UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!

I hope you enjoy it!

I started growing vegetables in pots earlier this year, and it was so easy and the vegetables so delicious AND attractive that I had to do it again.

Last week, my mother took my youngest kids to the nursery and picked up some plants for me.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

You know what?  This is one of the happiest sights in my world 😉

My son, Kai was anxious to pull out the existing plants from our pots.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

All my summer vegetables had been pulled a while ago, and all that was left was the Vinca that I had planted.  I realize the vinca looks a bit yellow and I admit that I didn’t fertilize them enough (I kind of hibernated inside this summer.

Kai got to work at pulling out the flowers.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

He used the hand shovel to loosen the roots so he could pull out the vinca.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

Then he used the shovel to ‘bang’ the root ball to loosen the soil back into the pot.  You don’t want to ‘throw away’ good soil by leaving it around the roots of plants you are pulling out.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

I think Kai did a good job getting all the soil out of the roots, don’t you?

**Vinca will over-winter in my zone 9 garden, but will not flower much.  I prefer to treat them as an annual.

Now for the fun part – planting!

I added some more potting mix (not potting soil, which can get soggy), mixed with some compost to each container.

Then each pot was planted with a combination of green leaf lettuce, purple leaf lettuce, garlic, spinach, dill, parsley, nasturtium seeds, and petunias.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

In just a few weeks, the lettuce and spinach will be ready to start clipping the leaves for salads.  The garlic cloves that I planted will form whole heads of garlic, which will be ready in late spring.   

I will start snipping off dill and parsley soon as well.

creating edible container garden

Garlic, leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, and petunias

Flowers look great when planted with vegetables, and I always include some.  Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seed, and their leaves and flowers are edible.  Petunias (and nasturtiums) are great companion plants for vegetables because they help to control damaging insects from eating your vegetables.

Do you want to grow vegetables in containers?

Here is more information on how to do it…

“Vegetable and Flower Containers”

I hope you try growing vegetables in containers as much as I do!

Pumpkins

Pumpkins play a large part in our fall holiday celebrations. I remember trips to the pumpkin patch when my kids were younger and watching them choose just the ‘right’ pumpkin for our family.

carved pumpkins

A few weeks later, pumpkins take center stage on Halloween as their artfully carved faces add a festive element to costumed trick-or-treaters.

But, what do you do with them once the holiday is over? Instead of throwing them in the trash can, what if you could find new uses for your pumpkin?

Whether your pumpkin has been carved or left whole, I’ve shared 9 ways to reuse them in the garden and in the home, in my latest article for Houzz. I hope you enjoy!

The Summer Vegetable Garden: Pumpkins!

Do your kids beg you to feed them kale or other dark green, leafy vegetables?  

Probably not.

I confess that I don’t particularly like to eat kale when it is in large pieces.  But, after planting it for the first time in my vegetable garden this year, I was determined to learn to enjoy eating this vegetable along with my kids.  The question was how?

dark green, leafy vegetables

I decided to take my freshly picked kale and cut it into narrow strips, about 1/3 of an inch wide.

radishes

I did the same with radishes from the garden since some of my kids don’t like them either

radishes and kale

My idea was to make their individual size smaller and then mix them with other leafy greens, hoping that they could blend in with the rest of the salad.

 leaf lettuce ,  iceberg lettuce , cucumbers ,kale and radishes

Salads in our house consist of leaf lettuce from the garden, a little iceberg lettuce (the kid’s favorite), diced cucumbers and finely chopped kale and radishes.

dark green, leafy vegetables

Once mixed together, the kale, along with the radishes, blends in rather nicely as do their flavors.

So, did it work?  Do my kids now like kale?

Well, earlier this week, I overheard them discussing what we were going to have for dinner and my two youngest kids said, “I love kale and radishes”.

You know what?  So do I.

**Have you ever found a way to get your kids to eat certain foods?  If so, please share your experiences with me 🙂

Winter Garden Harvest: I Never Thought I Would Love Kale!

Imagine a garden with containers filled with a variety of colorful flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, succulents and even vegetables.

beautiful plants

Wouldn’t you love to have pots that look like this, overflowing with beautiful plants?

