Container Gardening

Jump start your growing season

The soil is finally thawing, the sap’s beginning to run, and for those of us who choose to garden, it’s time to place the first small seeds into the dark soil and wait for the miracle of an emerging bud to appear.

It’s no wonder ancient scientists became obsessed with alchemy, the transformation of matter. How does a tiny, dead-looking remnant of a once vigorous plant create new life when buried underground? No matter how many times I plant my garden with bulbs or seeds, I find myself marveling over this transformation every year.

Despite my own enthusiasm for this miracle, whenever I start extoling the virtues of a garden, I’m inevitably met with myriad reasons why friends or family members have not started one of their own. Space and time constraints are usually top of the list, but even if you don’t have access to a plot of land (or even a yard), I aim to show just how simple producing your own miraculous garden can be. I hope the following five tips not only inspire you to try, but ensure you’ll have a bountiful harvest for your efforts.

  1. Create a plan

In less time than it will take you to read this article, you can create a garden plan. Start simply and ask yourself a few questions about your preferences and the space you have available.  What vegetables do you enjoy eating? (Something with crunch? Something your doctor told you to include in your diet?  Perhaps there’s a flower or color you love?) Do you have a large window or porch area that gets sun for at least half of the day? Once you know what you’d like to try your hand at growing, be on the lookout for that seed variety in the stores you already frequent.

Don’t think you have enough space for a garden? Think again. Many more vegetables can be grown in containers than you might guess. Forget those neat little rows your grandmother gardened in. A small porch or even a windowsill will provide you with an encouraging abundance of food or flowers. Do a quick google-search on “square-foot gardening” or “interplanting” and see just how effective a non-linear approach can be.

  1. Think “Up”

Not only are containers and raised beds just as effective as traditional row- gardens, they often mean less work, weeding, and spacing needs. Containers don’t just need to be on the ground; utilize your vertical space! Re-use hanging flower baskets with a large enough hole in the bottom for a bushy stem and grow your potato and tomato plants upside down from the roof of your deck or porch.

Alternately, many squash and bean varieties climb, making it easy to create beautiful trellises for both privacy and décor around your porch. Using containers? Build a simple trellis for your pots or raised beds with three sticks of similar lengths and some twine. These easy pyramid trellises will give those beans ample space to climb.

  1. Gather Supplies

You’ve probably already seen seed displays at your local grocery store. Next time you go in, don’t just walk by. Stop and select one or two packets of the seeds you’ve already decided on. Each packet of seeds has directions for care right on the back, making it a painless process. It takes only a minute, and you’ll be one step closer to getting them in the ground (or pot).

Speaking of pots, you probably have at least one empty planting pot or bucket inside your shed or garage. Instead of sending it out with the recycling, fill it with a mixture of soil from your yard and a bag of quality compost or seed-starting soil. Then, tuck those seeds you already bought right into the mix, water liberally and follow the packet instructions. Within a week or two you should begin witnessing the emergence of tiny sprouts. Well done, you!

Tip: Don’t like the look of that old pot or bucket? Give it a coat of paint before filling it with soil.

  1. Make It Easy on Yourself

Now that you’ve started your own garden from seeds, you’ll need to keep it alive. Knowing your planting zone is key if you’re planning on keeping the container outside through our hot, Utah summers. Most of the Heber Valley is zone 4b-6b, but you’ll want to double check for your home’s specific altitude. Containers can, of course, be brought indoors, but moving pots back and forth can get old. Read the back of your seed packet to decide where best to plant or place your containers.

Once you’ve checked how much sun or shade your seedlings need, place your garden or containers in an area you’re sure to walk by on a regular, or daily, basis. This will help create a visual clue that your plants need care, such as watering or more shade.

Tip: Lots of heirloom varieties and cultivars have been bred for high altitudes and shorter growing seasons. As a bonus, heirloom varieties produce seeds you can save for planting next season. Some even re-sow themselves to ensure new plants year after year, so you don’t have to do as much legwork.

  1. Keep Veggies Coming

Succession planting is a simple way to keep your garden producing continually. The basic principle is to have seeds/seedlings ready to sow in place of whatever crop you’re harvesting. Pull up a couple radishes? Plant a couple more seeds in their place. Set a reminder on your phone for a couple weeks out from your first planting date and stick another couple seeds in the ground. Do this as often as your space, schedule, and desire permit.

Consider volume. You probably don’t need five varieties of tomato, but those lettuce heads or radishes usually only produce enough for one meal, so you might want to consider succession planting for root vegetable and salad greens.

Tip: For cold-hardy plants like cabbages, carrots, and onions, you can plant them well into August, and still have time to harvest by the first snowfall. If you’re wanting to extend your growing season, raised beds and containers make covering your plants with cold frames, cloches, or even sheets or other containers that much easier.

If you haven’t experienced growing a garden for yourself, this might be the year to try. Not only is it simple, but the literal fruits of your labors are also so much healthier and more delicious. It takes a little effort and the right amount of care, but if you do it right a miraculous reward awaits you.

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