My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Saturday, April 13, 2013



As I am working on my “How Much to Plant” chart I thought of all of those that are in apartments, have HOA’s and landlords that won’t let you till up the yard, and people who don’t want to spend a lot of time gardening, but do want to grow something.

On the Dave Ramsey list some of us have been picking on one fellow because every year he talks about how he should garden,  but life always gets in the way.  It’s all good clean ribbing and he takes it very well. This year I have suggested to him, again, that he start with just one large flower pot.

I know some of you are thinking “A flower pot? You can’t grow much in a flower pot!”  But you can, and anything you do grow yourself is of course that much better than anything you will ever buy at your local grocery store.

An excellent source of information on how to do this organically would be the book by Patricia Lanza “Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces, a layering system for big results in small gardens and containers.”

In the book she walks you through various types of small gardening tricks and gives ideas on containers, both sitting on a ground or table, or hanging baskets, along with ideas for tiny spots in your yard.

I particular like the idea of a themed garden when doing a small space.  Her themes include recipes for using the food you produce for a Tex-Mex Garden.  This includes either a small garden or using one or more large containers on your patio to grow basil, bell peppers, cilantro, chile peppers, garlic, onions, oregano, thyme and tomatoes. 

The Linguine Garden has you planting, basil, garlic, onion, oregano, tomatoes, sweet frying peppers, zucchini and parsley.

For a pizza garden I would recommend tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, onion, thyme, bell pepper, and pepperocini peppers. 

Do you notice a pattern here?  Many of the ingredients to grow for each theme are the same.  All three have tomatoes and the herbs grown with them vary only slightly.

So the ‘mater challenge is born.  If you do not have the time, space, or inclination for a big kitchen garden, how about a single large flower pot garden?

How you build up your soil in the pot is your choice.  Because I garden strictly organically my flower pot plantings are done via the Lasagna Gardening method with lots of layers from found materials around the farm, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same.  If Miracle Grow is your cuppa then use it, I simply prefer not to for personal reasons. 

However, I’d rather suggest you purchase a bag(s) of organic garden soil and organic compost (I personally like mushroom compost) to fill your pot. 

Garden soil too expensive?  Consider what we did as I was growing up and have done here on the farm more than once.  Find a chemical free area you can dig your soil from and dig up some dirt for the flower pot.

When I was a kid you didn’t have to worry about what was in rain water run off so every spring after Bird Creek had flooded Mom would load up my brother and I and we’d go to the banks of Bird Creek and fill every container she had brought with mud from the banks of the creek.  Back then her theory was some of the best top soil in the state had just been deposited in that creek.  Sadly, that might not be a good idea these days.

Now I do a lot of digging around my own ponds, and from the deep leaf mulch in our woods.  Because we use no chemicals here on the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch I have no fear of what might be in the dirt.  The leaf mulch is deep and rich in our woods, so it is well worth digging.

However you fill your pot is up to you, don’t forget to open the drain holes on the bottom of the pot before starting.  If there are no drain hole tap outs available put a layer of gravel, small rocks or even marbles to help allow for drainage and to keep the plant roots from drowning if you or God happen to over water one day.

Now it’s time to plant it.  I’d start with the biggest space taker in the pot, in these three scenarios it would be the tomato plant.  I would suggest a heirloom indeterminate such as Brandywine, Champion of Goliath.  All produce well all season long and are hearty plants. 

Be prepared though, heirlooms are not going to be your perfect round gmo rich tomatoes.  They may be odd shaped, multi-cheeked, are even a slightly different color (I love Cherokee Purples).  They will also have TRUE tomato taste, something you will never get with a grocery store tomato.

Once you’ve chosen your tomato plant go ahead and plant it with its trellis in place.  Yes a trellis.  It can be something as simple as a stake that you tie the plant to as it grows—be aware some tomato plants get quite tall.  Or you can do any number of other trellising ideas.  Cruise u-tube and you will be amazed at all the ways you can trellis plants. 

So now you have the tomato and trellis in place  and you know this tomato plant is going to grow up, not out so you have all that extra space around the bottom of the tomato plant to plant in.  Don’t get too carried away, because anything you plant there is going to need growing room.

But plant underground and above ground plants both.  Onions and garlic do most of the growing underground, they stay pretty compact as well. Herbs,  of course , are above ground and look gorgeous hanging over the side of the planter as the summer progresses.

Should you want to put other upright tall plants such as peppers and zucchini in your planter then supply them with a trellis as well.  The sky is the limit on how far up you can go.  Just remember you can plant in three layers in one pot, below ground, above ground and in the air.  That’s a whole lot of gardening in one container.

Food for thought.  Put this big pot on a wheeled plant dolly with a saucer under it when you first plant it and when cold weather comes just roll that baby indoors for fresh food throughout the winter.  Tomatoes, herbs, and many other vegetables are perennial and only die off in our gardens because the cold weather is murderous on the tropical plants like tomatoes and peppers.

All you would need would be a couple of cheap florescent light fixtures to have home grown goodness year round.

There is is the ‘mater challenge I challenge each  and everyone to  plant at least one flower pot of fresh food for their family.

Jan who will be doing flower pots, other containers and in the ground gardening all in OK.


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