Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 12am

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    Tuesday, October 17, 2017-6:49:52A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

FEATURE: Container gardens

A FULL-FLEDGED garden with grow beds may not be a possible option for everyone.  Those living in apartments with only a patio and a driveway would definitely agree. 

However, that doesn’t have to discourage anyone from wanting to start a garden of sorts. A few small containers, and a little know how can have you harvesting okra, green onions, peppers, celery, cucumbers, and so much more.

In terms of containers, what type of growing containers are the best? Well, that depends on you! If you wish to lend a helping hand in the recycling effort, simple things such as used coffee cans, and large water bottles work perfectly. However, if you intend to have your containers match the tiles of your patio, there is a vast selection that can be found at almost any store on island. For several years, my wife and I grew green onions out of a 5-gallon water bottle. We cut the water bottle in half, filled it with soil, and replanted green onions that we bought previously. We have also used coffee cans as well as 2-liter plastic bottles as containers to re-grow celery as well as lettuce.

Finding soil may be a little tricky. Reaching out to friends or family to help in getting you the soil you need would be a good idea as well. Another option, if you have a few dollars to spare, would be to purchase potting soil from any of the hardware stores on island. Starting with good, healthy soil is a definite plus. However, as time goes by and your plants begin to use up all the nutrients in the soil, you will have to add some soil amendments or fertilizers. As plants use up the nutrients in your soil, you will notice that the amount of soil within your container will slowly decrease. What is used up completely usually breaks down further and most often gets washed away.

Although it may seem like things about to start getting expensive in terms of soil amendments or fertilizers, it does not have to. In regards to fertilizer, a very quick and inexpensive fertilizer that my wife and I have used for a while now consists of a few easy to find items; banana skins, egg shells, coffee grounds, and Epsom salt. The banana skins, egg shells and coffee grounds provide the basic NPK or Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium that your plants need. Epsom Salt provides your plants with the basic minerals such as magnesium which helps your plants to better absorb all the other nutrients being provided. I believe a one-pound bag of Epsom salt at almost any grocery store is about $2.00, and all you will need is a half teaspoon per gallon of water every other week or so depending on the needs of your plants. A very good indicator of what the plant is lacking can be seen in the leaves. Whenever you see most of the leaves on your plant with a yellowish tinge around the edges, that would mean they are either lacking calcium or magnesium. Again, I am no expert on the topic, just sharing what I have learned from the many mistakes I made along the years.

Once you have figured out what type of container and soil you want to use; now you can start thinking of what plants you would like to grow. For the most part, I have seen many people plant flowers and shrubs of sorts in containers to help in decorating their living area. If you would rather grow things that are edible, cherry tomatoes make a wonderful potted plant. Bush beans, carrots, most herbs, and certain vines can also grow very well in containers. An all time favorite of mine is growing kangkung (a type of Asian watercress). As long as you provide lots of water, you can’t go wrong with kangkung, and the best part is it continues to re-grow itself after each harvest. I have had kangkung continuously produce shoots and leaves for well over six months in a simple 5-gallon water container which was cut in half.

In addition, some of the vegetables you bought can also be “re-grown.” Green onions for example are a type of renewable vegetable. You simply cut off the green leaves and leave the lower stem with roots to re-grow more leaves. The same principal applies to celery, Romaine Lettuce hearts, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, basil, rosemary, oregano, chives, and a few other vegetables and herbs. Even something as simple as the tops of sweet potatoes could be re-grown. If you didn’t already know, the tips of sweet potato shoots are also great for stir fry’s.

Over the years, I have seen many sorts of container garden ideas off of the internet from places such as Pinterest, YouTube, and simple image searches from Google. The possibilities are endless! I think the biggest hurdle is to simply get started. Even if you have never planted anything in your life, starting with a couple of containers now could open up a whole new world of gardening opportunities regardless of the space you may have available. I have worked with several people over the years who claim that “they have a black thumb” and nothing they plant ever grows. I think that with a little guidance, patience, and some research, anyone can grow anything! If all else fails to motivate you, then think of it as a grown-up science experiment that you choose to do for fun. Have fun in the process and remember, it is not only what comes out in the end, but your adventures along the way. Happy gardening!