Monthly Archives: April 2016

The secret if you would like to plan a container garden

There is something ridiculously fabulous and satisfying when you make something delicious from food you have grown. Over the years I have grown more and more edibles in my containers because I get such a kick and pleasure from cooking with my own produce.

This page will tell you where on the site to find the recipes and also the links on how to grow what is in the recipes. I’ve also thrown in a few recipes for things I don’t grow, like cranberries (which some people do grow in pots), that are just so delicious I wanted to share them.

1.  Garlic Scape and Basil Pesto

I love recipes that involve no cooking and this is one of my favorites. I blend up a few huge batches when scapes are in season and then freeze them in small jars. Sometimes I make scape pesto and sometimes I make a combination of scape and basil pesto. One of the beauties of scape pesto is that it doesn’t turn brown and stays a bright green, where basil pesto can quickly turn an unappealing brown. Another approach I sometimes use is to make and freeze small jars of garlic scape pesto and then do the same with basil pesto. I defrost one of each and mix them together at that poing.

2.  Three Versions of Tomatillo Salsa

Tomatillos are incredibly easy to grow. They do sprawl so you need a fair amount of space and a big pot, but the plants are amazingly prolific, pretty drought and negligence resistant and not anywhere as prone to disease as tomatoes. I also love the way they grow from flowers into Chinese lantern-looking pods which then becomes filled with fruit. While I have tried growing purple tomatillos, and they look pretty when raw, I don’t like the color when cooked.

3.  Simple Curried Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Pumpkins are a lot of fun to grow. You will need some space, even for small varieties. Use a big pot, be sure to give them lots of sun and water. While I don’t get many pumpkins from my potted vines, I really enjoy the ones I do get. This pumpkin soup is super easy and a crowd pleaser. I also love the seeds.

Tips for growing roses

If you want to grow roses in your garden but don’t have space left, try growing them in containers. They can also add beautiful accents that brighten up your landscape and perfume the air.

Pick the Right Roses

Not all roses will work well in containers. For example, unless you put it against a trellis or otherwise provide support, one of the climbing roses would be a poor choice to pot up as it will sprawl everywhere. Grandifloras live up to their name and tend to be on the taller side in addition to large blooms. Shrub roses, species roses and older cultivars of roses also reach dimensions that make it difficult to grow in a contained space. Leave the hybrid teas to your landscape as they do not usually grow well in pots.

Four types of roses that are especially suitable for containers are:

  • Groundcover These stay low and look lovely spilling over the edges of your container. Depending on the size of your pot and the groundcover variety, you could also possibly use it as a border around a larger plant.

    • Miniature Since these types of roses have been cultivated to stay on the small side, they are naturally well suited to growing in containers.
    • Patio If you want a rose that is not miniature, but not as big as a standard rose, try a patio rose. They are the type called floribunda, on a smaller scale.
    • Polyantha These bear clusters of small roses on a shorter plant. Check the tag to make sure you are not purchasing a climbing type of polyantha rose.

    Water Thoughtfully

    There is a delicate balance to be maintained when you are planting roses (or any other plant) in containers. You want a potting medium that drains well enough that root rot is less likely, but is heavy enough to hold some water. The container needs to have enough drainage holes so that the excess water can flow out. However, this also means that water runs through it relatively quickly and the plant can dry out faster.

    Keep an eye roses so you know when you need to water. A good general rule of thumb is to water when the top of the soil surface is dry–you want to keep them moist, not wet–the soil should have as much moisture as a rung out sponge. You will also have more success if you water outside of the period of 10 AM – 6 PM, as this is when it is usually hottest in the day and evaporation is accelerated. As much as possible, try to keep the water off the leaves of roses as wet leaves can lead to powdery mildew and other fungi and disease.

    Drip irrigation can also be a successful way to keep your container rose happy. These systems are designed to deliver the water directly to the root zone instead of spraying over a general location.

    Fertilize Regularly

    When you place a rose within a finite amount of soil, it tends to use up all of the nutrients available. Apply fertilizer every other week to make sure that they have access to all of the food that they need for proper growth. Be sure to follow the directions as over-fertilizing can be as bad or worse than not feeding at all.   Apply to the soil and not the leaves (unless the directions instruct you to do so) because foliage can be burned by the salts in fertilizers.

