I thought it was about time to introduce myself - I'm Erin and I've been working behind the scenes here at Local Llano for about a year now. I hope to meet many of you at our local farmers markets this summer!
I'm a busy person. I work full-time and I'm also a full-time grad student. I'm a dog mom, I help my parents with their small business, and try to spend at least an hour at the gym each day. I'm constantly on the go. About two years ago, I decided it was time to clean up my diet and committed to eating as fresh, healthy, and local as possible. Grad school and working over 40 hours a week don't always sync with the healthy lifestyle though.
Call me crazy, but this year I decided to take on a garden project. Because who needs sleep when you can have a master's and garden fresh veggies? It's an unstoppable combination really. Thanks to the wonderful advice you all shared this spring (I still owe a couple of you coffee), I decided to take an adventure in a container garden. According to our resident gardeners here, container gardens are ideal for busy people or people who do not have a green thumb. I checked yes to both. For those of you like me - beginning gardeners, busy bees, no green thumb whatsoever - I hope you can learn from my journey and enjoy a successful container garden yourself.
Let's do this.
Adventure #1: Pick a Weekend with Nice Weather
I did not do this. I picked a cold, rainy weekend to begin my gardening escapades. Really, please check your schedule and check your weather alerts. Or you'll end up planting pots in a garage instead of the sunshine.
Adventure #2: Get your Gear
I already knew I wanted to grow tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro. If this sounds like the makings of a salsa garden, it is. You can read our blog about that here. I put salsa on everything. It's about time I started growing my own.
I was lucky enough to buy my little plants from a local producer at the Lubbock Farmers Market. I highly recommend starting with seedlings, not seeds. One, we're a bit late in the season to plant seeds. Two, seedlings have a better survival rate among those of us who are gardening newbies. You can purchase seedlings at any local greenhouse/nursery, Lowe's and Home Depot have some too. I found several organic and non-GMO options at Little Red Riding Hood Nursery and Tom's Tree Place in Lubbock.
Next, you'll need pots. I bought four cheap (broke grad student) plastic pots from Lowe's. Eventually, I'll transition to terra cotta pots. They're a bit more durable.
Make sure your pots have holes in the bottom!
Or else, you'll be poking holes in the bottom with a screwdriver in the rain, trying not to knock out your soil or plants.
(I may or may not be speaking from experience here.)
Also, buy soil and drainage rocks. I bought organic soil and organic compost and mixed the two. Buy extra soil... Trust me here. You can always return it. I also got root activator on the advice of the sweet farmer who sold me the tomatoes. It's organic and helps seedlings take to new soil.
Adventure #3: Preparation
This is the biggest adventure of the whole journey. I'm going to spare you the details. Basically, I did everything wrong. Multiple times. Here's what you need to do:
Line up your four pots. Pour drainage rocks in the bottom, about one fifth of the pot. Pour soil and compost in a wheelbarrow and mix. Follow instructions on the root activator and mix that with the soil. A shovel helps a lot. Yes, pictured below are two KitchenAid ladles. Not shovels.
Fill your pots with the soil mixture. See? That was easy.
Adventure #4: Planting!
Lay out all of your plants. Now, this is the exciting part - you get to plant! Tomatoes and onions in the large pot, peppers and onions in the middle pots, herbs in the small pots. The KitchenAid ladle is helpful here.
Hopefully, you planted outside in the sunshine. If not, enlist help to carry your pots outside - they're surprisingly heavy. Water lightly. The soil should already be a little damp from the root activator.
I've been watering about once a week for three weeks now. I had to get a tomato cage two weeks in. So far, nothing is dying and my plants all have baby flowers on them. Cross your fingers I have peppers and tomatoes by June! Will keep you posted.
Happy adventuring, Locavores!