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March 5, 2018

How to Start a Container Garden


How to increase your garden space by adding containers - from Oak Hill Homestead

Before we moved to Oklahoma I had a beautiful little garden patch in the "black swamp" area of the Michigan/Ohio border. The black soil was fertile and gorgeous, the summer rains were plentiful, and all I had to do was pull weeds and harvest the bounty. Moving to Oak Hill was a shock. 

Our soil here is either silica sand or orange clay, depending on where you dig. Rain seems to be either drought or flood, and the summer heat is brutal. 

I've been amending the soil for a decade and learning what does and doesn't work to actually produce food in my garden. And now that my gardening efforts are more successful, I'd like to grow more. I'd like my garden to be twice as big as it is now - and someday it will be, but I've been slower than I'd like at building more raised beds. In the meantime, I'm growing some plants in containers to create more space.

If you too are wishing your garden were bigger, you don't have a garden at all, or your only outdoor space is a deck or a balcony or a patio, you should think about adding some containers for extra planting space. You'll have a great deal more space available and you can put plants where you want them, instead of being confined to a small plot of dirt in a not-so-great spot.

Have a shady yard but your deck is in full sun? Put containers on the deck. Do you rent a home and can't replace the lawn with a garden? Use containers.

You'll do equally well planting seeds or transplants in your pots and planters. At the end of this post you'll find a giveaway of seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for a lucky winner. (And if you're not the lucky one, you'll still find great seeds to order at their website.)


What to grow in containers

First decide what you'd like to grow. I know that sounds kind of silly, but you don't want to waste precious space on plants that your family won't eat, right? Knowing what you'd like to grow will also help you gather containers in the sizes and shapes that will work best.

How to increase your garden space by adding containers - from Oak Hill Homestead

Lettuce, spinach, and radishes grow well in wide containers. They don't have to be deep containers since these plants don't have a large root system. You can grow a small lettuce patch in a large, wide container. (You'll find some tips on growing looseleaf lettuce in this post.)

Carrots, on the other hand, need a deep container because, well, carrots are long so they need plenty of space to grow down deep. But you might not know that there are quite a few varieties of smaller carrots that will do well in containers; look for "baby carrots." Oxheart carrots are round and about the size of golf balls. The longer varieties can also be harvested early so they won't need such a deep pot.

How to increase your garden space by adding containers - from Oak Hill Homestead

Beets and other root crops will fit in large pots, and herbs are very happy and attractive in terra cotta pots. Bush beans are better-suited to containers than pole beans.

Look for "bush" or "dwarf tomato" varieties for plants that will remain small. Determinate tomato varieties won't grow as large as indeterminate plants. Of course, you can always grow your favorite big tomato variety in a large container such as a five-gallon bucket and use a trellis or tomato cage so the plants grow upwards instead of sprawling all over the place.

Most pepper varieties have compact plants although there are exceptions. While they don't need a trellis, peppers appreciate being staked or caged in some way to keep them upright when the fruits are ripe and heavy.


Where to find containers

If you're like me, now you're thinking of all the containers you'll need and are ready to faint. It would be prohibitively expensive to buy them all!

Fortunately there are many ways to save money on containers - because really, anything that will hold soil will work. Be creative and use what you have, or can get for free or cheap. Ask your family, friends and neighbors if they have anything you might be able to use.

Nursery pots - the kind that trees and shrubs are sold in - are perfect. Some are a bit flimsy but they've lasted for a season or two in my garden in the past. Be sure to wash them out well before using.

Five-gallon buckets are easy to find. You might be able to score some from your local grocery store's deli section just by asking. I have some from a local restaurant that originally held pickles and mushrooms. Fortunately my plants don't care that I never did get rid of the pickle smell.

How to increase your garden space by adding containers - from Oak Hill Homestead

Big black rubber feed tubs are relatively inexpensive if you need a really large pot. I have one with a crack so I didn't even have to drill drainage holes in it. (Oh, be sure to drill drainage holes in any container that doesn't have them. You don't want your plants to rot in too-wet soil.) I've grown tomatoes and even zucchini in these tubs, and a large one could hold a salad garden.

Children's wading pools will be in the stores very soon.

If you have indoor cats (or friends who do), recycle cat litter buckets as pots.

You can even grow plants in empty feed sacks, and if you're like me you have a lot of those. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the sack, add soil to the desired depth and roll the top of the bag down to add stability to your planter. They only last a season, but at least you're getting one more use out of them before they go in the trash can or the fire pit.

How to increase your garden space by adding containers - from Oak Hill Homestead

Think outside the box and look around at what you already have. A laundry basket, a metal trash can (I've grown potatoes in a trash can), even a wooden box or an old drawer from a discarded dresser can hold a plant or two.


Caring for your container garden

Fill your pots and tubs with good quality soil and compost, and follow directions on the seed packets for spacing and planting depth.

Most vegetables do best in full sun, but some plants can tolerate a partly sunny area. A general rule is if you're growing the plant for the fruit (tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, etc), it needs full sun. Greens and root vegetables are usually ok with a bit of shade. (If all you have available is shade, take heart! You can read about how I've made it work in this post.)

Container gardens have a big advantage: you can move plants from a poor location to a better spot. If your fence blocks the sun in the height of summer, you can simply move your pots. If the summer sun turns out to be too intense for some of your plants, you can easily move them to a shadier, cooler location.

Plants in containers can't send their roots deep into the soil to reach moisture in dry weather, so you'll need to water them regularly. Don't forget to feed your container garden with your favorite organic fertilizer such as comfrey tea. (Here's how to make comfrey tea.)




