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creating edible container garden

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!

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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.



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.


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.

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”.

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.
When most people think of a ‘sustainable landscape’, they view one that is boring, filled with few plants which is why they are often surprised to see how beautiful they are.
 
Over the past couple of weeks, we have talked about small steps that you can take toward a more sustainable landscape and today, we will finish up our series with a few more steps you can take in your own garden.
 
Re-think what you plant in pots.
 
Leaf lettuce, garlic, parsley growing along side petunias.
 
If you are like most people, you have a few pots that you fill with flowering annuals, which you fertilize on a semi-regular basis.
 
But, how about thinking outside of the box about what we add to pots.
 
For example, did you know that many vegetables do great in pots and are also attractive?  I like to grow vegetables in my pots and add a couple of annual flowers in for a little color.
 
 
While some flowering annuals can be a bit fussy (pansies, for example) – herbs are not.  They look great in pots, are on hand whenever you need a bunch of fresh herbs for cooking and they don’t need as much water and fertilizer as flowers.
 
Crown-of-Thorns, Lady’s Slipper, Elephant’s Food and a cactus.
Succulents make beautiful pots with their varied textures.  Because the store water inside, they do not need as much water as other container plants.



A helpful tip for planting a large container – fill the bottom third with recyclable plastic bottles.  Most plant’s won’t reach to the bottom of large containers and it is a waste of money to fill up the entire pot with expensive potting soil.  Another bonus is that it also makes your pot a bit lighter.


Use natural or recycled materials when possible.

Gate made from old Ocotillo canes and tree branches.
Often, when we are adding elements to our landscape, we overlook the many things that are recycled or natural that can fill that need.
 
For example – did you know that you can create a ‘living’ fence made from Ocotillo canes?  It’s true! I have seen them my local nursery.
 
Pathway made from recycled, broken concrete.
If your landscape needs a path – instead of buying new pavers or step stones, use recycled, broken concrete.  Or use natural stone products like flagstone.
 
 
It is hard to overstate how boulders can help a landscape go from ‘okay’ to ‘fabulous’.
 
Boulders add both height and texture without needing any water or pruning.  In addition, boulders make plants look better when they are planted alongside.
 
 
Eliminate or decrease the use of pesticides.
 
Leaf-roller caterpillar damage on Yellow Bells shrub.
Our first reaction when seeing insects damage on our plants is to run for the nearest pesticide in our misguided attempt to rescue our plants.
 
But, did you know that most plants can handle some damage from insects without any problem?
 
In fact, once damaging insects take up residence in our favorite plants – soon after new bugs come along that devour the bad bugs.
 
Bougainvillea Looper Caterpillar damage.
 
If you see something is eating the leaves of your plants, you have several options that are not harmful to the environment:
 
– Ignore it
– Prune off the affected foliage
– Pick off the insects (or spray off with water).
– Apply an organic pesticide such as insecticidal soap or BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).
 
You can also help to prevent damaging insects by planting ‘companion’ plants, which bad bugs do not like.  For example, planting garlic around roses helps to keep aphids away.
 
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I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts on sustainable landscaping.  My hope is that I have helped to inspire you to make some changes to your landscape to make it more sustainable.
 
I’d love to hear your thoughts or any ideas that you have done in your own garden to make it more sustainable.
 
For a complete listing of these posts with links, click here.
 
 
 

I think my kids are ready to go back to school tomorrow after 2 1/2 weeks of being on fall break.

How do I know this?  Well, my two youngest daughters, Ruthie and Gracie, just asked me if there were any jobs that I needed them to do.


So after, I picked up my jaw from the floor, I told them that the patio needed to be swept and then thanked them for being so thoughtful.

A few minutes later, I saw them sweeping the patio.  Then I saw the hose come out as they sprayed the patio.  BUT, they didn’t stop there.  As I watched them, Ruthie started to squirt dish soap on the patio and then proceeded to scrub the patio using the broom.

I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that she didn’t need to use soap.  She was working so hard and looked like she was actually enjoying herself as she walked through all the soap suds.  

And now, I probably have the cleanest patio in the entire neighborhood 😉


Earlier this morning, I went outside to see how my vegetable garden was faring.  As I examined my plants, I paid special attention to many of my vegetable seedlings.


