Last spring, I tried my hand at container gardening. My husband had a ton of leftover 5 gallon buckets that he gets supplies in for his business. After talking to a master gardener at our city's Earth Day event, I was encouraged to try using those nifty buckets for my container garden. A trip to Lowes and $75.00 later for supplies (seeds, starter plants, planting soil, and rocks), I was well on my way to my first attempt at this type of vegetable gardening.
It ended up not being one of my most successful endeavors (see update post here) but as I wrote in that post, " ...appreciate the small victories (and) take what I have learned (no matter how much) and apply it to the next great adventure." Because I was still a little "garden-shy" in September, I decided to forgo a fall/winter garden and wait until spring to try again.
What I am doing differently this year:
1) Putting more soil in the bucket before planting. Last year, I followed the directions for container gardening which said to put soil to within 2 inches of the top of the container. I did not estimate very well "two inches" and after watering and such, the soil compacted to more like 6-8 inches from the rim. I figured that probably had something to do with my poor results, so I made sure to fill each bucket up to the top this time around. That way, the seeds and the starter plants have better access to the sun.
2) Use better soil. Last time I did half potting soil/half household dirt in my buckets. I used the same buckets that had the leftover soil from last year. Using a hand trow, I broke up the old dirt to get rid of all the clods and to aerate it. Then, I filled the remainder of the bucket with the gardening soil.***
3) Better Sun Placement. Last year, I first put the buckets in an area that got too much sunlight and I ended up scorching my plants. I replanted and moved the buckets to another section of my yard that ended up getting good morning sun but by mid-afternoon, the buckets were pretty much shaded over. This year, I cleared out a new area that gets even sunlight throughout the day.
4) Don't be so ambitious. Last year, I planted way too many vegetables and herbs for such a concentrated area: cilantro, jalapeno peppers, zucchini, bush beans, radishes, strawberries, and carrots. That was a lot to get discouraged over when it didn't all pan out. This year, I only planted bush beans, carrots, radishes, and cilantro, each in their own bucket so as to not overcrowd.
4) Water, Water, Water. The most essential key to a successful garden is watering. Because watering was not an easy task last year, I either skipped some watering days or, when I did water, it was never enough. This year, I made sure the water source was closer and not so difficult to access. I have also learned that on hot summer days, I should be watering my container garden twice a day.
Will you be tending a garden this year?
***Author's Stupid Realization: As I was writing this post, I went to retrieve the name/brand of the potting soil I used to share with you, my devoted reader. Imagine my horror when I found out I had used the wrong product!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Instead of grabbing the potting soil, I purchased and used planting soil. The directions on the planting soil specifically says:
Do not use outdoor soils/mixes in containers; garden and top soils are too dense for container plants, and may suffocate plant roots.
OH NO!!!!! Off to Home Depot to get the right soil and replant my container garden before the rain tomorrow. Grrrrrr......