I've teamed up with six of my favorite bloggers to bring you a giveaway sponsored by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I hope you'll visit each blogger's post for some great gardening advice and ideas. You'll find them all here:

SoulyRested - One Thing Every Gardener Should Do

Spring Lake Homestead - Garden Planning

Bloom Where You're Planted - My Favorite Seed Company Is Giving Away Seeds!

The Farmer's Lamp - DIY a Free Pallet Garden in 4 Easy Steps

Lumnah Acres - Starting Our Seeds

Mid-Life Blogger - Swiss Chard, Stained Glass in the Garden

To PIN this post and links to all seven of these great, informative garden posts
in one convenient place, save this image to Pinterest:

How to start a container garden, where to find containers and what plants will grow best - from Oak Hill Homestead


If you'd like to learn more about Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, you might enjoy this post by one of our giveaway hosts, Michelle at Mid-Life Blogger, who visited Baker Creek Seeds last year: A Passion for Seeds. It was worth the drive!


You could win seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in this giveaway that ends 3/11/18

Now for the giveaway! The generous folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have offered to give one of our readers his or her choice of ten seed packets from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website or their printed catalog.

Our giveaway begins Monday, March 5, 2018 at 5:00 am Central Time, ends on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 11:00 PM Central Time, and is open to US residents age 18 and over. Giveaway Tools will choose a random winner from all of the entries. We will notify the winner who will then have 72 hours to respond; if the winner fails to respond a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be shipped directly to the winner by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Enter using the form below. After completing each entry option be sure to come back here and click “Submit” so your entry will be valid. Be sure to confirm your email when you subscribe to a blog: if you receive an email confirmation that you signed up, you need to reply to that email for your entry to be valid.

Good luck!

Terms and conditions: Open to USA residents age 18 and over. Giveaway begins March 5, 2018 at 5:00 AM and ends March 11, 2018 at 11:00 PM Central Time. Winner will be randomly chosen by Giveaway Tools and will be notified by email sent to the address they used to enter. Winner will have 72 hours to respond with their mailing address. If winner fails to respond, another winner will be chosen. Prize will be shipped directly from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.






This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


~~~~~

My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. Follow me on Facebook and Pinterest or
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24 comments:

  1. I started gardening in containers way back when we were living in a rent house while building a custom home on some acreage. I couldn’t wait to get started! You have very comprehensive info for people wanting to get started that way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Michelle, I hope readers find it helpful. You can garden anywhere with containers!

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  2. I Entered. Thanks. Nancy

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't see a place to click "I Entered" for Baker Seeds Giveaway, but I did submit on each affiliate link. Hope i didn't mess up! Thank you for container gardening info. I have cut a slit down the middle of soil bag and planted inside but have never considered recycling my feed bags as garden containers! Thank You!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Goatmamma, if you email me at kathi@oakhillhomestead.com I'll check the entries to make sure you got them all. :-)

      Delete
  4. Anonymous10:21 PM

    Today, I planted radishes in a large flower pot and have lettuce coming up in larger flower pot I planted on Feb. 20th. Love having these pots closer to the house than the garden where I can keep an eye on them to keep them watered when needed and harvest when ready.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's another advantage of container gardening: you can put them wherever you want, including right next to the house. :-)

      Delete
  5. Thanks for getting this giveaway together, it's great!
    Containers can be so beautiful and versatile, unfortunately, I usually start forgetting to water them and then they're doomed!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. They are definitely more dependent on being watered regularly than plants in the ground.

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  6. I am spending this weekend getting some seeds planted so that I can container garden this year!! My daughter and I are so excited!!!! Thank you for all the info! It will help so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you have a great garden season and enjoy gardening together!

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  7. I earned two entries but I don't see where to click "I Entered." Am I missing something?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you'd like to email me at kathi@oakhillhomestead.com and let me know which entries you used, I'll check to make sure they went through.

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  8. Hoping I win! Single mother of three kids. We just moved into an apartment in November, unfortunately it was what I could afford even though we would of loved a space with a yard for gardening and playing. Making the best out of our situation and growing a container garden outside of a window on a roof top. I have been trying everywhere to win Baker creek seeds because I just cant afford them and have to buy cheeper brands but want the best to feed my children! Cant wait to check out all the great information you shared in this giveaway!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you, Rebecca! You have the spirit of a self-sufficient homesteader! Good luck in the giveaway!

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  9. Ryan - Kansas9:51 AM

    Just discovered Baker Creek Seeds this year, and am planning a 100% heirloom garden! Thanks for the giveaway, and the great tips!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Ryan. I'm glad you found the tips helpful!

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  10. Denise Casey11:27 AM

    I am addicted to Baker Creek seeds! I love this opportunity to get in touch with bloggers to learn about their gardening adventures and knowledge ❤

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you stopped by, Denise! Good luck!

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  11. Love all these creative ideas, Kathi! Our container gardening last summer was not successful as we get only a couple hours of good sunlight on our back deck. This year I'll be choosing shade plants to liven up our outside living space. But I'm looking around for creative and unique container ideas!

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    Replies
    1. I hope you have more success this year, Linda.

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  12. I love gardening in containers - it means everyone can have a garden even if they have very little space - or as in your case, they can expand their garden to include plants the soil might not support. You've given such good advice in this post, Kathi. Thank you so much for sharing it at the Hearth and Soul Link Party. Shared on the H&S FB page and I've tweeted your giveaway as well. Also followed you on Instagram - I didn't realise I hadn't done that already! Hope you are having a lovely weekend!

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    Replies
    1. Hi April! Thank you so much for tweeting the giveaway and for following on Instagram. Hope you're enjoying your weekend too!

      Delete

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