it mostly effects the evenings matches my finding that it is “low going excursions” that get pruned.

    What they have in the temperature record is a great little “concrete and jet exhaust” detector. Nothing more.

    (BTW, not much to do with gardens and vegetables and the topic really belongs over in W.O.O.D. where it was also linked or on one of the GHCN threads… It will be hard to find this conversation / link later when trying to remember where it was…)

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    I was watching a news report from Venezuela (Sky extended report from a couple of Journalists who snuck into the country and were filiming in the streets without official permission…)

    One of the scenes that struck me most was of folks desperately seeking food, digging in trash and generally looking hungry and thin… filmed at the edge of a town (2nd largest city? Caracas? Something like that)… And in the background were green hills without the sign of a single garden on them.

    Miles of green. Not cropped. No grazers.

    Here was this large swath of clearly productive (to some extent even if just for goats to browse) land making a carpet of green all without tending; and nobody was using it for food production in a near famine condition.

    Was it kept off limits by government rules / force?
    Was it not grazed as everyone had stolen and eaten any grazers?
    Was it not used as economic incentive is gone under socialism?
    (and the Central Planners didn’t know / care about it…)
    Was there no garden (even an illicit one) due to raiders and social collapse?
    Do the “city people” no longer know what green land means or how to garden?

    Just no idea why, but there it was.

    Now were I in Venezuela in a semi-rural or edge-of-urban area like that, and suffering deprivation and The Big Hungry, I’d be out there every day clearing and planting a square. WHEN someone came up and asked for some food, I’d tell them “Clear and plant that square, and you can eat what is ready to harvest on this square.” I suspect in short order there would be a small army of folks gardening that hillside…

    The reversion to hand farmed agrarian subsistence is NOT ideal, and it is NOT easy, but it is better than starving. They clearly have land that can grow green stuff, which means it is self watering from rain (the biggest limit here in California – the water system must stay running) and they clearly have enough “crap” (both literal and “green manure” kind) to keep enough fertility in the soil. You really don’t need much more than that. It doesn’t need to “show a profit” it just needs to grow something, anything, edible.

    So I don’t get it. Are these people just so cowed into submission that they lack the initiative to “make it happen”? From their lack of “revolt” even when everything is shouting that the Maduro management in the problem, would seem to say so. Maybe those with initiative are the 15% that left the country already…

    Heck, there’s a whole bunch of Famine Foods that are edible and likely growing somewhere in those hills just outside of town. You would think someone would know the local plants. Here, every spring, we have whole hillsides covered in wild mustard. The greens are a little bit spicy, but very edible. As a kid, we used to collect a basket of them while fishing. Fish & Greens for free! Can’t beat that ;-) Yet every year they are just seen as “weeds” and mowed down or in a few cases cows graze them off. Of the 4 million people in the SF Bay Area, how many see those hills as “covered in food”? I suspect it’s down in the dozens…

    Oh Well… Not my problem, not my turf.

    It is a useful study in the mechanics of social collapse, though.

  11. Larry Ledwick says:

    Too good to pass up, double posting this

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    While it is very funny, it is also true that hospitals make a LOT of “use once” or often “use never it just expired” trash that would be quite useful in other contexts; and reusing it like that actually is a good idea.

    One of the more nutty things I heard about (not verified) was that E.R. trays had to have expiration dates on them after which they were disposed. This included sterile stainless steel scissors… so when they expired here, they were sent to 3rd World places that understood stainless steel doesn’t expire and sterilizing in an autoclave works fine…

    FWIW I’be been pondering hydroponics systems. Thinking about the minimal needed to give it a go. I’m settling on a large tub with floating Styrofoam raft holding the plants (in those perforated cups). So far a lot like all the other commercial pumped systems. BUT with a simple aquarium aeration stone in the bottom for aeration and “pumping”. There are small systems using this method (like one plastic tub or crate on a shelf sized) and it ought to scale to my “construction tub” size very directly. The tubs are already black, so sun-proofed.

    In that case it would be “When fish fanciers take up gardening” ;-0

    I would imagine a small aquarium air pump buzzing endlessly in the yard would be annoying, but consider how rarely a construction air compressor would need to run to “top up the tank”. Maybe once every couple of hours? So then, what with construction tubs and compressor, would that be “When construction workers take up gardening”?

    FWIW, one of the most fascinating things for me in the last decade or two has been the advancement of hydroponics / aquaponics into the realm of vertical gardening and major urban food supply. LED lighting changed it from “specialty foods only” mostly off season greens or restaurant supplies; to mainstream farming.