I planted Cauliflower for the first time this fall.  We will see how it does.  I must admit that I am being a bit selfish about including it in my garden since I am the only one in our family who likes cauliflower.  But, since I’m the one who takes care of the garden, I think I’m entitled, don’t you?



My lettuce seedlings are a bit late in getting started this fall.  The reason being that I didn’t learn my lesson last fall, when birds ate my new seedlings, which is what happened again this year.  So this is my second attempt this fall.

I am proud to say that I did find a solution to birds eating my lettuce seedlings that didn’t involve netting.  But I warn you, it isn’t particularly pretty looking…


I decided to use burlap.  I didn’t put the burlap directly on the ground since the plants would grow through it and be caught.  So, I put two of my plastic patio chairs in the garden and draped the burlap over them and the garden fence.  My goal was to shield the seedlings from the bird’s view and so far, I have been successful.


No, this aren’t grass seedlings.  They are my green onions.  

You know what?  There is just something about seedlings that I find so attractive.  I think it is a combination of the bright green of youth and their tiny shapes.  What do you think?


Another first in the garden this fall is shallots.  I haven’t heard much from people in our area growing them, so I am anxious to see how they do.  

Now, I didn’t order any fancy shallots from a mail-order nursery.  I simply went to my local grocery store and bought a bunch.  I planted each bulb with the pointed end upward and covered them with 2″ of soil.

I can’t wait to see how they do when I harvest them this spring.


This little garlic sprout looked much better yesterday then it does today.  The torn leaves are courtesy of the newest member of our family, Max, who hasn’t learned that a fence means “keep out”.  We are working his obedience….


The carrots are doing beautifully and I will soon thin them.  The easiest way to do this is to simply snip off the unwanted seedlings at soil level.  If you pull them out, you risk disturbing the surrounding seedlings.


I planted Nasturtiums throughout my vegetable garden because they make great companion plants because they repel damaging insects and attract insects that will eat Scale (which I have problems every year).


Corn silk is beginning to appear on my fall corn.

This last seedling is not one that I planted or planned on growing this fall.  

But, it showed up on its own and I decided that I will give it a chance….


Yes, it is a tomato plant.  To be precise, it is a ‘San Marzano’ tomato plant that came up from seed.  Its parent plant produce a ton of tomatoes for me last spring and some of the tomatoes fell to the ground, and so here is the result.

I’m not sure how it will do.  Tomatoes are susceptible to frost, which we do get here and on every vegetable gardening guide for our area, tomatoes are never listed as being started in the fall.

But, I am cautiously optimistic.  With shade protection in the summer and frost protection in the winter, a tomato plant can live for years UNLESS a severe frost occurs (like last year).

So, I will baby this little tomato plant (and the 3 others that also came up) and provide protection from frost this winter.

I will let you know how they do.  If they survive, I will have a huge head start on growing tomatoes next spring 🙂

How about you?  
Have you planted any vegetables this fall?

I always look forward to Tuesday evenings.  

Why, you may ask?

Well, every Tuesday we all get into the car and make the 5 minute drive over to Double S Farms, which is where my mother, my sister and her family live.  

In addition to hanging out with everyone, including my very cute nephews, Finley and Oliver, we also get to enjoy a delicious dinner that my mother prepares.  I just love not having to cook dinner one night a week 🙂


While we were there, I decided to take a look at my mother’s vegetable garden.  

The last time I saw it a few weeks ago, it looked like this….



Did you know that unused vegetable gardens are a great place to play with trucks and tractors?

Well, the trucks have now left the garden and it is now newly planted with transplants from our local nursery.


Leaf lettuce, dill, cauliflower, basil and other vegetables are already growing.

Interspersed in between the rows of vegetables are two flowering plants that my nephews picked out for the garden…
Finley and Oliver’s petunia plants make great companion plants for vegetables – especially leaf lettuce  broccoli, potatoes and squash.  

Did you know that petunias repel aphids and beetles?  


As the sky began to darken, we made our way inside to see the newest additions to the Double S Farms family….

They have four new chicks that are growing very rapidly and are almost ready to be moved into their new coop outside.

