Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: containers (page 1 of 2)

A Bit of Green in a White World

Despite loving the freedom of a few gardening-free months, there is something to be said for having a little life in the house. A piece of green to brighten up a room. I have one small houseplant in my tiny house — a Christmas cactus my parents hauled out from California when they helped me move. It must still be in a bit of shock, because while usually by this time it’s overflowing with pink, so far this year there isn’t even a hint of bud or bloom. Still, the green is dark and glossy and quite nice atop the wide bookcase against the back wall of the room. The thing is, I want more.

There is an empty pot in the bathroom waiting for a Sansevieria, for starters. I just haven’t found the right plant yet. And then this morning, I saw this:


And I love it.

Now, living in ~ 300 square feet, I don’t exactly have room for a 28 gallon fish tank filled to the brim with skulls and horses and plants, but I could certainly find space at the edge of my desk for something smaller… say, something like one of these:

Here’s what I love about terraria:

– They’re easy to make from stuff you may already have lying around the house, or can find cheap at thrift stores or yard sales

– They can be big or small — whatever fits your space

– They are low maintenance because they are largely self-containted (especially good in water-poor areas like the desert)

– The sky’s the limit in terms of design — create a mini tropical rain forest, a sparse, cactus-inhabited desert, a green mossy hill, or a kitchen herb garden in jars; add marbles or dinosaurs or tiny farmers with shovels and hoes

A few things to keep in mind:

– Choose plants that won’t outgrow the container too quickly

– Keep them in a place where they won’t get direct light

– Water only as needed — there’s no hole in the bottom so excess water won’t drain out

– Remember, the bigger the container, the more plant variety and creativity there’s room for

Check out some of these simple DIY terrarium tutorials (no reason for me to reinvent the wheel when these folks did such a good job with theirs). And as for me… I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the perfect tank or jar and will post progress as I make it.

Fish Tank Terrarium

Apothecary Jar Terrarium

Lightbulb Terrarium

 

Finally, a Start

Yesterday I actually got outside for a little gardening and met my goals for the 350 garden challenge, finally planting the kale and lettuce plants as well as a bag of organic grocery-store sunchokes that had started to sprout. As planned, I put them in empty pots that I found around the yard, that way I can move them around if I need to (the weather report is still showing nights in the 30s for the next couple of weeks). Now I just need to make sure I water them very, very regularly, but at least that will ensure I get out into the garden on a regular basis.

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to start actually putting things into the ground, but until then, here are a few pictures to tide you over.

The Windowfarms Project

I have always believed that even if you don’t have an inch of yard, you can still grow your own food. Well, one woman in Brooklyn has turned indoor growing into an art… and a science. Check it out.

Learn more at WindowFarms.org.

(Special thanks to Home Grown Edible Landscapes for the link!)

Unused Ground

Looking at my pictures you may be wondering why I plant everything in containers when I have that nice big piece of dirt just past the concrete patio. After all, planting in the ground conserves and retains water, gives plants more root-growing room, and in general leads to healthier, stronger plants. My reasons are three-fold:

  • I rent, and when it comes time to move,  it’s much easier to take my plants with me if I don’t have to dig them out of the ground
  • I am not the first to rent, which means I have absolutely no idea what may or may not have been poured into the ground by previous tenants
  • My apartment is built on landfill and no matter how good the topsoil is that they imported, there’s no way to know what lies beneath, and with food crops, I’d just rather not risk it

Help Your Plants Beat the Heat

Summer heat is already beating down across much of the nation, spelling disaster for many young seedlings. So what can you do to protect your future food investment? Try these tips for how to help your plants beat the heat.

Water

Check moisture levels daily, maybe even more often for container plants. When the mercury starts cruising up over 85… 95… 105 water evaporates in a flash. And when your plants are young, their tender root systems can be irreparably damaged before you know it.