But, what if you live in the desert?  Can you grow plants in pots that aren’t just beautiful but that can thrive in our hot, dry climate?  

Believe it or not, you can. Whether your container garden is limited to one pot or several – you can grow plants in pots in the desert garden.  

beautiful plants

Now before you say, “I’ve got a black thumb…everything I plant in pots die”, I have a great resource for you.

Container Gardening Book

“Getting Potted In The Desert” is a wonderful resource that shows you step-by-step instructions on how to create beautiful potted gardens that will thrive in our desert climate.

Getting Potted In The Desert

While you can find other books that offer helpful advice on how to create potted gardens, “Getting Potted In The Desert” speaks specifically to those of us who live and garden in the desert Southwest where our hot, dry summers bring about special challenges.

Beyond the helpful advice on selecting containers and the right location, the book also talks about plant choices including flowering annuals, perennials, grasses, herbs, succulents and vegetables.

Getting Potted In The Desert

Clear and easy to understand guidelines are given on how to water, fertilize and how to adjust to changing weather conditions including freezing temperatures.

What’s even better, the guidelines are broken up into monthly guides, making growing plants in pots, easy.

Lists of plants that do well in the desert container garden are also given along with lovely photographs of pots filled with plants, which will inspire you.  

Herb Container Garden

Herb Container Garden 

The author, Marylee Pangman, has over 20 years of experience growing potted plants in the desert.  In fact, she is a certified Master Gardener and had her own company, “The Contained Gardener”, where she designed and maintained container gardens for clients.

In addition, she has taught numerous classes on growing potted gardens that can withstand hot summers and desert winters.  

Flower and Vegetable Container Garden

Flower and Vegetable Container Garden

As a horticulturist who has planted and maintained container gardens over the years, I can tell you that Marylee’s book is a godsend for those who love container gardening and need practical guidance.

You can order your own copy of “Getting Potted In The Desert” and find out more about Marylee at  www.potteddesert.com

*I was provided with a free copy of this book for my honest review.

Book Review: Potted, DIY Stylish Garden Containers

Whenever I look back on my garden travels, I find that my favorites tend to be the smaller ones with more of a personal feel.  Ones that I can take my time walking through without feeling like I have to hurry in order to see the entire garden.

Recently, I visited a small garden run by Washington State University that is located in Mount Vernon, WA.  The WSU Discovery Garden was designed by master gardeners and divided up into multiple smaller-themed gardens filled with creative elements.

Washington State University

Last week, I shared with you about some of the themed gardens, including the Four Seasons, Herb, Naturescape, Shade as well as the composting area along with its ‘Yuck Bin’.   

While these gardens were fun to explore, I’ve saved the best for last!

Children's Garden

I am a strong proponent of teaching children the joys of gardening, so I was especially excited to explore the Children’s Garden.

Children's Garden

The gateway to the garden started down a ‘yellow brick road’ through an archway with weeping mulberry growing on it, creating the impression of entering through a green tunnel into a land of make-believe.

themed gardens

The curving pathway that ran down the center of the garden, included the game of ‘hopscotch’.  I confess that I had an overwhelming impulse to hop down the pathway, but restrained myself.  But, it did bring back memories of playing hopscotch on the playground when I was in elementary school!

themed gardens

For those who may be unfamiliar with the rules of ‘hopscotch’, there were helpful instructions.

themed gardens

Other areas in the garden included a small playground set and a bench that encircled a small tree.

themed gardens

Two vertical gardening towers stood sentinel in the center of the garden and was planted with strawberries and carrots.

themed gardens

In the corner of the Children’s Garden, sat Alice with the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.

themed gardens

An unusual ‘hotel’ was sitting off to the side.  This insect hotel has lots of nooks and crannies for solitary bees and other pollinating insects to stay.  In addition, insects that stay in the ‘hotel’ also help to keep damaging insects away from the garden.

themed gardens

Insect hotels are typically made up of scrap bits of wood and hollow bamboo reeds.

This hotel was quite fancy and had a roof planted with hen and chicks succulents.

