Content courtesy of Eva Rodriguez, Vitacost Category Manager
It’s been almost two months since I started my container garden. What began as a seemingly intimidating task has evolved into a relaxing activity that my husband and I now do together on Sunday afternoons. In the beginning I thought gardening was something “lunching ladies” did to pass the time—not an activity a working professional would be able to squeeze into her already-busy routine. However, like most things, if you really want to do it, you will find the time. I am pleasantly surprised at what I’ve been able to accomplish so far.
Here are a few of my personal observations and suggestions as a novice gardener. Hopefully, they’ll help you achieve gardening success, too!
Patience. Like most people, I don’t have much. When gardening, it’s important to have a good mix of pre-germinated plants and some you grow from seedlings. Seeing plants already blooming and growing will give you the patience needed to wait for those that take longer to bloom. I learned this with the gladiolas I grew from seedlings. It’s taken almost two months, and flowers are just now starting to bloom. The overwhelming sense of achievement I felt when I saw the little colorful bulbs peek out from the green leaves was so exciting I think I scared my poor puppy Lola shrieking for joy! If I didn’t have other plants already in full bloom, I may have assumed my gladiolas were a failure and given up.
Bugs and other critters. This shouldn’t come as a surpise: when you plant a garden, lots of bugs and little animals will be attracted to it. While you may see a beautiful work of art, they see lunch. To keep invaders, such as rabbits, raccoons and dogs, away from our plants, we installed a small fence around the perimeter of our garden. We also use an all-natural insecticide. How much you’ll need depends on the size of your garden. Ours is relatively small, so we apply about ¼ of a bottle every three weeks. If you have children or pets, you might consider using a natual mosquito and tick spray. Some plants, such as citronella, naturally repel bugs. We keep one in the center of the garden. It smells great and keeps the little creepy crawlies at bay.
Moisture. Retaining the moisture in your plants is super important. Watering daily, especially in the summertime, and placing a layer of mulch underneath planters, both help. It’s also important to aerate the soil once a week. That’s a fancy way of saying soil in the planters needs to be stirred up and replaced so it doesn’t harden and become impermeable. A somewhat opposite problem we had was that the planters were flooding because there weren’t holes drilled into the bottoms. Be sure to check for this before adding soil to your planters to avoid having to start over!
Build a fort for your plants. When we started growing tomatoes, they were placed in a regular pot. As they began to sprawl out, we transferred them to a larger wooden planter. We also bought BPA-free posts and built a “fort” for the vines to climb so they wouldn’t rot on the ground. Any plant that has heavier vegetables or fruit should be propped up so the weight doesn’t drag the plant down.
Sun exposure. In our garden, there’s a tree that creates a shaded area over one row of plants. There isn’t much we can do about the tree’s location, so we chose plants that didn’t need full sunlight so we could still utilize the space. In that row, we planted rosemary, basil and aloe. Our gladiolas didn’t like it there, as they need more sunlight, so we moved them. Now everything has its place and is getting appropriate sunlight.
After just a month and a half, my husband and I are in love with our garden. We look forward to showing it off to guests who visit our home. And it’s become dedicated time we spend together each weekend, working together and being active outside. It won’t be long before we’re making salad with our new tomatoes!
Eva is a Category Manager at Vitacost for the Food, Home, Pets and Baby categories. She’s lived in Florida almost her entire life, has two puppies and was in search of a hobby that would help her relax so her husband convinced her to try container gardening. Eva has never been a serious nature-lover (except for the ocean) but is venturing out into the seedy (pun intended) world of gardening as a beginner to mix some relaxation with the gratification of planting something and watching it grow.