Water first thing in the morning before the sun gets too high and the day gets too hot. This helps in two ways. First, plants draw up water through the roots as the temperature rises. If the soil is dry they will draw up only air. Secondly, any water dripped on the leaves can turn into tiny magnifying glasses burning the leaves with the sun’s heat.

Mulch

When it’s hot out, you’ll need to do more than water regularly, you’ll need to preserve as much of that water as you can. Adding a good, thick layer of mulch around your plants can help keep the moisture in the soil. As an added bonus it will also help keep your plants’ roots cool.

Shade

Sometimes, the only way to keep your plants from whithering under the sun, is to move them to the shade until the worst of the heat passes. If you plant in containers, all you need to do is pull them to a shadier spot. If you plant in the ground however, you can still protect them by putting up a temporary shade cloth. A few bamboo poles and an old sheet is an inexpensive and simple solution.

Keep a close eye out for the signs your plants might be suffering from the heat including wilting, brown edges and scorch marks. If you notice any of these signs, act quickly and your precious plants can live to fruit another day.

Plant a Hanging Salad Basket

Here’s a quick, easy way to have fresh greens all summer long (or year-round if you live in a mild-winter area). All you need are a few simple, inexpensive items:

  • Hanging planter
  • Potting soil or soiless potting mix
  • Lettuce or mixed greens seeds
  • A shady location to hang your basket
  • Wire screen (optional)

I selected a plastic self-watering container because it needs to be watered less often than other hanging baskets, but just about any hanging container with good drainage will do. Once you select your container, just:

  • Add soil
  • Sprinkle the seeds on top
  • Water gently so the seeds don’t get washed away
  • Hang the basket in a lightly shaded spot — tree branches work great because they allow some sun to pass through their leaves while protecting the tender lettuce from the worst afternoon heat

If you have birds or squirrels in your area, you may want to cover the basket with wire screen to protect the seedlings from getting snapped up before they are big enough for your plate.

After that, just keep the soil evenly moist and you’re on your way to delicious gourmet greens at a fraction of their store-bought price. For best results and to keep the goodness coming:

  • Snip only a few leaves from each plant at a time
  • When a plant is done producing, pull it out and sprinkle in more seeds

Enjoy!

Grow a Salsa Garden

This year, give your Cinco de Mayo celebration a gardener’s twist by planting a salsa garden. It’s a great way to add fresh latin flavor to any meal.

For my salsa garden I chose:

  • 1 Cherokee Purple tomato
  • 1 Garden Salsa chili pepper
  • 1 Jalapeno peper
  • Several onions (I purchased a small six-pack and shared it with friends)
  • 1 cilantro

You’ll need:

 

  • A large pot and potting soil or clear planting area in your garden that receives at least six full hours of sun per day
  • One tomato cage per tomato plant
  • Mulch
  • A variety of salsa vegetable and herb plants

 

To plant your salsa garden:

  • Clear your planting bed of any rocks and weeds (find container planting instructions and tips here)
  • Leaving your plants in their pots, arrange them on the soil to decide where each plant will go–put the tallest plants in the back so they don’t block the sun from reaching the smaller plants
  • Dig a hole for each plant slightly wider and deeper than its current pot
  • Plant each plant
  • Water thouroughly
  • Mulch

Be sure to water regularly throughout the season and by early august, you should have all the makings of the perfect fiesta.

Have more space? Consider planting a dwarf lime tree or an indoor avocado for even more options.

Dig deeper:
A Salsa Garden with Everything but Nachos

Planting Containers

Once you’ve selected your container and decided which plants to fill it with, putting it all together is a breeze.

