It’s nearly the end of February, which means we’re starting to think about gardens around here. I’m sure we still have quite a bit of cold and snow ahead of us, but it’s been warm and sunny lately, which has me thinking of spring. With a new baby due to arrive in early April, we’re probably going to simplify the garden a bit this year. We’re going to focus on the crops that were the easiest and highest-yielding last year, and skip the ones that seemed to be pest magnets or required a lot of upkeep. We’re going to plant more onions and potatoes than we did last year, since we ran out of them a couple months ago, and since they’re so easy to grow (stick them in the ground and wait until harvest time!) We’ll probably do about the same amount of carrots, tomatoes, and peppers, and not as many beets (we still have beets coming out our ears – luckily they’ve stored well over the winter). In the next week or so we’ll turn over the soil in the beds under our cold frames and get spinach and swiss chard started outside. We’ll be getting our pepper and tomato seedlings going soon too, in the basement. It’s all very exciting after months of looking at a brown backyard.
For those of you who would like to grow more of your own food but don’t think you can because you don’t have enough space, here’s a guest post from Suzanne Staton about container gardening. We have a few dwarf citrus trees growing in containers so that we can move them indoors in the winter – container gardening can be useful even if you have a huge yard!
Gardening is a great way to both supplement the food you buy commercially, which is nice for your budget, and to make sure that you’re eating healthy food grown without pesticides or other chemicals—or at least only the chemicals you decide to put on the plants yourself!
It’s even good for the environment, because instead of big trucks having to transport food to you, burning fuel and polluting the air, you just walk outside and pick it yourself. And plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, which is good for the atmosphere. A win on every front!
But what if you don’t have a yard? Container gardening to the rescue!
What is it?
Container garden is a great alternative for apartment dwellers or other people who don’t have yards. It’s also useful if you have certain plants that won’t survive winter temperatures and need to be moved indoors during extreme weather.
With container gardening, instead of planting plants in the ground, you plant them in a vessel of some kind. Containers can be placed outside, such as on a patio or balcony, or inside where the plant can get light, such as by a window.
What can you grow?
Anything you can grow in the ground, you can grow in a container. The main issue is size. The size of the pot will limit the how deep roots can go, so stick to plants that don’t need a deep root system.
Good choices for container gardens are herbs, vegetables and edible flowers. Fruit also works well if the host plant is small, such as strawberries or raspberries. Tree-based plants can be more cumbersome, since they require larger pots, but dwarf varieties exist for some fruits that work well for smaller spaces.
What to use
Any vessel that can tolerate dirt and water without deteriorating and that has drainage will work for container gardening.
Traditional plant pots, hanging baskets and planter boxes are all common holders for plants, but your choice of receptacle is limited only by your imagination. You can use old boots, tea kettles, buckets, and even wheelbarrows and worn-out birdbaths if you have room.
Some materials, such as wood, are more susceptible to rotting than others. For these vessels, it’s a good idea to seal the material and line the container with plastic. And always make sure that any container you use is free of toxic residue.
If the holder you want to use doesn’t have drainage holes, just drill or poke some in the bottom. Then get to gardening!
This guest post was written by Suzanne Staton, author of Laughing Wallet, your online home for frugal living tips. Enjoy life for less, and get your wallet laughing!