Gardening Doesn’t Mean You Need a Large Plot of Land
I talked about why I’ve chosen to try container gardening this year in my blog: Container Gardens Part I – Basics. Check it out for ideas on starting your own container or patio garden.
I promised you updates this summer on my garden , so here are some lessons I’ve learned so far. And speaking as a gardener from way back – there has been a learning curve to doing this in containers vs. gardening in the ground. You can expect some failures, but we all learn from mistakes – right?
Watering has been the biggest issue
When I gardened in the ground I used layers of straw between rows to keep down weeds and I heavily mulched with grass clippings around all my plants (I had an acre of grass to mow – so lots of clippings). The result was I never needed to water the garden. Whatever it received from rains was all it needed. I could pull back the mulch on the hottest summer day and the ground was moist. But this was in the Midwest where we actually received rain in the summer.
So properly watering a container garden, in an area considered high desert, has been a big challenge for me. I made sure my containers had good drainage, including the proper soil mixture. But in hindsight I should have done more research on each individual plant and its preference for watering. Info on the little plants tags that came with the plants was just not enough!
Strawberries (especially in hanging baskets) want to be thoroughly moist at ALL times. If you disappoint them, they will wilt and look quite forlorn. They will perk up and go back to ‘normal’ once you water them, but doing that on a regular basis will give you very bad results. I’ve learned to check the soil everyday and water the basket until excess water drips from the bottom. This makes the plant very happy and has produced a steady supply of lots of sweet, juicy strawberries.
Petunias, on the other hand, do NOT like lots of water. I know these are not garden veggies, but I have my flowers interspersed among my food and herb plants for appearance and to attract pollinators. The one container that I purchased complete with flowers (I didn’t plant it myself) did not have good drainage (so I discovered the hard way) and I lost all the beautifully blooming petunias to crown rot within a few weeks. Interestingly the other flowers in the container didn’t mind the excess water and survived – so I still have some flowers blooming.
Oregano doesn’t like to get water on its leaves. Now, I’ve grown oregano many times in the past and had no problem. But again, I’ve not tried it here in an arid climate where I need to water frequently. Even though I watered early morning or late afternoon, seemingly some water droplets remained long enough on the leaves during sunshine to cause ‘burns’ to the leaves. So now I only add water to the saucer under the plant and let the soil wick up the moisure. The plant has so far survived and is growing new leaves, so we’ll see.
The Rolling Container Planters have been a great success so far. I really can’t say enough good things about these simple-to-use planters. They have been perfect for my seed plantings of radishes, carrots and green onions as I could easily keep them watered and protected from the birds with mesh netting (until they got bigger). And I can roll them around the patio so the seedlings receive the largest amount of sunshine possible during the day. I also planted a red pepper, green pepper and a jalapeno pepper plant in the rolling containers. So far they are thriving and all three plants have peppers growing and many, many blooms.
We have no idea why the red pepper plant went on a growth spurt and has reached almost two feet in height, but it has peppers, so I’m not complaining! The parsley that I also planted in one of the containers is going a bit crazy—should have planted it in a clay pot, like the other herbs!
The Clay Pots and Saucers have turned out to be the best deal for my many herb plants. The clay absorbs the water from the saucers just like the soil does, and helps keep everything moist – yet not soggy wet. I had originally thought that once the herbs grew bigger I’d repot them into pretty designer ceramic pots – but at this point I’m not sure I want to do that. Will keep you posted.
Spacing out my seed plantings looks to be going well. My first plantings of radishes, carrots and onions were done mid-May. The radishes were sprouting within 5 days! The carrots and onions took longer – around 10-14 days.
I planted my second batch of seeds the last week of May. Hopefully just as I use up the veggies from the first planting, the second crop will be ready. I hope to keep this up through the summer, but the heat may not allow later plantings to flourish – more learning to experience.
Here is Southern California I’ll be able to extend the growing season well into the fall and winter using crops that like cool weather. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this.
I would love to hear about your experiences with Container Gardening!