    So a “grow house” with LED panels, electronic computer control of pumps and nutrient mix, and all on left over / cast off “computer room racks”: Would that be “When programmers / computer sys-admins take up gardening”? ;-) Or maybe when E.E.s do it…

    Sidebar on Hydroponics:

    There’s a few main methods (ignoring aeroponics) and they mostly bread down into flow film of liquid, pumped immersion / draining, aerated immersion. ( There’s likely other proper jargon for them…)

    The “pumped immersion / draining” are very common and usually use “grow medium” but can be just in a sideways pipe. It has lots of pumps and timers and often big buckets of “grow medium” (sand, rocks, clay pebbles, vermiculite, etc.) with all sort of gadgets to assure the fluid is covering the roots, then drains away so they can get some air, then covered again… It is complicated and seems to appeal to plumbers, carpenters, and folks who like playing with pumps and water.

    The flow film technique is a bit fussy in that a very thin film of fluid is kept flowing past / over the rood bed. This uses a lot less fluid ( “hydroponic mix”) but is more critically dependent on always having the right amount of pumping and flowing in balance. Can’t let any place puddle up too much, nor dry out. It seems to appeal to folks who like optimization problems and don’t mind lots of fussing. It is keeping the film thin enough to self aerate while thick enough to nourish the plants that matters. Usually these do not have “grow medium” but sometimes there’s a bit.

    Aeroponics can be seen as taking that thin flow technique to the limit case of just spraying a bit of fluid on the roots at just the right times. This appeals to the most extreme of the “fiddle and optimize” folks.

    Then there is aerated immersion. This takes few forms and is often seen in simple starter kit. One of the methods has you fill a mason jar with nutrient fluid and let it just touch the root bottom of a cup holding a plant. The plant grows roots into the solution and a more or less balance forms where the fluid drops (increasing air exposure of much of the roots) while the roots grow to maintain contact with the nutrient bath. Ideal case is the harvest comes before more nutrient is needed, but sometimes topping up every couple of weeks is needed. (Depends on size of container / liquid volume vs plant size. At the 2 lettuces in the lid of a plastic crate, that tends to be needed far less). In the larger sizes, just putting an “air stone” in the tub of fluid keeps it aerated and you don’t have the balancing act so much (but at the cost of an added air pump). This tends to appeal to noobies and folks looking for minimal fuss / equipment.

    Now what amazed me was YouTube video of folks using the typical “bread rack” kind of roll around cart that I’d seen used in may small start-ups for their “data center” racks. LED panel hung on the bottom of one shelf lighting the plants in plastic cups (often recycle…) in the lid of a plastic tub (preferably opaque, but your basic plastic tub like for storing junk in your closet), then an air pump and aquarium air line to an air stone in the tub. That was basically IT. Some would get fancy and put the lights on an automatic timer. Others just flipped the switch daily. Some may have left the lights on all the time. VERY minimal and very simple; and it works.

    The limit case of that system is the giant industrial greenhouse systems where large Styrofoam rafts (like 4 x 4 feet or sometimes 4 x 8 feet) float in a long trough of nutrient. These are kept filled by pumps and aerated by various means. (Though I’ve not seen an air lift used as in the aquarium filters, IF the reservoir height were appropriate, an air stone could both aerate the nutrient mix and “lift” it back to the “input” end of the trough… So, in theory, one ‘return pipe” from the drain end to the head end, and an air lift, and that’s it.)

    The system in that “meme” was from the “grow medium and fill / drain” approach. It is avoiding pumps but looks to be using replacement of bottles / gravity. Unclear is if they are using hydroponic mix or just “water and dirt”. I don’t see any “collector / return line” on the pots, and with the clear bottles they would have an algae problem with hydroponics mix, so I think it is just pots of dirt and “drip irrigation”. Where water is scarce (like hand delivered, not pumped as may be the case where these folks are located) that can make a lot of sense.

    I have one 8-ball squash that is about 1/2 the size of the others. Why? It was the first to get so big it needed “potting on”. It ought to be the biggest. I had an old 2 foot pot of “just dirt” and didn’t have a garden square prepped yet. In it went.

    Well, that pot didn’t get tended as much as the others as it was “in the rough” near where squares needed turning. It dried out a bit more, had less regular water, and the dirt was likely a bit poor from sitting in a pot a couple of years. (Since I’ve planted out a square or two, it has been getting more regular water and even got some Miracle Grow. Now its growing much faster… and may even catch up, maybe).

    The point? Managing the soil fertility / adding all the needed nutrients; AND avoiding improper moisture excursions (usually drying out, but for teppary beans, being too wet) can really change your yield. The “fuss and bother” of hanging precision drippers can be well worth it….

    Now all that said: It IS darned funny ;-)

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    We have discussed some of the new modes of growing food in urban areas here are some interesting links.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    FWIW I’ve been picking beans and squash for about the last week, on and off.

    Yeah, there’s a whole lot of interesting increased production you can do with hydroponics / aeroponics / aquaponics. I’m going to do something with it “someday” ;-)

    I’ve watched a bunch of different videos on it. Everything from One Quart Jars up to skyscraper scale. They all work.. Costs and complexity vary.

