For years, when I thought of gardening, I pictured a huge complicated garden that would take a lot of work & time. All I wanted was to be able to create an easy container garden I could do with my children.
Scrolling Pinterest I became completely overwhelmed. All the pins showed containers that were so pretty and perfect and complicated. In my head, I just saw hours and hours of work and money to make a container garden.
Then I stumbled on a photo of recycled container gardening. It was an old tire, filled with dirt, sitting in splotch yard of grass. Not anything “Pinterest Worthy,” but it was full of vibrant red tomatoes and bursting with life.
Here’s the thing. If we wait until it is or we can make it perfect, chances are, we won’t do it.
That Pin inspired me to just start my container garden!
I was pulled together a few old, large plastic bins and drilled holes in the bottom and several large plastic tubs that a friend of ours gave us (they formerly held small trees in them). To make these boring black containers fun, I sprayed them with a little spray paint. Black is fine, but aqua blue and white just made me happy.
We purchased the cheapest fill dirt & compost & a few bags of garden soil to fill our containers with. The manure compost smelled stinky, but the kids thought it was hilarious.
After filling the containers with dirt, we purchased tomato, bell pepper, jalapeño, basil, parsley, mint, & dill plants. These were all small and inexpensive to purchase, but they were already growing and easy to replant in my containers.
I did purchase a few seeds; cucumber, green bean & zucchini. And had the kids help plant those in our last container.
Here are some things I learned from our first year of container gardening:
It’s okay to start small. In fact, I wish I had planted a little less our first year with our container garden. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t keep up with maintaining the garden as much as I should have. In hindsight, having less plants would have given more opportunity to learn that first year.
Set reminders to water your garden. While it wasn’t an issue to water the garden when we first planted it, the novelty wore off and the scorching Texas sun really baked my herbs to a crisp during the middle summer months when I just got too busy to think about the container garden.
This year I am using recycled bottles to “self” water the plants. Simply fill the bottle with water and turn it over quickly and shove into the soil. The soil will naturally draw the water out as it needs it. Every couple of days you can walk through the garden and collect the empty bottles to refill.
This is an especially handy trick when you don’t have a watering hose that can reach your garden.
Another trick for littles – give them a spray bottle with just water to “water” the garden. Keeps them very busy!
Involve your children with the entire process. My daughters were 3 when we started to see tiny tomatoes growing in the garden. They (no joke) picked at least 50 baby tomatoes before they could grow larger than a pea! If I had taken a little more time to daily check the garden with them and explain more of the growing process and pointing out new growth in the garden, they would probably have let those poor baby tomatoes grow just a little bigger!
It’s funny how my kids will go crazy over joining garden club at school, but their excitement fizzles out rather quickly when it comes to our own garden. I am working on finding creative ways to involve them in the garden.
Small containers are easier to move. While I did do some research, I didn’t have time to really figure out which spots behind my garage got full sun, partial sun, and little sun. Having the ability to move the smaller containers around to get the right amount of sun has been very helpful. My basil was getting completely scorched by the sun in the spot I originally had it. Moving it to partial shade saved it and it actually did amazing at the end of the year and grew substantially. Can we say, Freezer Pesto???
Use what you have. Start before it’s perfect.
I know that I am still a novice at gardening, but I hope that this encourages you to get outside, use what you have, don’t wait for it to be perfect, and start your container garden! It is worth the excitement on your children’s faces when they harvest perfectly sweet tomatoes and eat them right off the vine!