Planting the Rest of Our Container Garden

Last weekend Jesse and I planted the rest of our container garden. If you haven’t been following my gardening posts, you might want to catch up by reading about planning for my first garden and my first day of gardening.

Our Setup

First of all, let me show you most of the new additions:

That’s one pot of red bell peppers, six pots of basil, one pot of cherry tomatoes and one pot of Early Girl tomatoes. We picked Early Girl because Colorado has a short growing season and, as the name implies, Early Girl starts producing tomatoes earlier than some other varieties. We placed all of these containers against the back wall of the balcony because that’s the area that gets the most sun. We’re also hoping that being against the wall will provide additional heat.

As you can see, we are experimenting with a variety of different styles and sizes of containers. In addition to some basic plastic pots, we decided to also try out Smart Pots. They are the fabric containers in the picture. I’m curious to see whether they live up to their promise as being excellent vehicles for container gardening.

That white bucket on the right was a last minute addition to our setup. It’s actually an old mayonnaise container that Jesse nabbed from food service before we left Whitman. We really didn’t plan on using it to plant anything but we found ourselves with a couple of extra basil plants after everything else had been potted. Not wanting to go back to the store to buy yet another pot and saucer, out came the plastic bucket. It certainly seems functional, although I am a little bummed that it doesn’t exactly match what was promising to be a cute collection of containers. Besides its shape and color, it also features this super attractive graphic:

Ah well.

Speaking of experimenting, we also planted one garden sock in the corner of the balcony:

Originally we’d planned on putting three basil plants in the sock, but using the socks proved to a bit trickier than I was expecting. When I started filling it with dirt, a lot of dirt fell out through the hole. I then tried to insert one of the basil plants into the hole. Unfortunately the hole was slightly too small so I ended up having to squeeze, twist and generally mangle the roots, all things that I’m pretty sure you’re NOT supposed to do to a delicate young plant. (The next day Jesse informed me that we probably were meant to put the plant in through the top and then add dirt on top of that, but of course we didn’t think of this at the time.) I did eventually get it in there, but then when I watered the sock a fair bit of dirt and water came out through the hole, so I’m not sure how long that plant will survive. Because of the dirt and water, we also decided to rig up this setup:

Classy, right? :) Like I said, we’re experimenting this year.

Issues

Remember how I said I know pretty much nothing about gardening? Well, I ran into some issues with all the transplanting. The basil was easy: the plants came in a four pack and each cell was clearly separated from the other cells. The pepper and tomato transplants, however, were more problematic. I’d thought that we were purchasing a single plant each of Early Girl, cherry tomato and red pepper. When I went to transplant, however, I discovered that the plant containers actually consisted of multiple plants. Unlike the basil containers, however, the cells were only partially separated, so when I popped the dirt and plants out of the container everything came out in a solid mass. The roots appeared to be grown together, and I really didn’t know whether I should attempt to separate all the plants, since I thought that would necessitate damaging a lot of the roots. So, I just plunked the whole thing into the center of each pot.

Now I’m thinking that may have been a mistake. Should I have separated each plant and put them in different pots, or at the very least spaced them out in each pot? Maybe the plants will all kill each other off if they’re so close together. I’m not sure what to do now.

I’m also having a problem with chard. We were gifted a container of already planted chard from some friends:

Unfortunately moving to our balcony seems to have inspired the chard to take a turn for the worse. You can see some discoloration on the leaves in that picture, but since I took that picture more than half of the leaves have become discolored and mangled. Some internet searching tells me that it may be leaf miners. I think I’m going to try cutting off all the infected leaves and see if I can find and destroy any eggs. I’m curious whether this infestation would’ve happened anyway, or if perhaps moving to the environment of our balcony spurred things on. Although the chard has always been in a container, it was previously living in our friends’ (traditional) garden, so perhaps there were other organisms keeping these pests in check.

Reflections

Container gardening feels expensive! We’ve spent a lot of money at the hardware store in the last couple weeks. It’s funny, because gardening is usually touted as a great way to save money. Since we’re just starting out, however, we’ve had to invest a fair bit of money in tools, pots, fertilizer, and soil. Buying transplants is also definitely more expensive than starting seeds yourself, so we had to spend more money in that area as well.

The whole endeavor also feels expensive because at this point I don’t really know whether our garden will produce much to eat! Not having any prior gardening experience, I suppose the whole thing could be a bust this first year. Jesse pointed out that we are essentially investing money for the purpose of gaining gardening experience for the future. I can get behind that, although I would be sad if things went horribly wrong the first year.

At least my mint seems to be doing well:

It’s already looking bigger than last week. Maybe it’s enjoying not being alone anymore. :)

This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Fat Tuesday and Traditional Tuesdays.

Are you gardening this year? Please share how it’s going for you!  

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10 Responses to Planting the Rest of Our Container Garden

  1. Great Container Garden! I’ve never done a container garden, but am on my second backyard vegetable garden this year. Thanls for your honesty in the up front cost, and on that silly sock planter. I’ve never seen the sock — is there a certain type of plant that works best in it? The smart pots are really cool though. When I saw the picture, I thought you had just used those fabric grocery bags. Do you think they would work just as well, or is there something special about the smart pots?
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    • Meghan says:

      That’s funny that you thought they were fabric grocery bags. :) I think there’s something special about the Smart Pots. At least, they’re made of a different material than grocery bags, as far as I can tell by just feeling them. The Smart Pots are supposed to be superior to other containers because they allow the roots to breathe, which encourages better root structure. We shall see.

      As for the sock, I think the instructions said that you could grow anything in it. There must be an ideal type of plant for it, though, but I don’t know what it would be! I do think it probably would’ve worked better if I’d put the plant in through the top.

  2. AmandaLP says:

    one of the requirements for my next apartment is outdoor space so I can grow plants!

    Im not sure if you researched this, but the Hybrid Early Girls are now owned by Monsanto. http://capayvalleyfarmshop.com/blog/farmnews/where-have-all-the-early-girls-gone/ there is apparently an open pollinated variety out there as well.
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    • Meghan says:

      I didn’t know that about Monsanto. Thanks for sharing, Amanda. I will have to take that into account for next year.

      And having some outdoor space is great! Our last apartment had no balcony or anything and it got so tiresome after a while. I hope you can find something that works for you in your next apartment.

  3. Tamara says:

    I will be following you as im starting my container garden, but i call it my milk crate farm as im mimicking how River park farm (riverparkfarm.com) grows in their containers. Im nervous as i only have partial sun (4 to 5 hours of sun) right now (it changes season to season) and im really anxious to grow a lot to cut down on my food expenses. If i fail at some stuff, i will just try again in another season (im in zone 8, weeee! lol).

    • Meghan says:

      Zone 8? I’m super jealous, Tamara. :) I hope your garden goes well! You must have a lot of space to be able to grow enough to save a lot on your food bills.

      • Tamara says:

        Thanks Meghan, im jealous of your garden cause you look to get more sun than mine right now. I have a fair amount of room as we have a wrap around balcony, but I would trade that for a full 6 hours of sun!

  4. Plant Stands says:

    I know what you mean about spending money to (hopefully) save money…but just think about how good all that home-grown stuff is going to taste!

  5. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same
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