    One thing I’ve come to really like about them is the near 100% success with “leafies”. Lettuce, saladings, etc. I get leaf miners and lettuce often is hard for me to get started and then doesn’t grow as well as expected. So I’m strongly coveting the near perfect lettuces / salads they grow with zero pest problems.

    Only reasons I don’t have one running already are that I’m oversubscribed on time already and I’m trying to reduce the amount of stuff to move to Florida, not get more ;-) But once in Florida, I’m planning to put a section of the garage or a spare room into the growing salads business. Paying a couple of $$$ a bag for bag-o-lettuce salad is getting old…

    Might make a fun posting to put a few of those videos together…

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve officially entered the realm of “too many squash” ;-)

    Just harvested 1/2 dozen small to largish 8-Ball squash and left one ‘a bit too large” on one of the plants in a tub. Partly to slow down the production and partily to make a new batch of seeds. It is one of the best growing plants. i’m also letting the one that ‘started first’ and was planted out into a challenged location (old dirt in a pot under an overhang of bush, no fertilizer) just run to seed as of now. That will be more than enough seeds for the next decade…

    I need to have these set and forming prior to my next squash type making flowers, so it stays a proper 8-Ball. Next up will be a vining type Acorn squash…

    Also picked a few too many green beans for one night, but not reaching the too many stage yet, as they get eaten over a couple of days.

    So, note to self: 3 or 4 well producing 8-Ball plants are enough fairly quickly. About the same number of (crowded) bush beans is almost enough. So figure on 1/2 dozen bean plants in the first early planting, and crowd them less. Maybe even a full dozen so some can be frozen or canned.

    FWIW, I did a test sprout on some misc. old vining beans and got way too many sprouting, so just planted an entire 4 x 4 foot block of them. IF these are the ones I think they are, they might make it into the tree next to their wire trellis… In any case, I ought to have “too many beans” in about a month…

    The Runner Beans are about 3 feet up their supports now too, so I’ll need to run a bit of string to the nearby bushes and trees… They can then use those for added height. These make a nice green bean if VERY young, but a bit rough / fibrous surface if too old. The dry bean is a very nice bean too, but as one of them, cooked, fills a teaspoon, it makes an odd kind of chili… Spoonfull of ONE bean, then spoon full of sauce & meat; repeat…

    The lettuce in the soil bag is an interesting experiment. I’ve got some about 3 inches tall now. I clearly need to improve my planting technique as sprouting was very unevenly distributed in the bag. I suspect starting in cubes is the answer. The rain raised the water level in the tub to about an inch below the top of the soil, so I had to drain it. Clearly this method needs a cover in wet weather, or drain holes. I’d not counted on rain in May in California…

    Other “leafy things” are doing well. The Kalards Kale/Collards/Cabbage cross especially. Some of the Asian leaf vegetables too. I did eat a few radishes, but the others have tended to bolt to seed. Very strange as these are supposed to be a biannual. Looking it up, some references sais “annual or biannual”. I’ve never grown these White Icicle radishes before, so maybe they are an annual form? Or when crowded / hot (black tub in sun) they bolt? In any case the radishes were OK to poor production. I’ve “moved on”…

    One point has become very clear to me: GREENS are the first thing available in spring. Even before radishes. Especially greens of an overwintered root. My Horse Radish as a minor forest of 2 to 3 foot long edible leaves on it and had a big batch before the radishes were even planted. For a “survival garden” having some kind of edible leaf root overwintering is a very good idea. Rutabaga for example. Makes big edible leaves along with the root. Or beets / mangle beets / sugar beets / etc. Turnip greens are OK but not as good as the others, IMHO. Then things like peas that sprout early and have edible shoots. Snow Peas (edible pod) especially.

    I need to decided what to start next. I think a hard squash or two (depending on IF the old Carnival type Acorn squash seeds grow…) and maybe some purple pod beans and some peas. Also some more leaf vegetables might be nice. Something for stir-fry… I’ve still got a couple of “squares” not yet turned / cleared, so more room to go ;-)

    I did have a batch of volunteer Amaranth pop up. That’s THE one thing about it that I like. It’s been a good decade ago I had one tub of Hopi Red (smallish) and a small patch of “from commercial sold at Whole Foods”. Ever since, I’ve had volunteers of various sorts around the garden. Even after the couple of years of no garden and overgrown with “whatever’. They have hybridized to an interesting mix of full red, red and green, and some full green, mostly larger sized plants. The “grain” (pseudo-brain) is a bit small to effectively harvest and save much by hand. The small leaves are an OK pot herb, but if large at all the veins become stringy and stems woody. BUT, it is very hardy and needs little tending, plus self seeds very well. Having a 1/2 pound bag of it from the grocery and just scattering it over the lawn in an Aw-Shit would likely produce something of benefit.

    Well, OK, now I have to go cook some squash and beans ;-)

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