    Repot and Change the Soil Every Few Years

    If you start with a miniature rose or one that is at maturity, you may not need to repot for many years unless the roots start coming out the bottom or the pot breaks. With most other roses, though, you will need to change containers every few years as the plant grows.

    While you are repotting, go an extra step and change out the soil if it has been there for more than two years. The plant has depleted some of the nutrients, and the soil has probably compacted, so a fresh batch will keep the nutrient level at an acceptable level. Over time, salts and minerals can also accumulate in the soil from fertilizers, so this may potentially damage the rose.

Grown in a Raised Bed

Think of raised beds as super large container gardens. Raised beds are often used by gardeners when their soil is less than perfect–and let’s face it, most soil is far from perfect. If there is too much sand, for example, water will go through too fast and leave the plants thirsty. Many soils are rocky, making it difficult for plants to send down roots. Building your own garden box on top of the ground allows you to get better results than you would otherwise. You can have the soil you want, not the soil you are stuck with.

Because they lift plants up, raised beds also help people access the plants more easily for weeding, watering and harvest and put less stress on joints and are kinder to backs.

What Can Be Grown in a Raised Bed?

The good news is that there are many plants–and almost all vegetables– will work well in a raised bed. They are commonly used for growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. If you are growing root vegetables, you may want to dig down deeper to make sure there is enough loose soil for roots to properly form.

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Efficient methods like square foot gardening can be used to maximize production and are easy to lay out in a grid system within the box.

Types of Construction Materials

There are a variety of options available if you want to create a raised bed. Wood planks are a common choice. Make sure that chemicals have not been used to treat them, as these can leach into the soil and into your vegetables, fruits and herbs.  For this reason, if you are going to re-use found wood or pallets, source them carefully as in many cases, they have toxins and/or pesticides present in the wood. Choose fastening materials like bolts or screws that are made of a substance that will not rust, like stainless steel.

Cinder blocks are another possible option for your raised bed. They will last almost indefinitely and weather better than wood. If you lay the concrete blocks so that the holes are facing up, the sides will create a solid wall. Use rebar inside each opening to keep the blocks from shifting. Plants that stay on the smaller side (some herbs, onions, radishes, etc.) can even be grown in the holes. Watch on your local classifieds, Freecycle and Facebook yard sale groups as they are sometimes offered for free if you haul them away.

If your garden is naturally rocky, use that to your advantage by building your raised bed for free with those stones. These are also a common item given away on classified groups if you are willing to pick them up.

Another great option is to buy a raised bed made of fabric. One of the advantages of a fabric bed is that at the end of the season, you can dump out the soil, wash off the fabric, fold it up and store it for the winter. You can even make a raised bed from a kiddie pool.

Soil Mixes

A raised bed is your opportunity to compensate for natural soil that is too sandy, full of rocks, poor in nutrients or otherwise problematic for your plants. The simplest method would be to buy bags of potting mix to fill the box. Depending on the type and brand you choose, as well as the height of your raised bed, this can turn out to be very expensive.

You can mix up your own potting soil using equal parts of materials like topsoil, peat moss and compost. Adding perlite or vermiculite is helpful to stop the soil from becoming compacted and make it easier for water and nutrients to flow through.  Place your materials into a compost tumbler or large wheelbarrow and mix them together. Use this opportunity to add in organic, slow release fertilizer, following the directions for amounts. You can also to add aged manure or compost instead of fertilizer.

If you do not make your own compost, call your local waste management and recycling facilities. In some cities, green waste is collected and turned into composts and mulches that are usually priced competitively. They may deliver for a fee, but you can also use a pickup truck to transport it yourself.

Design Considerations

When you are planning out your garden, it is tempting to maximize space by creating one large raised bed. However, it will work much better if you break it up into several boxes. If the bed is too wide, it will be very difficult to reach across to thin seedlings, keep weeds down and harvest your crops. You want to keep the width a maximum of four feet wide.

If you are working with an area that is not flat, remove soil or build up areas so that your planting area will be even. Smooth it out before adding your soil mixture to the container.

Filling your raised bed is also something to think about when you are planning. These boxes offer the opportunity to use potting soil or other mediums that mean you can still garden when your soil is poor. However, the cost can really start to add up when your box is bigger. However, if you want to grow deeper rooted plants you may want to start with a 12″ height.