container vegetable garden dos and don’ts – by super newbie green thumber…

10 Mar

My mom is a great gardener, her backyard garden was a glorious thing with an arch trellis with climbing roses, a pond complete with waterfall, lilies, koi and turtles, a bed for vegetables, lovely fruit trees and even a compost bin in the back.  I used to help her periodically in the garden and thinking it was cool that we converted our upstairs laundry room into a plant room for her instead.

I haven’t lived at my parents’ house for years now and I’ve only managed to revive my umbrella and spider plants from the dead a million times over.  For some reason I had the ambition to actually start a veggie garden this year.  I tried to sign up for a community garden plot but it seems to be super popular (ugh so many hippies in Vancouver) so I don’t think I got one.  Fine!  I’ll make my own, take that!

move over pesky flowers, I can't eat you and I need to make room for veggies!

The front of our apartment is a major busy street and the back is…well…a dilapidated fire escape with junk everywhere.  Oh well… urban fire escape container vegetable garden here we come!

DO – use seed starter potting mix to help your seeds germinate, it’s airier and will help the roots develop easier.  Make sure it’s always dampish but not sopping wet.

DON’T – be caught up with all the commercial products to help your seedlings along.  Yes it’s easier if you get seed trays but seriously unnecessary if you want to save some money.  Find some plastic containers and if it needs some extra warmth just lightly cover it with plastic wrap under sunlight.

DO – think out of the box for containers.  Although I purchased some inexpensive planters (max $10 for a big one), I ended up scrounging through thrift stores and my kitchen cupboards for suitable containers for seedlings and outdoors.  I’ve used everything from saved plastic pots that come with the original plant, bakeware, plastic strawberry containers, milk crates, laundry baskets and even an empty plastic kitty litter bucket.

some radishes that made it to their final destinations...awaiting some baby butterhead lettuce seedlings to join them in their new home

DON’T – plant all the seeds in the packet 😐  Wow, that was my bad.  I had no idea what I was thinking.  Most instructions on the back of the packet are for ground planting and not for containers.  Some vegetables can be sown multiple times in a season for extended harvests (meaning you plant seeds every month so that you have a steady supply of the same veg).  Most packages have enough seeds to do just that…oops…I didn’t realize this until I planted a WHOLE package of radishes.  After thinning them out and doing the math, I realized that I had way too many!  We will be eating  a lot of radishes in a month or so but at least this veg keeps well in the fridge and are only bite size!

lovely little cherry tomato plants with three different colours...erm...each one of these guys is suppose to be in it's own 18"x18" pot...oops.

DO – try varieties that are easy to grow.  Don’t be hesitant about choosing a lot of different kinds of vegetables but choose ones that are hard to kill so that you’ll have some success and motivation to continue to grow!

easter egg radishes germinate in one day! this variety will grow lovely white, purple and red ones, these little dudes are about 1 1/2 weeks old

DON’T – ignore the spacing suggestions on the back of the package.  Some of the seeds were ridiculously small and I just kind of spread them wherever.  Once they start growing  you have to thin out the little plants so they have more room to grow…it’s a hell of a lot harder to do when they’re all jammed so close together!  Use tweezers and gently place the seeds at the recommended space allowance so your baby plants are easy to remove and re-pot somewhere else.

DO – plan your containers ahead of time.  Before you start your seedlings, figure out how much space your containers will give you.  Some plants will live happily together in the same pot.  I found out that root vegetables with leafy lettuce like ones grow well in the same container.

DON’T – mash up the seedlings when you’re transplanting them to their final container.  I use a chopstick to gently loosen up the soil around the seedling until it pops out without any root damage.  Fun fact…radish seedlings taste just like radishes!  I ate a few of the ones I damaged 😦

I think these puny little seedlings are oregano...clearly planted too close together but I suppose I'll have to wait until they're much bigger until I attempt to pry them apart!

DO – invest in a composter, there are inexpensive worm composters that can live indoors for a fraction of the price of expensive automated ones.  Check your city to see if there’s a composting program in your area.  Using your own compost is organic and helps reduce kitchen waste.  It’s really not that much work either because the worms do it for you!

DON’T – neglect your veggies.  Container veggie gardens need more care than ground ones.  They don’t retain as much moisture and need to be fertilized to restore the soil’s nutrients.  Always use potting soil as regular ground soil is too compact and will not allow roots to grow properly.

DO – find all the sunny spots in your windows indoors for your seedlings.  Use a plant bulb for spots that don’t get sun.  I even use the stove light sometimes to extend the amount of sun the seedlings get on rainy days…seems to work!

my window sills are crowded with odds and ends of plant containers

This is just the beginning to many months of hopeful success…one day I hope to post a pic of me shoveling these home grown veggies into my mouth.

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2 Responses to “container vegetable garden dos and don’ts – by super newbie green thumber…”

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  1. Is There a Good Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome? | Fit In My 50's - March 14, 2010

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