A giant checkerboard

A giant checkerboard beckoned kids (& adults) to try their hand at a friendly game.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

Of course, instructions were also included.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable
Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

Visitors strolling along the ‘yellow brick road’ must pass underneath an arch with a flying monkey keeping watch.

Enabling Garden

The next garden on our tour was the Enabling Garden.  

The word “enabling” means to “give someone the means to do something”, which is exactly what this garden does.  It gives people with disabilities the means to garden.  

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

This garden bed was created for those who are visually impaired.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

It’s filled with a variety of plants along with rock to provide a variety of textures that are experienced primarily through touch.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

The velvety feel of lamb’s ear is a favorite of many gardeners and I find myself always reaching out to touch their leaves.  

White rock is used to create small planting islands and helps visually impaired visitors to experience the separate planting islands in the raised bed.

hens & chicks

A collection of ‘hens & chicks’ add spiky texture that can be touched safely.    

A variety of mosses also grew in the garden.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

This raised bed was built with a sitting ledge around it, which makes it easier for those who have trouble standing or bending over to garden.  With this type of bed, you can simply sit on the edge and tend to the garden.  

I have several clients who have had raised beds built since they can no longer bend down to garden for a variety of reasons.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

At first glance, can you tell how this planting bed can be enabling?  

Note the empty area underneath the bed – can you see how it would make someone who was wheelchair bound or uses a walker be able to get up close to garden?  

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

Besides having garden beds to enable people with disabilities to garden, there was a helpful display with a variety of gardening tools that can make gardening easier.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

Each tool had a description of how it can help make routine gardening tasks easier, which is helpful for those with disabilities and even those who don’t.

hand pruners

Photo: 2010

The display of enabling gardening tools spoke directly to my heart as a mother of a child with disabilities.  

My son, Kai, has a disability that affects his joints, which makes everyday tasks difficult.  He loves to help me in the garden, but even using a pair of hand pruners is hard for him to use correctly.

March 2006

Photo: March 2006

In Kai’s short life, he has had several operations, which have left him wheelchair bound for weeks at a time and having a place where he could enjoy everyday activities, such as gardening, would be a blessing.  

You can read about Kai’s story here.

Native Plant Garden

Walking through the garden, I noticed a sign pointing off to the outer area of the garden toward the Native Plant Garden.

Native Plant Garden

Being in the Northwest, you can imagine that the path through patches of lush greenery.  

Native Plant Garden

As a landscape consultant, I hear of people’s frustration at trying to grow certain plants.  

No matter where you live – the desert, jungle or in the Arctic Circle – the easiest way to garden is to grow plants that are native to your area.  

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

The next best thing is to grow plants that are adapted to your area, which are native to climates similar to yours.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

If you follow that simple piece of advice, you will enjoy a beautiful garden with a minimum of work since the plants will thrive with little to no attention because they are adapted to your climate.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

When traveling, I always like to take time to learn more about the native plants that grow there.

Meadow Garden.

Walking back toward the main areas of the garden, we passed by the Meadow Garden.  

Meadow Garden.

The garden consisted of grasses and wildflowers.

Meadow Garden.

Throughout the year, you’ll find different flowers in bloom.

Vegetable Garden.

The last garden we visited was the Vegetable Garden.  

However, it wasn’t just anyone’s vegetable garden…

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

It belonged to an infamous gardener. 

Mr. McGregor's garden

Mr. McGregor’s garden was a good-sized plot filled with a variety of vegetables, including some that I decided to try in my garden in the fall.

Mr. McGregor's garden
Mr. McGregor's garden

This lovely row of leafy greens are green and purple spinach.  I didn’t know that there was such thing as purple spinach.  But, I do like to add unexpected color in my garden and so I will be sure to add this to my garden.

Garlic

Garlic was growing nicely and would be ready to harvest in a month.  You can tell when it is ready to be harvested with the outer leeaves begin to yellow and turn brown.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

This crop caught my eye.  

Can you tell what these are?  

Potatoes!  

