At long last we have started our container garden! Jesse and I spent Saturday afternoon shopping for supplies and plants at McGuckin, our local old-fashioned hardware store. Before starting out on our adventure, I read up on buying seedlings, soil and fertilizer in my library copy of The Bountiful Container. (If you’re also new to container gardening, I’ve found The Bountiful Container to be a very helpful resource – it’s all about growing herbs, vegetables and fruits in containers.)
Shopping for Plants and Supplies
Despite my research, I still felt very awkward and insecure at the store. To put off having to look at soil and fertilizers, we first gathered easy supplies: a watering can, a trowel, and a 2-gallon plastic pot and corresponding saucer. Eventually, however, we had to venture into the soil aisle. We knew we wanted an organic potting soil, but there were four or five to pick from. Eventually we settled on one that included ocean-based ingredients. (Is ingredients the right word when talking about soil?) It was one of the more expensive varieties, which according to the books I’ve read is usually an indication of quality. Possibly overkill, but Jesse reasoned that we could always buy a less expensive option and mix the two together if we have to buy more soil for our later plantings.
Apparently we looked like we really didn’t know what we were doing, because a saleswoman offered to help us as we stood staring at all the fertilizer options. On the advice of The Bountiful Container, I’d already decided we should go with a balanced fertilizer, so the saleswoman helped us pick out a good organic option. She recommended also buying a phosphorus fertilizer for any plants with blossoms (probably only peppers and tomatoes for us), so we’ll probably get one of those later on in the season.
Having conquered soils and fertilizer, we were ready to pick out our seedlings. As I mentioned in my first gardening post, we’ve been planning on growing peppermint, lettuce, peppers, basil and tomatoes. Basil, peppers and tomatoes aren’t supposed to be planted here for another couple of weeks, so we only planned to pick out peppermint and lettuce on this trip. The planting dates for both had actually already passed, but since we were moving to our new place around the planting dates I’d decided that we might as well just wait to buy and plant until we felt ready.
We had no trouble finding a peppermint seedling, but it seems we may have waited too long for lettuce. McGuckin had only a few seedlings left, all of which looked ragged and unappealing. We visited one more gardening store in the hopes of finding seedling somewhere else, but finding no success there I decided against driving all over town. Apparently lettuce is a late spring and early fall crop, performing better in cool weather than hot, so I think we may have missed our planting window. I think I’m okay with that, although now we need to decide what we’re going to plant in these garden socks rather than the lettuce. Any suggestions?
Our First Planting
Once home, I filled the 2-gallon plastic pot with our new potting soil and then transplanted our new little peppermint plant. Mint grows well in full sun to partial shade, so Jesse picked out a good place on the balcony. Right now I think it looks rather sad and lonely out there all by itself:
Very soon after we’d put the mint out it proceeded to pour for the next several hours. Thankfully our new plant (I have started to refer to him as “Minty” )seems to have survived the experience.
There were a ton of basil seedlings at McGuckin. I really, really wanted to buy our basil right then and bring it home to plant. Our planned planting day for basil isn’t for another two weeks, however, since the last frost is so late here, so Jesse convinced me that we should really wait. It has been unseasonably warm here this spring, but we did have a couple days in the 50s last week and it still gets quite cold at night, so waiting is probably the safer option. My Memorial Day weekend is shaping up to be quite eventful – I’ll be buying my new washer and then planting the rest of our plants!
While out shopping, we also discovered another type of container that we may want to try: Smart Pots. They’re made of a breathable fabric and are thus supposed to be excellent for container gardening because the aeration encourages good root structure. We ran into them at the other little gardening shop we visited. Rather to my surprise, they can be reused year to year and were comparable or less expensive than the similarly-sized plastic pots we found at McGuckin. So, I think we’ll be trying at least some of these for our containers.
Yes, our new apartment is a work in progress.
Are you gardening this year? How’s your garden going? Please share in the comments!
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