Friday, March 2, 2012

Five Great Foods to Plant in Pots

(No, no, my plants don't look like this yet. This picture is from a couple years ago. Isn't it cheerful?)

You don't have to start thinking about your garden yet if you don't want to. Honestly, I don't know what my problem is. Even with storms whipping around us all day, I've been dreaming of pretty lettuces in pretty pots. Maybe it cheers me up. Maybe I just have an obsessive compulsive disorder. Maybe both.

Regardless of the variety of mental illness(es) I suffer from, however, it really is kind of fun to dream a little garden dream. Even if you're not ready to start gardening in March, it's nice to sit at home on a rainy day and think of the things you might be able to do when the weather cheers and warms just a bit.

But the purpose of this post isn't only to get you dreaming. The purpose of this post is to present some really easy ways to make those dreams a fairly inexpensive reality (does that just kill the romance or what; please forgive). Of course, if you've got the space, time, money, and inclination, you can dig up a garden plot and plant yourself a victory garden. If you do this, you might be sick like me. Not that there's anything wrong with that. We're healing the earth, my children, healing the earth. Except for when we spray pesticide on those super grody cabbage lopers that infest our kale every year.

If you have limited space or want to make your life a little easier, you can always do the ever popular square foot garden. However, these still take a little time and a decent chunk of change to get started (though after that I hear that they're pretty self-sustaining).

But this post isn't for those with time, money, or gardening knowledge. It's for those who want to get their little pinky toe in the water and give this whole gardening thing a whirl. Or those who really can't afford much. Or who have limited time. It's about a few cheap pots, some dirt, and some seeds. It's easy and surprisingly fulfilling. Go ahead, dip that ol' pinky toe in.

Note: For dirt, I recommend a mixture of compost, top soil, and peat moss in equal portions. And now...

Foods That Are Easy to Plant in Pots

1. Lettuce. Lettuce is fun because it's really quite pretty in a pot and if you want you can plant several varieties in a broad pot and it's super lovely. It's easy to grow. Lettuce can be started now if you wish although you can wait to April if you're not quite ready. It can be sown from seed straight into the pot. After that sprinkle a little dirt on and you're good to go. You don't need a deep pot for lettuce and you don't even need a big one. However, if you want to do the whole pretty pot with many lettuces thing, you'll want a pot that is somewhat broad. If you want to get heads of lettuce, you'll plant them 6-8 inches apart. However, if you plant loose leaf varieties (it should say on the package of seeds), you can plant them just 4 inches apart. Oh, and here's the other fun part. You can let them grow until they're about 4 inches high and then cut them off leaving about an inch on the bottom. You'll make your little salad and then the lettuces will grow up again. When they get to be 4 inches high, you can repeat this until the weather gets so hot that they bolt (grow up fast and begin to go to seed/flower and get bitter).

2. Herbs. Yeah, pretty much any herbs, except, like a mustard or bay bush or something. Again, if you have a large enough pot, you can plant several varieties of herb in your pot and it's very pretty. If you have small pots, you can plant a little row of different varieties of herbs, which is also really pretty. You can do a pasta herb pot with basil, oregano, and rosemary. Or a turkey herb pot with thyme, sage, and rosemary. Or a salsa pot with cilantro and a lime tree. Ha ha. Just a little joke there, but you can do cilantro and onions. Have a look at this post for information on herbs.

3. Tomatoes. I hear that you can plant any tomatoes in pots if you've got the right pot and know what you're doing. I prefer not to know what I'm doing and so I recommend planting bite-sized tomatoes in pots. I just have more success with the smaller varieties like Sweet 100's, cherry tomatoes, or even Romas. You'll need a fairly large pot. And you'll need to remember to water them as pots tend to dry out quicker than the ground. I recommend using starts from the store if you're new to gardening. They're only a few dollars each and will make your life much easier.

4. Peppers. These are also super pretty in pots. Especially those hot red varieties, although I never plant those because I am weak and can't eat many hot red peppers. However, I do like to plant regular red bell peppers. They're just so pretty. As with tomatoes, you'll need a larger pot and I recommend a start for beginning or even intermediate gardeners.

5. Strawberries. Talk about pretty. Also, strawberries can be susceptible to mold and prey to slugs. Planting in pots will help you keep those things under control and give the strawberries nice drainage. Of course, by planting in pots, you're not going to get enough to make jam or anything, but you can get enough for some pleasant snacking. You must plant strawberries from starts as they don't grow well or true or usually at all from seeds. They will produce in their first year, but they will produce more in their second year. After their third year, they'll start to wane a bit in production and you might want to replace them.

Now for a few I plan to try this year...

6. Yellow Summer Squash. Okay I totally haven't tried this yet, but I'm going to. They are supposed to be incredibly beautiful in pots and the pots will give the squash better drainage. Here in southern Indiana, it tends to be hot, humid, and wet and my summer squash plants tend to reflect that with bug problems and rotty problems and other problems I don't really understand. We'll see how the pot thing treats us.

7. Potatoes. Okay I haven't tried this one yet either. But after our flooding last year, I bought a big pot. Actually, I bought a big thing that people use to put ice and beer/soda into because it was way cheaper than a pot would have been ($6 vs. $25). I'll have Kip drill some holes in the bottom and then I'm good to go. To plant the potatoes, you put a shallow layer of soil on the bottom. Then you just lay your seed potatoes (little potatoes you buy to plant because they haven't been treated with anti-sprouting stuff like the grocery store potatoes have been) on the dirt. Then you just cover them with dirt. Talk about easy and lazy, but wait, it gets better. They'll begin to grow and as they do, you'll keep piling the dirt on top of them. So they'll grow up to 4-6 inches and you'll put on a bunch of dirt so there's only an inch or so sticking out of the soil. Then they'll grow some more and you'll do the same thing. Eventually, they'll flower and then they'll begin to die back. When they die or begin to die, you just take you big pot and dump it out and hunt for potatoes. How fun is that. Yes, I can't wait. It'll be like Easter egg hunting all over again.

Join us tomorrow when I take pictures of some cheap, um, "pots" that I've got. It's not quite Martha Stewart, but it's fun and colorful and useful and that's good enough for me.

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