Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Backyard Gardening

Each year, as spring arrives, I get the urge to refresh my backyard plants. However, although I've had a yard for the past three springs, I haven't taken the leap into a full-fledged in-ground vegetable garden. When I get very ambitious, I try to remember the fact that sometimes I just can't execute things as well as I envision. But instead, I enjoy keeping a manageable container garden each year with my favorite herbs and some pretty flowers.

Growing herbs and vegetables is local, fresh and sustainable!

This spring, inspired by SF Girl By Bay's new container vegetable garden, I began hunting around for a few containers I could repurpose for planting. By hunting for existing containers, I would save money and give a new life to something that could otherwise end up in the trash. During the hunt, I wanted to ask neighbors for items I saw lying around, but never got the courage to do so.

Photo: SF Girl By Bay

After a few weeks of not finding anything to salvage, I ended up using a neglected planter and stand that was already in our yard from the previous owners. So, it might not have been as unique or repurposed as I wanted, but hey, free is free, and reused is reused. The planter joined my vintage recycling bin and secondhand bike basket to form the collection for my container garden.

The next step was to choose herbs and plants. My favorite herbs to cook with are basil, rosemary, and chives, so I started my shopping list with those, and counted how many flower plants I would need.

When planning your own garden, think about the herbs or vegetables you actually eat on a regular basis. No need to plant dill if you hate the flavor!

And always determine where you want to keep your container garden. Grow what works for your yard, not just what you like. When you're researching or shopping, note the best conditions for each plant. If something you like is a full-sun plant, make sure you place it where it can really get enough sun. Follow the plant's tag guidelines as well. The best part about container gardens is that they're mobile. If a plant is starting to wilt, simply move it to a spot where it can thrive more.


I visited a local nursery on a day when they were donating a portion of their proceeds to the Bayou Vermilion District. Plants for me AND support for one of my favorite local organizations? That was a no-brainer!

Always look for a local retail nursery who either plants their own veggies, herbs or flowers, or sources from local growing nurseries. This way, you can know if something was grown sustainably or organically.


I ended up with basil, rosemary, french lavender, a collection of zinnias, a small succulent, and some organic potting soil.

After you transfer your plants to their pots (or the ground), wipe out and recycle the plastic starter pots they came in. Or save and reuse them for starter pots the next season! I always keep a few to use as potting soil scoops. They also can come in handy to keep small items organized in your shed, but make sure to seal up the drain hole if the items are very small.
 


I've really grown to enjoy my salvaged pot that now houses my french lavender and rosemary. The stand allows for a really nice height variety with my other containers.


In doing prep and research for this year's herb garden, I remembered a tip that basil likes to grow close together, so I planted three starters together. They were all growing well until a few days of heavy rain killed one of the starters.

Always make sure your pots can drain water, and if you've got heavy rains coming, move the plants under cover.

Although I've only got two stalks, they are both absolutely thriving these days. It's amazing to see how far they've come in three months, and my dinners have an extra fresh flavor thanks to my abundant supply of basil leaves.


 

When it comes to caring for my container garden, it's a joint effort. If it isn't raining, either my fiance or I will use our rain barrel to hydrate the plants. This way, the garden gets natural water and we save a little extra on our water bill.


I've also conducted a few regrowth experiments this summer, with green onions and romaine lettuce. While the green onions regrew pretty quickly in water, it's important to plant them before they turn to mush. These did not survive, but I know better for my next batch! Growing my own green onions will definitely save me money.


My romaine lettuce also regrew quickly in water, and this time I planted it after a week to see how it survives. If anything, it will at least provide a small salad!



So this year's container garden is still pretty small, but each year I gain a little more experience and a little more confidence to carry into the next season. And one of these years, I will jump into a full-fledged vegetable garden (complete with compost!)

If gardening really isn't your talent, I've got one tip for you: find a friend or relative with a great garden, and offer to take their extra produce off their hands! Nothing beats a summer garden tomato with a little Tony Chachere's sprinkled all over.

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