Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Container Garden

Though I grew up in a townhouse with a little garden, I didn't really do any gardening. Of course my mom grew a few fruiting trees and edibles like tomato & lettuce in the summer but other than that nothing really extensive. The funny thing is that even though she had (and still has) some farmers on her side of the family, she doesn't really have a green thumb.

I guess it's only when I started to awaken to herbal medicine and the organic movement that I started bringing home potted herbs and sunflowers. When I moved to the US, I had no garden anymore and that made me very sad and depressed. So I decided to conquer the empty porch with potted plants. I have learned a lot on my own and with the help of a few books and I made some mistakes too but, overall, I think I'm doing pretty well with gardening.

Container gardening has its advantages: nearly no weeding and very little pest control. Plus there's little chance that a disease would spread to all the plants. And there's not a lot of watering needed either. Now if there's one thing I've learned it's that plants and trees grow proportionally to the space they have for their roots to spread...The size of the container you choose makes a big difference: you can either end up with decent size vegetables or dwarf ones. I find that "half wine barrel" sized containers are the best for growing normal size vegetables (and I grow organic, which means that my veggies should be smaller that the ones from the grocery store...No miracle grow!) and are very good for root veggies like beets and carrots as well as plants for the brassica family (kales, collards, broccolis...) which need some space.

As your plants grow, especially if you grow edibles, you may need to feed them (through the soil) with compost, worm castings or natural plant foods like liquid kelp.

Smaller containers are better for flowers, aromatic and medicinal herbs. For cut-and-come again greens and edible weeds, I prefer either rectangular window box container or round containers with a little depth. If you wish to grow fruits in containers, choose some berries (usually easier to grow and prolific) otherwise dwarf fruit trees, but the roots need to be trimmed every 3 to 5 years. If you can't find a dwarf variety, remember that by choosing a small (about 14 in. in diameter or more if you wish) container, your tree will grow proportionally to the size of the container, therefore it'll become a dwarf tree...But to do so, choose either a very young tree (1 or 2 years old) or a bareroot tree (which is usually cheaper because it hasn't grown yet).

I choose to grow organic, heirloom, medicinal, unusual, hard to find and forgotten plants. These includes my favorite edibles and herbs as well as stuff you don't normally find in grocery stores or at the farmers market. I try to stay away from hybrids, but once in a while I find a variety that seems worth growing so I sometimes bend my rules.

Happy gardening ;).


docwitch said...

It's been an adjustment, but I do all my gardening now in pots (I no longer have a garden, but a balcony). It's been hugely satisfying watching all the growth, and growing my own food and herbs. Even if only in relatively small quantities.

la famille may bouffandeau said...

bonjour, kiaora, hello. as usual google led me to your blog while i was searching wise+woman+gardening. what an amazing site! it's going to take several cups of t/glasses of wine to get through this!

Rachel Small said...

Found your blog will researching for my own. I LOVE the half-barrel container idea, especially for herbs which like to take over the garden!



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