Do you maximize your growing season by planting a late summer garden? In late June and early July I start seeds for my fall garden. Some I start in seed trays while others I start in three inch pots. I started bush cucumbers in the seed trays which I am now transferring over to a row in the garden. (Just so you know, I water my garden during dry periods and it also gets partial shade during the early part of the day.)
The broccoli and cauliflower plants are not ready yet. I have also started hot peppers that I will keep in containers so that I can bring them inside to prolong their production. Jalapenos and Habanero peppers both do well inside if you make sure they are continuously fed. The easiest way I have found is to sprinkle alfalfa pellets on top of the soil. These will dissolve over time and release nitrogen into the soil. You can also do this in the garden instead of using chemical fertilizers to boost the compost you have incorporated into your garden.
Since my chickens free range and most of the larger stock is pastured, my stock pile of compost is fairly small. There are many stables that will allow you to load up at their place to add to your compost pile if you need to. I combine the chicken manure out of the chicken house with the rabbit manure that piles up under the cages with grass clippings and leaf mulch.
To fill the containers I usually use 2 parts soil mixed with 1 part potting medium and 1 part compost. This works for me and if you need to purchase it, you’ll end up with 80 lbs topsoil; 40 lbs potting soil; and 40 lbs of manure to mix together. It’s a real workable mixture and you can either dump it into your garden space when you’re done with the container or onto the compost pile to mix in and rework it. Either way, it’s a reusable resource and will give you plenty of food in return.
If you have doubts about container gardening, try growing potatoes! Yes… potatoes. fill a 5 gallon bucket (holes drilled in the bottom) about 1/3 of the way with potting medium and plant a seed potato. As the plant grows, keep adding straw or mulch on top of the potatoes. You can actually harvest some of the larger ones just before you do if you want or let them grow. As the potato plant grows taller it will continue to keep putting out new potatoes into the straw/mulch until you reach the top of the bucket. At the appropriate time, harvest your potatoes.
You can grow almost anything in a container as long as you use a good potting medium, provide adequate drainage and feed properly. I started strawberries in 4 inch pots this spring and once they started putting out their runners, I moved them into (onto the dirt) a long shallow flat plastic tray that has drain holes. As the runners came out of the original plants and touched down on the dirt, they rooted and grew new plants, thereby increasing my plant stock many times over. Each new plant can then be repotted and it will do the same. All the time this is going on of course, I’m nibbling on the fresh strawberries I’m harvesting.
Be creative! You can grow some of your own food regardless of where you live; how limited your space is; or how unforgiving your soil is. Make the most of each container. If I plant a Cherry tomato plant in a bucket, I will also plant herbs such as thyme or parsley around the base. I don’t have a problem with blight on these tomatoes either and the container produces tomatoes and herbs. Both can be brought inside before first frost and they will continue to produce for awhile. Once the tomato stops, I usually cut it off at the base and I will let the herb grow until sometime in December when I let it go to seed.
By doing this, I also can collect seeds to replant my herbs again the next year to reduce my cost. There are many ways to become more self-sufficient and produce some of your own food. By growing even a portion of it, you will reduce your carbon footprint since that portion doesn’t have to be trucked in to you. You will also know how it was grown, what may or may not have been ‘sprayed’ on it and what fertilizers were used if any other than natural organic compounds.
Give it a try! I wish you luck and I’ll be here to answer your questions if you have any.