My sister, Chicken Farmer, likes people to hold them often so that they learn to be friendly with people.


I don’t mind holding them….they are awfully cute.  Especially, the ‘Naked Neck’ chicken, Francie.


My son, Kai, got to hold the friendliest chick, Lottie, who is a ‘Buff Orpington’.

Well, the chicks were getting tired, so the kids decided to hang out with grandma and see some fun Halloween games on her computer…




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I hope your week is going well so far.  As I am writing this, we are experiencing wind, thunder, lightning and delightfully cool temperatures.

Which reminds me that I need to buy a pumpkin…..




**You can read more about my sister’s new chicks here.

Well, it’s official….my vegetable garden has gone crazy.  When I left for my trip to the Midwest at the end of April, it was nice and somewhat neat.  My winter lettuce, spinach, green onions and garlic were doing well and my newly planted corn, cucumbers, gourds, tomatoes and sunflowers were coming up nicely.

I came home 10 days later to this sight….

My sunflowers were reaching over 7 feet tall and my corn, to the right, was not far behind.
My garlic leaves were starting to droop and fall over, indicating that I can harvest them soon.
My spinach and lettuce both began to ‘bolt’ and start to form flowers, so it was time for them to leave the garden.
My gourd has started to escape the garden, which is fine with me because it can’t crowd my other plants.
I think gourd plants have interesting flowers, don’t you?  They open at night and moths are frequent pollinators.
I am hoping for some gourds this year that I can turn into bird houses.
I just love how sunflowers face the rising sun.
I plan on harvesting a few seed heads for the family and the rest we will feed to the birds.
My Alyssum and Oxalis that I planted as companion plants in my vegetable garden are still blooming.  Soon the Alyssum will dry up with the heat of our desert summer and I will pull it out.
My tomatoes are enjoying being planted next to my Bachelor’s Button.  I just love their vibrant blue color.  They are going to seed and I am collecting it so that I can replant them next fall.
The first set of corn that I planted have corn cobs growing.  I can almost taste my roasted corn on the cob in a few weeks 🙂
I have to spend some time the next couple of days harvesting my garlic and green onions as well as pulling out my spent spinach and lettuce.
Now, I am off to my local big box store for shade cloth for my tomatoes, which will survive the summer heat if they have some shade.  Temperatures are forecast into the 80’s this week, but it is never to early to get ready for the triple digits.
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I hope you all have a wonderful week!

One of the many things that I love about living in the desert southwest, is the ability to grow vegetables 12 months of the year.  Now I have mentioned before that I grew vegetables during college as part of required classwork out in a field owned by the school.  I have instructed clients how to grow vegetables and have planted vegetable gardens for others.  But I had never grown vegetables in my own garden.  I had not experienced the excitement and wonder of checking the garden each day to see my plants growing bit by bit, see the flowers form and leaves grow and culminate in vegetables ready for harvesting.  I did not know how much better vegetables taste when they are from your own garden. 

And so, I had not experienced any of this…..sad isn’t it?

