The sweet smell of spring is in the air. Spring's the time when the faint smell of humidity elicits joy rather than annoyance. Everything's green, starting to bud, and -- oh, wait. A local meteorologist just said a mild freeze is going to hit next Thursday morning. Lovely. Just lovely.
Spring comes with inherent temperature spikes and plunges that can make spring seedlings, well, dead-ish. A way to protect and preserve garden starts from unpredictable spring weather is to opt out of starting a traditional garden (for now), and start a container garden.
Containers of fresh veggies, and bright perennial and annual flowers can stay outside when weather complies. Simply haul plants inside when overnight weather gets iffy. As the season tumbles onward, apartment inhabitants can leave plants in the containers on a balcony. If you own a home, you can leave containers on your deck, or transplant plants to your garden.
Benefits of a Container Garden
You can move them around: move containers to suit your plants' needs. Move containers to a sunny spot if your plants need additional light, to the shade if it gets too steamy, or inside if a cold front is forecasted to roll in overnight.
Protect your plants from the elements: If a bad storm is predicted, move plants out of harm's way. Or, if you live in an area with lots of sneaky wild animals who enjoy prowling your garden for food at night, move goods indoors until morning.
What to Grow
You can grow everything from flowers to vegetables. Consider planting lettuce and kale in containers that will reside in the shade, and cultivate tomatoes in containers situated in the sun. Herbs do well in small containers too. Other veggies to consider growing include peppers, spinach, onions and carrots. Also, you can grow "trailing" vegetables (beans, peas, cucumbers) in containers if you provide vertical support for the growing plant.
Use any container that can hold soil and has holes that allow drainage (holes that are about 1/2 inch across). Also, line the pot's base with newspaper to prevent soil loss. Here are a few container suggestions:
- Planter boxes
- Wooden barrels (check to see the kind of wood used and go for varieties that are rot resistant.)
- Hanging baskets
- Large flowerpots
- Recycled or re-purpose items (discarded watering cans)
- Opt for larger containers to allow growth, and if you grow rooted plants, buy deep containers.
Avoid using containers with narrow openings and made from cheap, easily degradable material. Also, avoid wood containers that may contain wood treated with yucky chemicals (creosote, penta).
source: Garden Guides (for more information about container choices)
Caring for Your Container Garden
What happens to most plants that reside in containers? People neglect to water them. Since you'll harvest from these plants later, it may be easier to remember to keep them watered. Water according to weather and when dry. Mulch can maintain soil moisture too.
Try fertilizers that are fish or compost-based. Also consider worm castings.
Eliza Cross of GaiamLife has some great advice on buying or creating your own natural soil:
"You can buy special organic container mix at many garden centers, or you can make your own by amending dirt from your garden for container gardening; simply mix together one part garden soil, one part compost and one part sand. You may also want to add some peat moss, which will help the mixture hold water. To improve drainage you can also add organic perlite, which lightens the soil mixture and has a neutral pH."
image: Saucy Salad