Well its May, which for all intents and purposes means summer has arrived. As I sit on my patio writing this I’m drinking iced tea and pondering whether or not to go to the pool… I kid you not. However, the real reason I am sitting on my patio, instead of inside away from the bugs, humidity, and rather large lizard that is intent on coming near my feet, is to admire my newly established summer container garden! Last weekend I continued the age old tradition of planting on Mother’s Day weekend by taking a trip to Lowes and buying three tomato plants, a package of bush bean seeds, basil seeds, spearmint seeds, and cucumber seeds, two bags of potting soil and two new 5 gallon buckets. All said and done, the total came out to about forty dollars all of which was covered by some gift cards we saved from our wedding… I’ll get back to you when we finish our harvest but I’m pretty sure that is a bargain. All of this was last Friday and much to my surprise, in less than a week, everything has started to sprout except for the mint! That is quite an improvement over waiting for my spinach to sprout!
Here are a few principles I personally followed in setting up my garden:
- Creative/cheap containers: In a minute I will share some pictures of my garden, but you will see that I was not going for attractiveness. I think this is the big difference between gardening for homesteading purposes and gardening as a hobby. That is not to say that homesteaders don’t love to garden or care what their gardens look like, but when you are gardening food to save money it doesn’t make a ton of sense to invest a lot of money into things that don’t affect the quality of the food. An example of this is the 5 gallon buckets. A decorative container at Lowes, of equal size, cost at least 10 dollars. The five gallon buckets in the painting section cost 2 dollars. That means that by sacrificing a little visual appeal and drilling holes in the bottom of the bucket myself I saved 16 dollars! The rest of the buckets I generously got from my father for free because he was finished using them. My point in saying all of this, is that if you are interested in having a container garden of your own, getting creative with your containers will save you a lot of money and thus increase your payoff substantially.
Choose plants the are better suited to containers: While I love the idea of planting only heirloom brands of tomatoes and beans I believe that it is far better to have a successful crop than a poor one founded on ideals, primarily if you only have containers to work with. I guarantee you that the minute I have a raised bed and a yard I will be planting heirlooms but for now I chose hybrid bush tomato plants designed for containers as well as bush beans. The cucumbers are an experiment resulting from a last minute decision so I am not vouching for them quite yet.
Don’t be afraid to be the weird one in the apartment complex: Does anyone else in this apartment complex have 13 pots sitting off of their patio? No. Does anyone else have a compost bin outside of their apartment? No. Do I care? No. People are often afraid to do anything that might draw attention to themselves. So many people have asked me if my property manager cares about my garden. The answer is that my property manager has way bigger fish to fry than my tomato plants and if they ever told me to move them I would understandingly oblige. However, in the mean time fear of being weird is not going to keep me from saving a ton of money of produce and honestly I think my neighbors like the garden.
Finally, credit has to be given to my husband for coming up with the idea to use paint stirrers as garden signs. I was searching for an idea on how to mark the different containers for free and coming up empty when he recommended paint stirrers which we got for free from Lowes!
All of my ramblings aside here is a little tour of my garden. Let me know what you think in the comments section. Are you planting a container garden? Any thoughts or tips?