What I learned from my 2008 container garden:
- Know your location. Whether it's a yard or deck, know the sun coverage. You can change just about everything else: the soil fertility, the soil pH, the annual precipitation. You cannot, however, change the sun.
- Know your USDA Zone. It will let you know what will grow in your area and when, generally, the first and last frost dates are.
- Container gardens outside require more water than you'd expect.
- You should really use potting soil/medium and compost from the garden center (I am a big fan of Merrifield Garden Center 'round these parts. I can spend HOURS there) instead of digging up CLAY from your backyard.
- Slugs are the devil. (A story for another time)
- You got to constantly harvest basil for it to really grow into a bush. I would wait until there was "enough" to take a good handful for pasta. Bad idea. But proper basil harvesting is for another post...
After not killing my plants last year I gained enough (over) confidence to expand the garden and grow 99% of it from seed. Am I crazy? Naw, just a little over eager and excited to experiment. And easily seduced by the seed catalog. I figure, the seeds are rather cheap so if something doesn't quite work out, no big deal. There's always next year!
Here's what will (hopefully) be going in my garden around Mother's Day 2009 (when Arlington, VA is outta the frost danger zone):
- Tomatoes: Cherry Sun Gold, Heirloom Wonder Light, and Heirloom Cherokee Purple
- Sweet peppers: Carnival Mix
- Hot pepper: Kung Pao, Thai Dragon and Long Red Cayenne
- Basil: Sweet Thai and Red Rubin (plus we may buy a plant of Italian basil)
- Bergamot (for tea. Told you I was easily seduced by the seed catalog!)
- Arugula (for fall)
- Rosemary (to be purchased as a plant)
- Oregano (to be purchased as a plant. Word on the street is it's more flavorful if it's propagated & not grown from seed)
- German winter thyme (We'll see how this is. It's a perennial for USDA Zone 7, which means less planting next year!)
- Assorted wildflower mixes to be planted after tulips (fingers crossed) pop up in a month.
Why did I choose these plants? Some I chose out of love. Like the Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato. I love those ugly little buggers. Some I chose out of usefulness. Like the cayenne peppers that we can dry for future homemade chili powder. And some I chose because they just sounded wicked cool. Like bergamot.
When's this all going to go down (in the ground)? It's easiest to work your way backwards from the planting date. The plants will be transplanted outdoors mid-May. Then, you need to allow for a week of hardening off. And, since most of my seed packets say they take 55ish days to germinate, Sunday March 7th is the day I'll do the deed. All and all, I figure I should start the seeds approx. 2 months before transplanting.
If you haven't yet thought about what you are going to plant next year, now is the time to do that and order seeds if you're going to go that route. Your local nursery or big box garden center will also have seeds. However, I prefer the better variety online and the relative ease Google'ing for the seeds you want versus wandering around the unorganized displays of seeds for 30 minutes.