Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Start of an Apartment Container Garden (this could end badly)

Do you ever just get carried away with an idea? Usually, I thoroughly research before starting a project or making a purchases that could fail miserably. For some reason this time I just threw caution to the wind and came home with a sizable collection of baby plants and delusions of grandeur about a patio container garden.

For a beginner, it was bit ambitious but go big or go home I suppose. The collection includes strawberries, banana peppers, green bell peppers, and spinach, plus an "herb shelf" with mint, lavender, and parsley. Y'all. I went all in. But all in, in all the wrong ways. Just in case anyone out there is an naive about keeping plants alive as I am, I'm going to fill you in on all the mistakes and lessons so far so hopefully you won't have to make as many on your own.

For starters,there is a huge difference between garden soil and potting soil, which is probably insanely obvious to everyone but me. I didn't make this realization until reading the bag AFTER transplanting the first few plant babies. This was corrected the very next day with a healthy blend of potting soil and Compost Plus. Needless to say, I also had to grab some gloves since the Compost Plus is fresh off the dairy pasture...

Next, I had bought long, deep canisters called veranda boxes which don't come with the drain holes already popped out. You're supposed to do that yourself. I didn't notice until after filling the containers so fixing that took some fancy finagling. The herbs are in a smaller, shallower window box. Aside from the original drainage issue the boxes are great. They're heavy enough that wind doesn't bother them but light enough that I was able to move them inside when there was a freeze warning the other night.

The last lesson was on overcrowding. I had this image of lush, abundant garden boxes overflowing with edible greenery... I had put 4 pepper plants all right next to each other with about an inch inbetween before reading that they need some distance to allow roots to spread without competing for nutrients. Plants, like people, like their personal space. Who knew?

So in a nut shell: potting soil, draining, and space are the magic words. At least I knew enough to check how much sun they would need! After repairing the many, many mistakes, it was time to add the first personal touch with wood-burned plant markers. Oh, and did I mention they were free? Because starting a container garden is surprisingly expensive if you don't already have a ton of stuff on hand.

You will Need:

Wooden paint stirrers
minimal fear of burning yourself

The nice man at the paint counter of Home Depot didn't even make a face when I asked for 8 paint stirrers without buying any paint. The hardest part of this project is following the curves in letters. Straight lines are nice and simple but even the slightest of curves gets a little complicated. Write out the labels while waiting for the woodburner to heat up, then very carefully go over the pencil with the burner. Watch your hands--that this is NOT playing around. I also recommend having a few extras you can practice on before going for the real thing, but I'm obviously a very novice woodburner so maybe that won't be an issue for you.

They're plain, but sturdy and rustic. If you really wanted to get fancy you could paint them or weatherize them.

You might be proud to know that not only are all of the original plant babies still alive, I actually have some seedlings sprouting for zucchini, eggplants, mini tomatoes, and sunflowers. The professionals didn't even have to start these. Naturally, a gardening Pinterest board was created.

Do you have any gardening experience? Container or otherwise. Any tips or rookie mistakes to avoid? I'd love to know!


P.S. Happy belated Earth Day :)

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