Well, early last spring we decided to plant a vegetable garden.  The kids were so excited, but I must admit that I was even more so.  My husband, always supportive of my gardening endeavors, was not quite as excited as I was, but was more then willing to do a lot of the grunt work.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, any woman whose husband shovels manure for his wife, is blessed!
I won’t go into more detail about our spring/summer garden because I have written about it before and I don’t want to bore those of you who have already read it 😉  But for those of you who have not seen it,  you can read about our early adventures in the vegetable garden here.
Once September came, I was eager to plant winter vegetables.  Visions of broccoli, carrots, lettuce and cauliflower filled my head.   Before we planted our seeds, we added additional bagged compost and aged steer manure -both available at our local big box store.
Then it was time for planting.  Now a common problem for many gardeners, including me, is that my eyes are bigger then my gardening space.  So, I had to cut my list of desired vegetables to the following: broccoli, spinach, carrots, romaine lettuce, garlic, basil and bunching onions.
My daughter Ruthie and I planted the seeds and then eagerly waited to see tiny green leaves break through the surface.  They did within a few days and then the unexpected happened….birds got to them.  So we began again and spread bird netting on the top, which thankfully worked.
My tiny vegetable plants were growing beautifully, but they faced another hurdle.  I was leaving for two weeks on vacation and my 18 year old daughter was staying at home and therefore responsible to take care of my garden, including watering my vegetables.  Now those of you who are gardeners understand my trepidation.  House-sitters are not always super reliable when it comes to caring for your garden.  Couple that with the fact that my daughter has not shown any inclination towards gardening….at least not yet.  Between college, church and her job, she has little spare time.  I was worried that she my not take her watering responsibilities seriously.  I might have mentioned to her ahead of time that you can always tell if a vegetable garden has been watered correctly by the taste of the lettuce.  If the leaves are bitter, then there were periods of dryness.  I think that maybe made the difference, because when we returned from our vacation, my garden was absolutely thriving.
I was so thankful for how wonderfully my daughter cared for my garden.  The one thing in the garden that really surprised me was how tall my tomato plants had grown….they were over 4 ft. tall.
I had planted Marigolds throughout the garden to help ward off any undesirable bugs and so far they are working – doesn’t my lettuce look beautiful?.  I also planted some Nasturtiums for the same reason as well.  I am fast becoming a firm believer in companion planting.
I love carrots and will thin them soon once they grow a little larger.
I do not like cooked spinach.  But I love putting baby spinach leaves in my salads.  It is hard to not to grab some and eat them when I am out in the garden…..I just know that I will succumb to temptation soon 🙂
My broccoli is coming up too.  They may be too close, but I will wait and see for sure before I pull any out.

My basil is growing in front of my tomato plants.  Whenever I look at the two together, it makes me want to go and make marinara sauce.

In front of my lettuce is bunching onions (scallions) and the taller one is garlic.  Did you know that you plant garlic from garlic cloves?  You can even plant cloves or garlic you buy at the grocery store.  My kids thought that was so cool.
As hard as I try to have straight, neat rows of vegetables, I always fail.  But, that is really not the point is it?  Vegetables respond to fertile soil, sun and water….not whether or not they are perfectly straight 🙂
It may seem like the rows are too close together….I did follow the instructions of the seed packets, but I can always pull something out if it gets too close.  I would rather fit all I can in my vegetable garden then have large bare spots which contribute nothing to my table.
**I am somewhat proud to say that everything in my vegetable garden, with the exception of the tomatoes, marigolds and the garlic, were all grown from seed.**  I personally have nothing against buying transplants at the nursery and growing them, but your options of picking out certain varieties of vegetables is limited and it does cost more.  I recommend growing vegetables from seed and if some do not, then by all means….buy the transplants 🙂
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Today, we are celebrating my daughter Gracie’s 9th birthday.  She wanted to have her party at our local pizza restaurant where she and her friends can enjoy all of the games.  I love the fact that I don’t have to have a sparkling clean house (I seldom do), I don’t have to prepare the food or clean-up afterward.  I did make the cake, which is something I do love to do.  

Happy 9th Birthday Gracie!

I am what many people would call a “planner”.  I absolutely love to plan things ahead of time…..trips, schedules and my garden.  As the month of August begins to wane, it is time to start planning my fall vegetable garden.

As a child, I would enjoy sitting down with my dad’s newest Burpee catalog, looking at the newest vegetable and flower seed offerings.  Now times have changed and instead of looking through a paper catalog, I was looking at a ‘virtual’ online catalog of numerous seed company sites.  One that I especially liked was Botanical Interests.   They offer high quality flower and vegetable seed at reasonable prices.  Even if you do not purchase seeds from them, they offer extremely helpful growing tips for each type of seed that they sell.  I have seen them for sale at some local nurseries and they are also available online as well.

Okay, back to my planning.  I have cleaned out much of my vegetable garden, which leaves a tomato plant (which weathered the summer heat very well under shade cloth), a pumpkin plant that is growing mostly outside of the garden and a few basil plants.  The landscape designer in me loves nothing better than a mostly blank palette 🙂  Tuesday evening, found me at Double S Farms having our weekly dinner with family and my mother (Pastor Farmer) brought out a wooden chest full of seeds.  She had more than she needed and offered to let me have some.  *I am often blessed by the generosity of the residents (my mother, sister and her family) of Double S Farms.

