This spring and summer I started my first experiments in container gardening. I had ambitious plans, I wanted a vertical wall of edible greenery and containers brimming with deliciousness. Well, it didn't work out exactly the way I envisioned it, but I still had a good time.
1. Fruit Trees: I bought two somewhat mature trees: an avocado and a meyer lemon. After the summer, the lemon is doing really great with lots of fat green lemons ready for a winter harvest. The avocado tree is doing less well. I believe it got too hot and it's leaves turned brown and started dropping. I started giving it more water, then moved it to partial shade and then full shade/dappled sunlight. It seems to be doing better, but no fruit. I'll focus on this a bit more next season.
2. Strawberry Pot: My aunt gave me a couple of her old strawberry pots and I stuffed them full of strawberry plants. These have done really well. At first they produced good fruit, but then slowed down. Although there are 8 plants in the pot, I never got enough strawberries at any one time to eat a bowl of them. I'll add another couple strawberry pots next round.
3. Herbs: I put together several mixed herb pots in large containers. These are doing significantly better than herbs in their own pots. I did a massive culling at the end of summer and dried my own herbs and actually use them in my cooking. I mixed herbs with other flowers in some pots. For some reason, the large containers with various plants seem to do the best. Maybe because it takes more time to dry out.
I've always wanted to grow mint, but as easy as everyone tells me it is, I have not had good luck. Mine always seems to dry out - I guess it's too hot. I've got a new mint pot going with two types of mint. I hope it flourishes. I originally planted a lot of herbs with my avocado tree, but as it was not doing so well, I moved these to other pots. The next time I do more gardening, I will clear out the additional herbs. Here's a list of some of my pots.
- Herb Pot 1: Variegated Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano
- Herb Pot 2: Basil (about 6 plants)
- Herb Pot 3: Variegated Sage
- Herb Pot 4: Mint (2 varieties)
- Mixed Pot: Regular Sage, Lambs Ear, Potato Flower
- Mixed Pot: Avocado Tree, Parsley, Lemon Balm, other plants
4. The Rose: I am not usually a fan of rosebushes, but I have a few favorites. I found one of them - a dusty purple rose with an amazing fragrance in Alice in Wonderland rose bush formation (you know with the long stem and the bunch of roses on the top.) This did great for several months after I got it and I have watched it go through growing the stems, flowers, death and then silent for a while. We're in a silent period right now and I'd love to learn how to make it produce more and more often. I want to move my parsley into the base of this pot because I heard it is supposed to make the blooms smell more intensely.
1. Tomatoes: I have only recently become a tomato fan and my past experiments with growing tomatoes have not been that great. The biggest problem: my tomatoes always seem to attract aphids. This year, I was doing fine - I had some nice tomato starter plants from my aunt. I filled up 20 gallon pots with dirt and was planning to grown them in those.
They started out pretty good for the most part - and then one plant started turning brown. It took me too long to realize what was going on and by then several other of my plants were infested. I tried natural remedies for a bit (that listerine, dish soap, water mix) with no luck and then went straight to the pesticides - which worked, but did not kill everything. I eventually gave up on the tomatoes and threw them all out. The few tomatoes I did get, were not edible anyway. Better luck next time....
2. The Sun: One of the good things about container gardening, is that you can move the pots around depending on the time of year and location of the sun. I have a large back area poured with concrete between several buildings, so I get inconsistent light (both direct and indirect). And it really changes depending on the time of the year.
This summer was really hot - and even though I moved the pots to shady areas, they still suffered. In the hottest weather I would water every day - sometimes twice a day - and I still lost plants. I wanted to set up a drip irrigation system, but it seemed too difficult - especially in my rental. It only made me dream for the day when I have my own bit of earth.
1. Pests: I had completely forgotten about pests and they really got away with literal murder on my container garden. Aphids were my bane - not only on the tomatoes, but they decimated two hanging pots of flowers. Then I had this ninja pest that would eat holes in my sage, basil and other plants. At first I thought I had snails and went on the hunt - but there were no snail trail tell-tales. One morning while watering my garden a huge grasshopper jumped out of my ferns. It was bigger than my index finger. I knew he was the culprit. I chased him down the driveway and into the street and things got much better.
2. Too Much: I was very excited to get started on the container gardening so I went overboard and got a lot of plants. It didn't help much that my aunt (who is very into gardening too) took me out to the growers and we got tiny plants direct from the wholesalers for tiny amounts of money. I got home and went on a marathon potting session, but still barely made a dent in my many plants. Eventually many of them died. I felt bad about that because I hate seeing things die - especially plants that if I was a better tender (or planner) would not have. (Well, they were also slated for the mulcher back at the wholesaler, so I guess in some way I rescued them.)
All in all, I am ok with my container gardening experiment this summer. My main reason for beginning on this was to grow some food to eat - I failed in that. I do plan to try again. I'd really like to do potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions, tomatoes, red pepper, green beans, cucember and greens (lettaces, spinach and chard). I'll pick a few of those to try for the winter.
But really, I dream of this little bit of earth - maybe it's a backyard in LA, maybe it's a small acreage just outside of LA, where I can have chickens, a few goats and a garden with fruit and nut trees. And a lilac bush or two. That's what I really want.