To be completely honest, I’ve grown them a few times, but it is a lot of work for only a few potatoes in my desert garden so I don’t plant them anymore.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

A healthy crop of sugar snap peas were in full flower.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

I particularly love the color and shape of their flowers, don’t you?  

This is one crop that I do plant each year.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

An old wheelbarrow planted with radishes caught me eye as did the watering can with its strawberries.  

My brother-in-law found an old, rusty wheelbarrow for my garden and I can’t wait to plant it!  

It was obvious that Mr. McGregor took very good care of his garden and it was well fenced in.

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

But, that didn’t keep a particular rabbit from getting in 🙂  

Thank you for joining me on a tour of this special garden.  If you ever find yourself driving north of Seattle, toward Vancouver, take an hour and visit – you won’t be disappointed!  

****************************  

On another note, we just returned from a weekend trip to Southern California where we visited my daughter, Rachele, who is stationed there in the Navy.  

While we always have fun visiting her, it is even more so now because we also get to spend time with our new grandson!

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

He is absolutely darling and smiles more than any baby I’ve ever seen.  He is one happy baby!

Themed Gardens: Children's, Enabling, Native & Vegetable

When we visit, we are able to stay on the Navy base with our daughter in her townhouse, which makes visiting her easier and less expensive than having to stay in a hotel.  

As often occurs whenever we visit, we usually find ourselves driving the short distance to Santa Barbara. This California city is not only a beautiful place to visit, but it also holds a special place in my heart since it is where I met my husband in college.  

We are back home now but look forward to seeing Rachele and her son, Eric, next month when they come out to visit us 🙂

Have you ever thought of fruits, herbs or even vegetables as ornamental plants?  

Edible Plants That Do Double Duty as Ornamentals

Often the characteristics that make edible plants appeal to our appetite, can also add beauty to the garden making edible plants a great choice for the garden as they can do double duty as ornamentals.

I am always struck by how edible plants are increasingly used to create beautiful garden spaces.

I’ve recently shared several of my favorite examples from my own garden as well as in during garden travels for Houzz.

I hope you are inspired to look at edible plants in a new light.

Edible Plants That Double as Ornamentals

Do you like to try new things?


I do – especially in the garden. I’m always on the lookout for new vegetables to try out, including some heirloom varieties, which aren’t technically new.

container corn

One year, I tried growing ‘container corn’.  You can read here how it did.

This year, I tried growing ‘White Icicle’ radishes, which are a cross between radishes and turnips. My mother had given me the seeds and I’ve always had a very easy time growing regular radishes, so I thought I’d try these.

They grew easily and the leaves reached over 2 1/2 ft. long!

Trying New Things In My Winter Garden

It was exciting to pull them out and I couldn’t wait to try them.

Radishes & Swiss Chard

 While they were very easy to grow, I must confess that I didn’t like them.

I really wanted to and their flavor was a lot like a turnip, but they burned my mouth – much more than the radishes do.

Swiss chard

My grand experiment last year was growing Swiss chard and afterward, I wish that I had been growing it all along. It’s not only easy to grow, it also tastes great in salads!

vegetable gardens

I grow it both in my vegetable gardens and in pots.

So, while I wish that I liked ‘White Icicle’ I don’t. But, it wasn’t a waste of time growing them. You see, gardening is a grand experiment and it’s always fun to try growing new things and while there are going be some failures – there are also great successes (like my Swiss chard) when you discover what grows well that you like.

*This week, I’m sharing what I’ve harvested from my winter vegetable garden and sharing lessons learned. Yesterday, it was broccoli and how to freeze it.

Do you grow vegetables in the winter? Here in the low desert regions of the desert Southwest, we can grow vegetables all year. 


My winter vegetable garden is filled with a variety of cool-season vegetables and I have rarely had any problems growing any of them except for broccoli.


For some reason, in past years my broccoli has been rather lackluster. Oh, the plant grows, but the broccoli heads are always small with no real central head forming.

winter vegetable garden

winter vegetable garden

It’s been frustrating because my mother’s garden (just 2 miles away) always produces gorgeous heads of broccoli. Every year, after harvesting a small amount of broccoli stalks, I decide that it is the last time I will grow it.