Needless to say, I was in heaven.  The different seeds were stored in tiny plastic bags and then placed inside of little Gerber baby food containers.  I opened the broccoli container and was so happy to find 4 different types of varieties to choose from.
I filled up my share of Ziploc bags with all different types of seeds.  Have you heard the phrase “My eyes were bigger then my stomach?”  Well, in this case I believe that my eyes were bigger than my vegetable garden.  I know that I do not have room to grow everything that I would like, but I have some definite favorites that I will plant.
  The time to plant many vegetables and flowers begins in September in the lower deserts and I hope to find room to plant the following…..
Broccoli
Garlic
Scallions
Carrots
Lettuce
I am not sure that I have room for the following, but they can also be planted in September in our area:
Beets
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Eggplant
Peas
&
Radishes
I have also decided to plant some companion plants to help attract beneficial insects and deter damaging insects to my vegetable garden.
 Bachelor’s Button / Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
I plan on planting Bachelor’s Button, Nasturtiums and Marigolds.  Each of these flowers can be directly sown by seed.
Bachelor’s Button can be planted September through November from seed and attracts many different pollinators to my garden.
Nasturtium is a powerhouse in the vegetable garden.  They repel damaging insects such as aphids, whiteflies as well as some beetles.  Another benefit is that insects that eat scale are also attracted by nasturtiums.  *A lesser known benefit is that both the flowers and leaves of nasturtium are edible.  The leaves taste great with mixed salad greens and the flowers make a pretty garnish.

Marigolds are well known for their ability to repel damaging insects in the garden such as aphids, whiteflies, crickets and grasshoppers.  French Marigolds (Tagetes patula), also help to repel nematodes in the soil.  The bright flowers of all Marigolds attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Here are a few other great companion plants you may consider growing in and around your vegetable garden….

Alyssum (attracts pollinators, beneficial insects)
Basil (attracts pollinators, repels damaging insects)
Chives (repels damaging insects)
Coriander (attracts pollinators, repels damaging insects, attracts beneficial insects)
Lavender (attracts butterflies & bees, repels damaging insects)
Petunias (repels aphids)
Rosemary (flowers attract pollinators, repels damaging insects)
Thyme (attracts beneficial insects while repelling damaging insects)

Bagged Compost

 I plan on preparing the soil in my raised vegetable garden by adding a mixture of compost and aged steer manure.  *If you are like me and do not compost (I really should), or have cows in your backyard (I really don’t want any), you can buy both at your local big box store or local nursery.  I apply compost and manure twice a year – in in late summer and late winter.


Other types of manure that are recommended for vegetable gardens are chicken and horse.  Just make sure that they are aged and not fresh – fresh manure will burn your plants.

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a man who shovels manure for his wife’s vegetable garden.
I am so blessed 🙂 

**Many professional and amateur vegetable gardeners have their own special garden soil recipe and they all have great results using different ratios and types of compost, manure and other amendments.  What this really means to the backyard gardener is that there is no one ‘right’ recipe.  Rather, there are many.  The one overriding ingredient is compost.  Even if compost is all you use for your garden soil, you will grow great vegetables.


I tend to go organic when I work in my vegetable garden in terms of fertilizer, but I have been known to apply a slow-release synthetic fertilizer in the past.  If you decide to use a slow-release synthetic fertilizer, the labeling will tell you how long the fertilizer should last once applied.  However, in our warm climate, it will not last that long….cut the length of time in half to determine how long it will really last.  

 Big box stores are now carrying a wide variety of organic fertilizers.  I saw an organic fertilizer blend there just the other day that combined both bone meal, blood meal, micro-organisms as well as myccorhizae, which would work just great in my garden.  *Mycorrhizae is a fungus that forms an extremely beneficial symbiotic relationship with plants via their roots.


And so, this weekend will find me adding my semi-annual application of compost/manure and organic fertilizer to my vegetable garden and allowing it to rest for a week or so before planting my seeds, which will actually help the soil. 


I can almost taste my fresh grown vegetables…..


For more information about vegetable gardening including what and when to plant, you can check out this link.