  1. Ensure your container has enough drainage, if not, drill some additional holes
  2. Cover holes with fine mesh, cheesecloth, or coffee filters to prevent soil from running out of the pot
  3. Fill your pot with soil; do not use soil from the garden as it may contain deseases or impurities which could become concentrated within the container and damage plants
  4. Leaving your plants in their pots, arrange them on the soil to decide where each plant will go, putting the tallest plants in the back so they don’t block the sun from reaching the smaller plants– be sure to pay close attention to the spacing requirements, especially with seeds (Tip: In containers, plant seeds approximately 1/3 closer together than in the garden to maximize space.)
  5. Dig a hole for each plant slightly wider and deeper than its current pot
  6. Plant each plant
  7. Water thouroughly
  8. Mulch to help preserve moisture

That’s it! Happy planting.

Plant an Heirloom Victory Garden

If you’re looking for great taste, want to save your seeds to replant next year, hope to help preserve historic vegetable varieties, or just love plants with a sense of history, an heirloom vegetable garden may be just what you’re looking for.

For my heritage victory garden I chose an assortment of historic American favorites including:

  • 1 Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Buster tomato (Tip: If you have enough space, consider planting an assortment of heirloom tomatoes in a range of sizes, colors, and flavors.)
  • 1 Bull’s Blood beet
  • 1 packet Blue Lake bean seeds
  • 1 packet Danvers carrot seeds (Tip: If you’re planting carrots or other root vegetables in a container, select a dwarf variety to avoid mishapen roots.)
  • 1 packet Pink Beauty radish seeds

If you you have trouble finding heirloom seeds in your local nursery, try buying online. Seed Savers Exchage offers a wide variety of heritage vegetable seeds and has recently started shipping transplants as well.

You’ll need:

  • A large pot and potting soil or clear planting area in your garden that receives at least six full hours of sun per day
  • One tomato cage per tomato plant
  • Hooks and garden twine or a small trellis for beans to climb
  • Mulch
  • A variety of heirloom vegetable and herb plants

Plant your heirloom victory garden:

  • Leaving your plants in their pots, arrange them on the soil to decide where each plant will go–put the tallest plants in the back so they don’t block the sun from reaching the smaller plants, be sure to pay close attention to the spacing requirements, especially with seeds (Tip: In containers, plant seeds approximately 1/3 closer together than in a traditional garden to maximize space. Find container planting instructions and tips here.)
  • Dig a hole for each plant slightly wider and deeper than its current pot
  • Plant each plant
  • Water thouroughly
  • Mulch

Be sure to water regularly throughout the season and by late summer, you’ll be ready to declare victory over bland store-bought tomatoes and other long-distance produce.

 

Plant a Pizza Garden

If your family loves Italian food, why not plant a pizza garden? It’s simple, inexpensive and will help you add fresh Italian flair to any meal.

For my container pizza garden I chose:

  • 1 Super Italian Paste tomato
  • 1 Green Bush zucchini (mine came with three seedlings in one pot, and since there wasn’t room for all of them I shared the rest with friends)
  • 1 Italian oregano
  • 1 Genovese basil
  • 1 Italian Pesto basil (Growing Tip:f you’re new to growing a certain type of plant or haven’t had much luck with it in the past, selecting different varieties can improve your chances of success and help you learn which perform best in your area)
  • 3 trailing rosemary (Money Saving Tip: Be sure to check the groundcover section of your nursery–you can get more plants for less money and the smaller individual size makes them easier to work with, I plan to plant the other 3 from the six pack I bought in the pot that holds my Eureka lemon tree)

You’ll need:

  • A large pot and potting soil or clear planting area in your garden that receives at least six full hours of sun per day
  • One tomato cage per tomato plant
  • Mulch
  • A variety of Italian vegetable and herb plants

To plant your pizza garden:

  • Clear your planting bed of any rocks and weeds (find container planting instructions and tips here)
  • Leaving your plants in their pots, arrange them on the soil to decide where each plant will go–put the tallest plants in the back so they don’t block the sun from reaching the smaller plants
  • Dig a hole for each plant slightly wider and deeper than its current pot
  • Plant each plant
  • Water thouroughly
  • Mulch

Be sure to water regularly throughout the season and by late summer, you should have all the makings of the perfect Italian feast.

 

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