Local Llano - Experience Your Food Shed

Adventures in Container Gardening

Posted by Local Llano on May 17, 2016

Hello Locavores!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fill your pots with the soil mixture. See? That was easy. 

Adventure #4: Planting!IMG_4012.jpg

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.

IMG_3284.jpgHopefully, 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. IMG_0611.jpg

Happy adventuring, Locavores!