There's something so satisfying about shaping your environment to meet your needs even if it's less than ideal. Being renters we aren't able to make our landscaping dreams come true but that hasn't stopped me from making the most of what we have. Container gardening has been one of the answers to both our small space and awkward sprinkler system issues, not to mention it's allowed us to fill in a rather unsightly corner with colorful blooms, a variety of herbs, and vegetables that we've grown from seeds.
What started out as a teaching moment with the kids has grown into a little corner of soon-to-be edibles. I bought a seed starter kit a few months ago anticipating an early start to our late Colorado planting season but was a bit tardy in getting the seeds started. With the end of frost season in sight in mid-May, Ruby and I planted carrot, radish, zucchini, and squash seeds and set them in a sunny spot in the kitchen. Almost two days later we saw the radishes pop up and soon after the carrots. The squash and zucchini never materialized but we were thrilled that something had sprouted at all!
Three weeks later I was able to stick the sprouts outside to get used to their new environment and adapt to the evening weather. I'd read somewhere to wait until the second set of leaves had shown up before transplanting them into a container or bed but Sunday ended up knocking the tray over one afternoon and dumped some out. I quickly repotted them in their new containers and left the ones that were still intact in their sprout tray. Again I wasn't sure they'd be strong enough to survive the encounter with a dog and then a new home but three days later they were suddenly bigger.
Somehow I managed to go another two weeks before transplanting the rest of the sprouts and the difference between the early pots and the late pots is noticeable. I must've been near the safe zone with the first batch because they are all twice as big as the second batch. The carrots above have distinctly carrot looking leaves! They made it into a few of the taller aluminum buckets I found in the Target 1$ section earlier this spring. The radishes will probably need to be separated again at the rate they're filling their bucket.
Since I'm a little impatient and already had a late start to the planting season I brought home some mint and basil from one of the large hardware stores in town. I had mint last year in it's own container because I'd heard it likes to take over the neighborhood so it went in an old wooden crate I found in an alley near a pile of trash. The basil went in another container left over from the Forsythia bush I finally planted along our chain link fence.
Since I also wanted a little color near our back door I gathered pots and planters that I'd collected over the last few moves and staggered them from highest and largest to lowest and filled them with some of my favorite flowers. They are such a happy greeting at our back door.
A few reasons I really love container gardening this year:
* They're right outside our back door and three feet from our water hose so it's really convenient to water them each morning or evening. Since they're gathered in one spot I'm less likely to have one die from neglect.
* They help fill in an otherwise unused and sunny corner of our backyard. What once was a bed full of bark chips, random iris plants, and an unsightly water pipe has turned into a beautiful arrangement of pots filled with an equally cheerful amount of plant life.
* Our yard's sprinkler system is not reliable and with a water restriction in effect this year we're only allowed to use it twice a week. Water hoses are allowed each morning and evening within reason so I can still maintain healthy plants and flowers in my above ground containers.
* I've been able to acquire almost all of my containers at garage sales, thrift shops, in alley ways so I've invested very little money in them.
* Although our landlord wouldn't be against a raised garden bed (we have one of those, too) I'll be able to transport as many of these containers and possibly some plants to the next location when we move. If not, I'll have plenty of friends that will be able to enjoy them for me.
* I can easily move things around if something isn't getting the right amount of sun or is crowding out something next to it. If something should die I can always take it out and fill it back in with a pretty flower or rearrange the grouping to keep things looking nice.
* The arrangement of the pots allows the kids to easily walk around them when they help water and they can get as close as they'd like to see if they've gotten any taller over night!
Advice for starting your own container garden:
* Gather pots all season instead of needing to purchase them all at once. Also, be sure to pick up containers according to the crop you'll be planting. Squash and zucchini need a little elbow room while green onions may fit into something a bit more compact.
* Always be sure your containers drain at the bottom. If it's plastic, wood, or aluminum you can always drill through the bottom with a drill bit in a few spots or even hammer a lot of nail holes into the bottom. Add a layer of gravel before dumping your soil in to help things drain well, too. Be sure to check your plant's needs with the kind of soil you use.
* Be sure to buy potting soil that is meant for container gardening. I brought home three bags of something that I thought would work before noticing the label on the back.
* Smaller pots mean less dirt and faster drying out time. Water accordingly and consider using mulch around the base of flowers and straw over seedlings.
* Browse Pinterest to see what you're most drawn to as far as styling goes. Some might prefer to layer containers using different heights, widths, and textures for added charm while others may prefer all terra cotta pots or white plastic planters.
* Container gardening doesn't have to translate into only growing flowers and vegetables. I loved this idea for a privacy fence using large trees planted in a long feeding trough. You could also make your own containers for a more customized look.
Have you ever had great success with a container garden or have any tips and tricks to let us in on? Feel free to comment below. Looking forward to updating you on our container garden's growth in the weeks to come!