In years past, we’ve tried futilely to grow a variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers in our designated garden areas of our yard. Each year, some part of that has been a tremendous disappointment. Part of the issue is the soil itself. We have a large evergreen tree in the back yard that provides and excess of shade, an excess of protection from rainfall, and an excess of needles that lend a terrible acidity to the soil. Between not getting enough shade, not getting enough rain and poor nutrient values in the soil, everything we plant has a terrible time trying to grow.
We’ve tried several things over the last few years. Much more regular watering helps, obviously. We’ve added better quality soil to try and make the soil better for growing. We’ve even fertilized the plants. Each year, something happens to throw the wrench in the cogs. Last year, we had a major slug infestation, and what did grow was quickly eaten by the slimy creatures. With each year’s problems, we learn something new that we won’t repeat in future years. Last year, we learned that, while fallen leaves do provide good insulation for plants over the winter, a abnormally wet spring makes them a wonderful breeding bed for slugs. Maybe, after we’ve learned enough lessons, we’ll finally get a decent crop out of our garden. Until then, we’re changing it up a bit.
This year, we’re giving a container garden a go. We purchased several (8-10) containers of various sizes and shapes, filled them with potting soil and topsoil and purchased all the seeds we thought we might need for the year.
I started the seeds nice and early (perhaps a bit too early) and quickly encountered my failure for the year. Not only did very few of the seeds sprout, but those that did quickly died and began to mold. Nothing that I grew in that first batch of seeds is currently still with us. I bought some different seed starting supplies, and tried again. I got slightly better results, and a majority of those seeds survived. Any that still didn’t grow, I replaced with plants from a nursery.
So far, we’re only a few weeks into the growing season, but several of our containers are doing quite well. The potato planters are growing very well, and the onions (note: all not seeds that I started.) are doing well. Of the things that I started as seeds, the only things that are really doing well so far are the carrots. But, the other stuff is growing, and hopefully, will continue to.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the financial side of all of this a bit. When you stop to consider the burden of having to buy most of the supplies this first year, it would have been far more economical to just buy the produce from the farmer’s market. But, should we pull it off, and produce a good enough crop, we’ll continue it in future years. Each successive year will make it a bit cheaper, as most of the containers and supplies are reusable. This year, it’s probably creeping up to about $100 in total expenses, but next year will likely be a lot closer to the $20-$30 mark. For $20-$30, the produce grown will be very cheap compared to what we could get it for at the farmer’s market. Plus, it will have that little extra bit of flavor that gets added from having grown it yourself.
How do you garden? Do you have the luxury of a large plot for a garden, or do you make do with containers? Do you have any great tips for container gardening (or gardening in the presence of a evergreen) that you’d care to share?
I started this blog to share what I know and what I was learning about personal finance. Along the way I’ve met and found many blogging friends. Please feel free to connect with me on the Beating Broke accounts: Twitter and Facebook.
You can also connect with me personally at Novelnaut, Thatedeguy, Shane Ede, and my personal Twitter.
Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog says
sounds like you’ve had quite the up-and-down season already! I got 1 tomato and 1 pepper plant this year, and am hoping that we will get something out of it. We are going to be gone a while and i need to figure out a way to water it.
I planted a container garden when I lived in a top floor apartment. The garden flourished, but I had only planted flowers and ivy. The next few times I tried to container garden, I used a Topsy Turvy tomato planter — with few tomatoes as a result! I hope you have better results! My mother in law always has great success with her container gardens, so it is possible 🙂
Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says
I wish I could have a garden. Forget about the financial reason, I’m more interested in the reasons my mouth and stomach are concerned with! I do a lot of cooking, so having fresh herbs to use within a few feet would be ideal, and to make my salsa/marinara sauce I could certainly benefit from fresh-picked tomatoes and peppers.
Alas, living in a condo with a screened-in patio giving off large shadows just doesn’t make for the ideal situation. People have suggested using an indoor grow system, but it doesn’t interest me to have all that equipment taking up space and sitting out for all to see.
@Jeff Yeah, it’s been very up and down. Looks like everything is at least growing now, with the exception of the beans. Might have to replant those or pick up some plants. The potato plants are out of control!
@Christa We tried one of the topsy-turvy planters a few years back, and had terrible luck with it. We’ve got one more, and I was thinking about using it, but will have to get some more dirt first.
@Eric Don’t you have any windows? You might be able to DIY a small planter together for a window and grow some herbs at least.
Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says
I actually do have windows, but they are in the bedrooms. That leaves me SOL until I move. I can always do something at my parents’ house and just go every once in a while to pick what I need. They aren’t very far and I’m in that part of town quite often so it won’t be out of my way.
Seems like you might have watered the seedlings too much, they generally just need to stay moist until they develop their true leaves. It can always vary plant to plant of course, I always double check information on the varieties I use.
I currently container garden on my patio and indoors. My biggest tips would be to help cut down costs by checking freecycle, craigslist and asking friends or neighbors. I gathered almost all of my containers this way, and built a raised bed with reclaimed bricks from another garden. Also, when it comes to containers, bigger is better!
Frugal Gardener says
You should check out a couple of things, one is Larry Hall’s Self-Watering Rain Gutter Grow System (search youtube and it will come up) which is container gardening on steroids and “Back to Eden” method which employs wood mulch compost and nothing else. FYI The Back to Eden guy is very religious and quotes scripture in his movie a lot, but you have to see his method. I’ll be establishing such a garden this fall, hopefully. A lot of people are raving about the results of both methods of gardening.