Help a clueless man grow pretty poppies
March 1, 2011 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Poppies? As part of the facebook Pay It Forward meme, I received five tiny packets of poppy seeds that a friend cultivated. I have a balcony. I live in Portland. I have questions!

I know absolutely nothing about growing anything. I have some plants that do well in my loft, but I literally have their watering scheduled in my calendar. So, please don't assume I know even the basics :)

I live in Portland OR and have a balcony that faces west. The balcony is a concrete slab with glass sides. It'll get a TON of sun, all summer long.

What would I need to grow the poppies? Soil, a planter-box of some kind? Anything else? Should I consider growing something else (something EASY) in there too? How often would I water it? Is it going to be messy? I know that seems like a dumb question, but...

Also... I have five packets of these seeds and I assume that's far more than I'll need. Where should I spread the rest? Can you think of a spot in the city where they'd have a chance to grow? Obviously not a park, as those are tended and maintained. But maybe some other grassy spot one might not have thought of?
posted by 2oh1 to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Poppies are weeds, they'll grow anywhere with sun in any old crappy soil with very little water. Just don't scatter them in an area with established grass (which will outcompete them) and they'll be fine.
posted by fshgrl at 1:43 PM on March 1, 2011

You'll have some difficulty growing them in pots but it can be done. They need lots of elbow room so just get the soil ready and then throw out a pinch or so of seeds across the pot. That's it. Don't bury them or anything. In a week or two you'll see light green leaves pop up in pairs or in fours. To be honest they look like weeds at this point. The roots are VERY shallow and touching the soil much will ruin what you got, but like I said they need elbow room so I'd suggest thinning them down to one or two plants per pot, or if you have a large pot, one plant per square foot (or one per two square feet). Since the roots are so shallow, I'd let them grow for two weeks or so then thin with nail clippers or scissors or something that will not disturb the soil. Pick the biggest guy closest to the middle of the pot to keep, then clip the rest. Then, just water them occasionally, maybe once a week. Never flood the pot or give too much water as this may disturb the soil and ruin what you got. They grow in the desert you know so they really don't need much water. I'd stop watering them all together once you see your first flower. They'll do fine. The flowers will last 24 to 48 hours before loosing all their petals. Another flower will become erect a day or so later. If you get a good big one with lots of elbow room, you might get 30 flowers over 30 days or something. Maybe more. I've had them knee high with just two or three flowers over the summer and one bush taller than me with probably sixty or more flowers. Just leave the flower heads there, they'll dry and before the weather turns bad, sometime in late September or early October, carefully clip the stems near the base of the plant. Turn the heads over a bowl or bag or something and shake out the seeds. They'll be black/brown/tan things and you can plant them next year. The seeds are not ready before this point when the head has dried out and little holes open up along the ring over the head. If you're lucky you'll get golfball sized heads, more likely is acorn sized for pots though... The black or brown dots on the green heads that appears a day or two after the petals fall off is the oxidized opium just under the skin. Spiders and ants will love it and hang out on your heads sucking it dry.
posted by pwb503 at 3:09 PM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not against the idea of buying a huge pot thats maybe a foot wide by a few feet long... and growing something else in there too...? Tomatoes maybe? Something easy and edible?
posted by 2oh1 at 3:28 PM on March 1, 2011

Try lettuce, particularly arugula. Tastes super yummy when you pick it and then eat it right away, it grows quickly. Hence the alternative name, "rocket". It's really very easy to grow. Other lettuces that are easy to grow are mesclun mixes and boston lettuce. Really, these are dead simple to grow - once you have decent sized leaves, cut the leaves of a few every day for your salads and maybe throw in new seeds every so often.

Tomatoes can be easy, or you could have trouble with them - they need a TON of fertilizer, so you will have to remember that when you water them.

Other edible plants that are super easy to grow in containers are peppermint (careful about putting that into the ground instead of a pot, it will literally take over!), basil, nasturtiums (eat the flowers in salad) and peas -if you give them a trellis.
posted by lyra4 at 6:55 PM on March 1, 2011

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