“Do as I say, not as I do.” Keep it in mind when you read my column. I don’t always follow my own advice, gleaned from reliable sources, not because I don’t agree with it, but because sometimes it’s just too much trouble.
I wanted to plant some herbs and radishes in a large, round container. It was about 12 inches high, by about 30 inches in diameter. It would have needed a lot of soil, at great expense. I had just received a package that came in a large box, filled mostly with foam peanuts. Without testing them to see if they were water soluble, I spilled them into the container, filling it to about a third of the depth, and then added potting soil. The sky was getting very dark. I wanted to finish planting the parsley, cilantro, and radishes before the rain came. I may have forgotten to add fertilizer. I may not have made enough drainage holes in the bottom of the container. A few days later, I noticed that the leaves, instead of being green, as the same herbs in another container were, had turned pink and yellow. The plants were weak and spindly. Could it have been the foam pellets? Do they contain a harmful chemical that destroys plants? More likely, it was the lack of fertilizer or poor drainage. For whatever reason, now I had to transplant the herbs and dump the soil mixture, being careful to separate the foam pellets from the soil and throw them away. Was the soil contaminated? I’m not sure.
The same plants, transplanted to other pots, are now doing well. Container gardening does require special care, careful attention to watering needs, and regular fertilizing, since the nutrients leach out from the frequent watering that they require. The advantages though, are having the plants exactly where you want them, where they can get just the right amount of sun or shade, and being able to move them if desired.
This has been a good growing season, so far. We’ve had enough rain, without the flooding that we had last year, and sunny days. I hope it continues, but if it doesn’t, and there are blank spots to be filled in where something has failed to grow or finished its cycle, this is the time to enjoy searching flea markets, garden shops, and lawn sales, to find some interesting containers, and fill them with new plants. My dahlias are coming up nicely and should be blooming in August, when other flowers are finished. If last year’s mums didn’t come up, it’s time to replace them.
It’s a good time to plant cool weather crops, such as broccoli and cabbage from transplants; lettuce, spinach, carrots, and beets, from seed. You might have to shade them from the hot afternoon August sun, or protect them from an early frost at night, later in the month. Group these fall growing plants together so they can easily get that special attention. All you need is a set of 18-inch metal stakes that you can attach a large sheet of plastic to, making sure that the plastic does not touch the plants.
This does require some extra effort. For most of us, including myself, dreams of fresh, home grown vegetables are as close as we’ll get to extending the growing season in Andes, but then the local farm stands will have an abundant supply!