Green Your Life: Adventures in Container Gardening

http://www.motherearthliving.com/In-the-Garden/green-your-life-adventures-in-container-gardening.aspx

As a constant renter, I don’t yet know the joys of a permanent outdoor garden. I don’t want to spend the time and energy planting a garden outside that I’m just going to have to leave, so I’ve turned my efforts to container gardening.

To keep my potted plants healthy—and at the same time reduce my trash heap—I sprinkle crushed egg shells, coffee grounds and used tea leaves over the soil’s surface. I don’t have the room or means to start a compost pile, so I do this instead of using store-bought fertilizer. Plus, I’ve read that eggshells help keep garden pests, such as slugs, away from your growing bounty.

eggshells
Instead of throwing eggshells away, I crush them up and put them in with my vegetable and herb plants. The extra nutrients have really helped my cilantro grow quickly from seeds to sprouts. Photo By Dani Hurst.

Another trick I’ve learned along the way is to use a paper coffee filter at the bottom of each pot as a soil catcher. Proper drainage is important to the health of any potted plant, but the water that drains out takes vital soil and nutrients with it. With a paper filter in place, the water is allowed to drain without soiling any surfaces, plus you’ll never have to throw the filter away because it should eventually decompose.

One of the best things about container gardening is getting creative with the containers for your plants, and I’ve come across two excellent ideas that combine gardening and repurposing. If you are a coffeehouse frequenter, those plastic frozen frappe cups are probably piling up in your car. Rather than throwing them all away, try this idea I got from a past issue of ReadyMade magazine that transforms them into self-contained herb patches. Simply poke holes in the bottom for drainage (and a few in the top if there isn’t already a hole there), fill with good quality potting soil and plant your seeds. Now all you need is some sun, and your herbs will soon flourish.

coffee cup planter
When making your coffee cup planter, be sure to add soil to the top of the cup because it will settle some when watered. I recently planted basil seeds in one, and I can’t wait to see them sprout. Photo By Dani Hurst.

The second idea comes from Mother Earth News magazine. Use plastic lettuce clamshell boxes to grow new crops of lettuce. Just cut eight or nine slits in the bottom of each clamshell, fill with two inches of damp potting soil, add about 25 seeds, close the tops and place them under a grow light or in a sunny, warm spot. In about five days the seeds should start sprouting, at which point you can remove the clamshell tops and use them on the bottom of each as watering trays. To harvest your lettuce crop—which should be ready for its first cutting in three or four weeks—just hold the boxes sideways over a colander and snip the leaves.

These are just a few of the container gardening tricks I’ve learned so far, and I’d like to know what tips you have to offer. Please share your container gardening experiences in the comments box below.