Friday, February 25, 2011

Work to be done

There are 33 pots on the tiny terrace and its edge. Not counting the empty ones that will be filled with basil and parsley come warmer weather.

There is a big job to do: repotting. Not everything, but a lot. The agastache, the Japanese forest grass, the hosta, which did not bloom last year at all - either because it is scrunched in the pot or because the heat from the nearby braai made it think abortive thoughts; the fig, again, whose roots are close-packed but which grew a lot last year. I never repot roses but perhaps, after years, I should think about it. They have been pruned.

I'm thinking about the thyme and calamintha. In their natural state they will grow in cracks, so isn't being squashed in a pot similar to squeezing your roots into a thin crevice? I may also get rid of two chive plants and an extra thyme. I had enough chives to eat last year, without touching one potful (which I grew partly for the flowers). This may seem like minutiae but on a small terrace every inch counts and I have two problems: I always want to try something new, so need available pots, and if I keep growing the same things I have to write about the same things, year in, year out. Boring for everybody.

The new things last year were strawberries and blueberries, and were very successful. The strawberries made at least a dozen new plants, and eventually I became exasperated with their constant need to reproduce (a bit like living in Cobble Hill itself where the double-wide stroller is a constant feature on the sidewalks below the terrace) that eventually I moved many plants to the roof. I am curious about what they will do, fruit-wise, once fertilized...And of course the pots they are currently occupying are destined for vegetables.

Today was going to be root pruning and repotting day, but with a constant drizzle it must be postponed.


  1. Tell me about how to grow your beautiful strawberries please! I planted a few plants in a sunny bed last year (in SE Ontario) and all they did was clone and clone and clone... I also gave them a good trim but left a lot of the plants in. Is it true they flower on their 2nd year? I was planning to plop compost on them this year and pray for berries. Any other ideas??

  2. Hi winter blue

    Strawberries can bloom in their first year if the plant is a 'daughter' of the mother plant. Many experts advise pinching the flowers off until mid-season, to encourage better root development. I did not do that.

    When you say a good trim - what did you trim, and when? After the season?

    Sun - do you have 6 hours minimum?

    Yes to the compost. Just don't bury the crowns under compost or they will rot. I fertilized every month until September.

    My variety is "Fern" which is everbearing, and contrary to what I read, made dozens of runners.

    Your plant hardiness zone may be 4a to 6 depending on where you are.

    Here's useful link:

  3. Sounds like a busy season for you. Kudos for schlepping all those bags of soil to your terrace and roof!!
    I have been looking for "Fern" strawberries here in Germany since I read your posts last year. No luck so far.

  4. I can't wait for nice weather! I love how strawberries sends out runners like crazy!

  5. It's hard to tell why certain plants don't flower, but since you grow them in pots - and I'm guessing it can get a bit hot, maybe water logging or the fact that the roots get a bit warm might be part of the problem? I'd suggest using soil with water retaining crystals, a good dose of peat and making sure to fertilize with enough phosphorus. Good luck!

  6. Thanks Marie. I bought them at a garage sale so I'm guessing someone just planted daughters of their own clone. They took off and produced tons of shoots and babies, but no flowers. I think we are in zone 5b. By trimming I mean I plucked out daughters and runners - they were going everywhere, from about mid August and I think one final snip in the fall. I am not sure if mine are everbearing - they might not be. It's a perfect spot - south facing, no light obstructions... at least 6 hours of direct light a day.

  7. Hmm... just read the fact sheet - maybe my plants were of the 'weak daughter' variety. I bet they are June bearers given our climate. Maybe I'll see what they do this year and remove them if I have another non-fruiting year. Love the blog! Your South Africa shots help immensely with the 'winter blues'!

  8. monica - one bag at a time :-) May explain my lower back problems! There are some other everbearing varieties, too...

    meems - I loved it in the beginning and then it became stressful as I felt I should keep each and every one!

    HA - thank you, but a misunderstanding, I have loooots of flowers. Winter Blue's strawberries weren't producing.

    winter blue - ah, that may be it. Well, perhaps this year they will take off after becoming established last year. Maybe cut their runners this year before they even have time to root, concentrating energy in the plant?

  9. HA, sorry, I see you were referring to the hosta! My mistake. A bit of a mystery, as it has bloomed well before, and is on the shady side of the terrace, well drained, watered every day. I really think it needs to be divided and repotted.

  10. I'm now suffering from a mad case of rooftop pot envy!

  11. You should try raspberries. THAT would be a good challenge for a rooftop garden.

  12. No problem Marie, actually it was an in general comment for the fig, hosta or whatever plants that were not producing fruits; phosphorous should held in building buds and making them flower, potassium for the fruit development then if I remember corretly..


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