Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ode to Container Gardening

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

I'm all about the traditional victory garden. We have one out back behind the garage where I plant as much as I can each year. Additionally, we have several flower beds and an herb garden. We've got a couple of baby fruit trees, young blueberry bushes, and bramble type berries like blackberry and (this year) raspberries. Each year I pull millions of weeds and harvest some food and swear that this is really all I've got time or energy for. And then each spring, with the clarion call of buds and birds, Kip and I cannot seem to refrain from digging out yet another garden plot. So, you see, we do have addictions besides chocolate. This spring we started work on a lovely little kitchen garden close to the house so I can leave the ugly or huge vegetables out back and work the pretty, more petite veggies in with flowers and herbs and all that sort of thing.

We may not have a Trader Joe's here in southern Indiana, but we have plenty of flat sunny spaces.

We also, it turns out, have plenty of rain. Oh sure, this is usually a good thing. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing. They say it will flood almost your entire backyard, killing your peach tree and sogging the earth into utter unworkability (take another look at the above picture and you'll notice some sandbags to the right). I know I'm blessed that it wasn't tornadoes and that it didn't flood our house and that the only real casualties have been my young peach tree and Kip's baby evergreens and some tomatoes I planted too early in the garden. And I do count those blessings. But I'm not going to lie, I want that flooding to go away and I have told it so in a very angry voice on numerous occasions. It has not listened and this makes me sad. I've been a little depressed about our halted gardening and dying lawn and all the mud and other annoyances that result when a flooded pond/creek make themselves a new home (or perhaps I should say larger home) in most of our back yard.

And yet. Today I went out on my deck and pulled up some radishes from the potted "square foot" gardens I keep there (they're more like 9 inch by 2 1/2 ft gardens, if you're counting and all).

Bless you little garden pots for being moveable and letting the water flow out of you faster than the ground can do. Bless you for providing me just one small pretty taste of spring when everything else is just a whole lot of mud. Bless you for being something almost everyone can do, even those who don't live on a big lot in the midwest. And bless you for cheering me up every time I look outside. Because you know what they say, every mud puddle has a silver lining. Or a pot standing above it. Or a cute little kid jumping into it with her new Easter shoes. Whatever...metaphor...bladdy...bladdy.

Some say that anything works in a square foot garden. I'm not sure I believe that, especially if it's really a 9 inch by 2 1/2 foot garden. However, lots of things will work, especially the smaller things. I do a lot of greens in my pots, as well as beets, radishes, and leeks. This year I have a couple strawberries and some carrots and parsnips also. Herbs would do beautifully. And the great thing about all these little things is that they're just the ones you go out to clip for a little spring salad. Even when the rain doesn't wish to come again another day.

A Recipe for Square Foot Dirt

1 part topsoil
1 part compost
1/2-1 part peat moss (I always do the 1/2 because I'm cheap)

Mix it together and put it in your pots.

The classic recipe from Mel Bartholomew of Square Foot Garden fame is:

1 part compost
1 part peat moss
1 part vermiculite

It might be better, but it's a lot more expensive. Also, I find that it's more difficult to get around to putting together because you have to hunt down the stuff. I like using ingredients that I can just get by the bag at Rural King.


  1. I do the same thing. It is fun to see the fruits of your labor, isn't it?

  2. I have a small patio but went to a garden landscaper and asked him if I could buy the huge plastic (but semi stone) pots in which he had transported old olive trees from Italy. He asked 2,50 (euro) a piece so I bought 6!! This is the 2nd year I have fresh lettuce, paprika, tomatoes, herbs, leeks and lots of other stuff!! Am lately intrested in vertical gardening and think I am going to give it a try!! I have a painting of them on my site (under the tab "Art") and if anyone is interested in free patterns for the puppets, strawberries and padded sewing purse, let me know!(They make fun gifts). Am going to try the cinnamon sugar pull apart bread tonight...

  3. Hi Nellisa--I lived in The Netherlands for a little over a year and I noticed (and loved) how the Dutch always made such beautiful use of their small outdoor spaces. I had a look at your art. I especially love the ones of the fietsen.



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