But come fall, I always relent and plant some more. So, imagine my delight when I ventured out in to my garden this month and found two large heads of broccoli ready for picking!

heads of broccoli

Aren’t they beautiful?

So, what did I do differently?

I simply planted them in a different location (about 10 ft. away) in the vegetable garden – that’s it!  When planting them this year, I remembered that many people plant tomatoes in a different location from year to year to allow the soil enough time to replenish and I thought that I’d try it with my broccoli and it worked!

My entire family loves broccoli and nothing compares to the flavor of fresh broccoli. But, you can also freeze it for later. To do this, you need to ‘blanch’ it by cutting the broccoli into florets and then putting them into boiling water for 3 minutes.  Immediately afterward, dip the florets into cold water with ice cubes to stop the cooking. Dry the cooled broccoli the best you can and place meal-sized portions into plastic freezer bags and freeze until you are ready to use!

So the lesson is, that if you grow a type of vegetable that does not seem to grow well despite doing everything right – try growing it in a different location.

Come back tomorrow, when I’ll share with you a new vegetable that I grew in my garden!

My Newly Planted Vegetable Gardens

I enjoy growing vegetables in both my garden and in containers.  While some of my containers are rather traditional, one of mine is not.

vegetables in a grocery bag

This was one of my favorite projects because it was an unexpected sight for visitors to my vegetable garden.

While you would expect to see leaf lettuce poking up from a grocery bag – you certainly don’t expect to see it growing inside of one.

This is a very simple DIY project, which are the kinds that I like best.

“What Am I Growing in a Grocery Bag?”

You can grow many different types of vegetables in a grocery bag.  Would you consider doing this in your own garden?

Have you ever been on live television?  

If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said “no”.  I had done some filming for “how-to” gardening videos for SheKnows.com – but they weren’t live and took place in my back garden.  Somehow, live TV is quite different.

Last time, I told you about my upcoming appearance on our local ABC station to talk about creative container gardening tips.

Posing next to my newly-planted container filled with purple basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley.  White petunias add beauty to the pot.

Posing next to my newly-planted container filled with purple basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley.  White petunias add beauty to the pot.

This was the second time that I had been asked to appear on Sonoran Living, which is a local morning program.

Last time I was on the show, I spoke about ‘Fuss Free’ Plants.  This time, I would be talking about  creative tips for container gardening.  

So, I went shopping for my ‘props’.  I decided to plant an herb container as well as a pot filled with vegetables and flowers.  I bought several medium-sized pots, a variety of potting mixes and of course, plants.

 Sonoran Living

My sister came along with me to help with the props and setting up.  I had planted the pots ahead of time, so setting up wasn’t too difficult.

The main focus of the demonstration would be the three pots, the potting mixes and the recyclable grocery bag.

They tell you to bring a lot of props, which look good on television.  So, I brought gardening gloves, some hand tools and extra plants to help ‘set the stage’. My microphone was there for me to put on and I was almost ready.  

 Sonoran Living , Finishing up planting my vegetable/flower container.

Finishing up planting my vegetable/flower container.

Last time I was on the show, mine was the first segment.  It went very fast and we were back on the road before the show was over.

This time, I was to go last.  So after everything was set up, my sister and I were invited to wait in the staff break room.

To say that I wasn’t nervous would be an exaggeration.  But, I was not as nervous as my first time.  It’s actually not as hard as doing a “how-to” video where you have to talk to the camera.  On the show, I am talking to a person who asks me questions so I don’t speak directly to the camera at all.  If you lose your train of thought, they are there to get you back on track.

Of the tips I shared on air – using recycled, plastic containers to fill the bottom of large pots as well as using a recycled grocery bag as a container were the most popular with the hosts.

I had a great time and hope to be invited back again.

Below, is the link for my container gardening segment and at the end you see where I accidentally got involved in a conversation at the end about “Dancing With the Stars”.

“CREATIVE CONTAINER GARDENING TIPS”

I hope you enjoy it and come away with some helpful tips that you can use when creating your own container garden.

**You can view my first appearance on Sonoran Living where I talk about “Fuss-Free Plants” here.