2/10 Pest Control - second installment
2/11 Looking Like A Pro - third installment
First installment to go with the Community Gardens Recovery Garden Program:
Rule #1: If it can hold soil, it can hold a plant.
As long as you can make it drain water, you can use it as a container for plants. I’ve seen people put plants in old boots! That’s going a bit far, BUT here’s a partial list of items that are in just about every community that you can use:
Big Soda Bottles
Old Dresser Drawers
Old Desk Drawers
Old Fridge Drawers
Just make sure there’s enough room for drainage material, roots and at least an inch of space at the top of the container. The larger the plant, the deeper the root space must be.
Consider letting the kids paint them to make them look prettier. It gets them involved!
Rule #2: Give the plants some breathing room.
People used to put gravel and such in the bottoms of the containers for this purpose. But when you’re looking at larger containers, that idea gets heavy. Line the bottoms of your containers with about an inch of something. Here’s a list of items you can use to give some air space in the bottoms of the containers:
Broken terra cotta
Packing Peanuts (my favorite!)
Crumpled Plastic Grocery Bags
Strips of cardboard set vertically rather than on its face
Rule #3: Be prepared to water.
This can be tricky. Containers don’t have the luxury of the ground to wick moisture from surrounding soil. But watering too much will kill the plants faster than never watering. Check the soil with your finger. Go in to the soil about to the second knuckle. If your fingertip is damp, there’s enough water. If it’s dry, water until it’s dripping out of the bottom of the container.
Mulch the soil. This will add nutrients, keep the soil some cooler and help retain the moisture it already has. No more than an inch and keep it from touching the stems of the plants if you can.
Rule #4: Fertilize lightly.
Containers can’t tolerate many of the time-released versions of granular fertilizer you would use on the ground. The plants will burn up from the nitrogen. Liquid based fertilizers are best. An easy fertilizer – Epsom salts and milk. When you’ve emptied a milk container. Fill it with water, put a teaspoon of Epsom salts in and water your plants with that. Skim milk is best for this.
Rule #5: Protect your containers from the extremes.
Extreme heat will keep most plants from producing many flowers or fruits. South East exposure is best. This will give them the 6 hours of sun, but will keep them out of the heat of the sun and air in the afternoon. They’ll still droop in the afternoon, but we humans do too, so don’t worry. Consider painting your containers a light color to help reflect some of the heat away. Cluster your containers so they can shelter each other.
Rule #6: Anything will grow in a container, but…
Some plants are better suited to container gardens than others:
Herbs tend to do very well.
Carrots (if they don’t get too hot)
Cucumbers (if they have room to climb)
Pole Beans (again, room to climb)
Cooler vegetables don’t like containers so much unless planted very early. They just get too hot.