Monday, August 5, 2013
Adventures in Container Gardening
When we moved into our new place back in mid-June, we made the container garden our first order of business. Neither of us had done container gardening before (unless you count the sad tomato plant we tried to keep alive on our old balcony in Cambridge...). I did some research to see what varieties are good for containers and to learn some tips for planting and arranging the plants in said containers (I found this series of articles and this article very helpful).
We spent a fair amount of time in the Walmart Garden Center, where I quickly realized we would have been just fine without all my hard research - Walmart makes it easy for the newbies and clearly labels all the plants that will grow well in containers. For the most part, we picked out plants that had already started growing, since we were already well into the growing season.
The first week was hilarious. We'd come home every day and freak out over a drooping stem or shriveled up leaf. Did the sun burn the poor thing? Did it get too much water? Not enough??!! I mean, crazy town. But after that first week the plants just started growing like crazy and it's been so fun to watch them each day.
The herb container is probably my favorite. One thing I've noticed with the herbs is how much more fragrant and fresh they are than the herbs we'd pick up at the grocer. We've been going outside to clip basil, parsley, and cilantro for our summer salads, and the mint has been getting a lot of use in infused waters and fruit salads. We've found that the fresh herbs are especially handy for muddling into fresh summer cocktails! But my favorite part of the herbs is that they grow so fast that we've been able to make homemade pesto, chimichurri sauce, and still have plenty left over to gift to family and friends.
The cucumber and tomato container has been the most impressive to watch. The plants seemed to have growth spurts every day during the first few weeks. The cucumbers have been flowering for a while and we can see the starting of at least one cucumber. The tomatoes are producing fruit - yay! Mostly new, green tomatoes, although we've had one ripen on the vine and when we went to pick it, it had gone mushy. We're trying to figure out what went wrong so we don't end up losing all the tomatoes.
The lettuce has been growing for a couple weeks now, and we pick some each night for use in our dinner salads. It's been amazing to see how quickly the lettuces will grow back after we pick some of it. Oh! And out peppers came in this past week. A lottt of them came in at one time so I think we're gonna pickle those guys.
We've also been able to enjoy a couple of the radishes, which was the most satisfying yard-to-table experience for me yet. Pulling the root out of the soil, then cleaning all the dirt off the radish before serving it for dinner that night - it was a moment where I felt pride for this vegetable that we grew from a seed, and I found myself feeling especially thankful for how hard farmers across the world work so that we can all have fresh produce.
I'm beyond happy that we delved into the world of container gardening - it's been a completely fulfilling experience and I can't say enough good things about being able to step out our door to get ingredients for our daily meals. The time commitment, surprisingly, had been minimal. We spent about an hour at Walmart getting all the supplies, then another hour at home to plant everything. Since then, we only spend a couple minutes each day, watering the plants and picking the produce that's ready for use. As for cost, we spent probably around $125 - this included the four containers (we got good quality ones that we can use for years to come), starter plants, seeds, soil, a hose, and fertilizer (which we haven't used). Going forward, the cost at the start of the season will be minimal, as we will only need to buy seeds and soil.
Also, how to store herbs and how to clip them.