Container Gardening 101

This is a guest post from Melissa of MelissaKNorris.com
Have you ever driven by a house with charming pots of plants leading up to its front door? Have you ever thought about creating the same look for your own house, but then felt completely overwhelmed while visiting your local nursery? With literally hundreds of plants to choose from, it can feel more than a little bit intimidating!
Even so, container gardening is a wonderful way to bring a garden to your home, no matter if you live in an apartment, condo, mobile home, or two-story house on acreage. It’s also much easier than you might think!  Another great benefit of container gardening is the ability to make it a one time expense and have the rewards for years to come. I’m going on year seven with two of my containers.
To make container planting a success for your home, just follow these five easy steps:

1. Choose your container
The most important part of a container is that it has a drain hole, or is a material that can be drilled to provide a few drain holes. You can choose a more permanent container like a whiskey barrel or go for smaller containers you can move around your yard or porch. I’ve seen containers made from old boots or rusted out wheel barrows, bird cages, even old dresser drawers. My husband even hollowed out a round of wood for a Mother’s Day gift a few years ago. Be as creative as you like.

Be sure the container is large enough for the plants you want. If it’s especially deep, I advise putting rocks in the bottom to help with drainage, plus you won’t require as much soil. Speaking of soil…

2. Pick your soil wisely
If you’re only growing non-edible plants in your container, than almost any soil mix you pick is fine. I recommend going with a potting soil mix that will release plant food over time such as Miracle grow. But, if you’re going to grow edibles (free food anyone?) then I highly suggest using only organic compost or organic potting soil. Miracle Grow also has an organic option.
You can find soil mixes at any big box store in the garden section like K-Mart, Walmart, Fred Meyers, Home Depot, etc. Or head to a local plant nursery. The beauty of plant nurseries is you get plants grown in your region so they usually perform better. Nurseries will also have potting soil mixes and usually bags of compost available, too. Plus, the staff at nurseries will answer questions, give helpful advice, and specialize in plants.
You can purchase a good sized bag of organic potting soil for less than $10. Or, if you have a gardening friend who composts, they might be happy to give you a few shovel fulls to get you started.
Because plants in containers can’t absorb nutrients from the soil, it’s important to give them some type of food by the dirt you put inside the container. You can even add your own soil additives from some of your common kitchen scraps, check out re-using coffee grounds in your garden here.

3. Choose your plants
This is where the fun really begins. If you want the most bang for you buck, then invest in perennials. Perennials come back every year, meaning you won’t have to purchase new plants every spring. Annuals die at the end of their growing season. However, some annuals are gorgeous and can be a fun way to punch up the color factor. You can mix and match perennials with annuals as well.
When first starting out with gardening, it’s best to buy starts and avoid growing from seeds. I recommend going with perennials to save yourself money and time over the long run.
This list includes perennials that are very hardy and virtually impossible to kill:

Primroses
Daffodils (bulbs do great in containers)
Pulmonaria (lungwort)
Aster
Bleeding Heart
Heuchera
Snapdragon (if you have cold temperatures this will act as an annual)
Flowering cale and cabbage
Perennial carnations (border varieties work best for containers)

Need a free option? Ask on Facebook or check Craigslist for folks dividing their perennials in the spring. Many times, you can get free starts of many herbs and flowers this way. It’s how I got my oregano, thyme, mint, and lemon balm.

4. Add edible plants
While I like my container plants to look pretty, I especially like them to double as my mini-grocery store. Many edible plants are wonderful choices for your container gardeners, both as lowering your food bill and as pretty additions.
Many herbs are actually best grown in containers. For instance, all of the mint family performs best in containers as they’re invasive when planted in the ground.
Here is a list of more great edibles to plant:
Oregano
Chamomile
Chives
Sage
Spearmint
Pansies (edible flower)
Nasturtiums are another colorful edible flower. I enjoy nasturtiums in salads as they have a bit of a peppery spice to them. Nasturtiums are very easy to grow from seed, which means tons of flowers for just the price of one small packet of seeds.

5. Place your plants
Before you plop your plants in the dirt, take some time to decide where you want them in your container. Generally speaking, taller plants are best in the back and center. That way they don’t shade shorter plants and act as a focal point. Next, put your mid-level plants in, with trailing plants on the outer edge.

When planting your plants, lightly pinch the bottom of the container they come from, try not to pull too hard on the stems.

Once free of the plastic container, gently break up the roots before putting them in their hole. You can use your hands, a dull knife, or the edge of your gardening shears. Place the plant in the whole you’ve dug once you’ve loosened the roots. Your goal is to have the crown of the plant (where the stem meets the soil) to be the same level when it’s planted as it was when you purchased it. Tamp down on the dirt around the plant to hold them in place. Give them a good drink of water after planting.

Finally, be sure to enjoy your plants! But be warned, this growing your own food stuff can become addicting–every year we enlarge our garden plot and containers!  In my book Pioneering Today-Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way, I explain practical and easy methods to cook from scratch, garden, preserve your own food, and see God’s fingerprint in your everyday busy life. You’ll learn how to decrease your grocery and energy bill, improve your family’s health by cooking from scratch and over 40 delicious real food recipes, grow and preserve your own food, reduce your time in the kitchen without sacrificing taste and nutrition, and expand your view of God in your daily activities. Best part, it’s 25% OFF for Living Well Spending Less readers with coupon code LWSL2014.  You can read the first chapter for free here
Melissa K. Norris lives in the Pacific Northwest in her own little house in the big woods with her husband, two children, seven cows, and five chickens. She inspires people’s faith and pioneer roots through her blog, books, and podcast with topics on heirloom gardening, preserving the harvest, cooking from scratch meals, and raising livestock. Start living the simple life and pioneering today at www.melissaknorris.com
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Have you ever tried container gardening?  What are you planning to grow this year? 
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Mother’s Day Brunch Idea: Egg Souffles

Eggs again.  I know, I know.
Three of my four projects here on Viva Veltoro have EGGS as the main feature!
After this, however, no more.  I’m sick of eggs.

This recipe for Mother’s Day Brunch Souffles is super easy, super fast, and super impressive.  I make a variation of this nearly every time I have visiting family in town.  These would make excellent additions to any Mother’s Day brunch you have planned!

Step 1: Gather your ingredients.
12 eggs for 12 ramekins or large muffin tins (makes 12)
10 strips of bacon
3 strands of green onions
1/2 box of fillo dough
shredded cheddar cheese
a handful of spinach
1 small roma tomato
1/2 c. whole milk (not pictured)
salt and pepper to taste

Step 2: Cook your bacon.  I used turkey bacon, which doesn’t crunch as nicely, but its still tasty (and healthier, right?!).

Step 3: While your bacon is sizzling, cut up some wax paper squares to line your tins or ramekins.  I made mine 6″ by 6″.  Press them down from the middle of your wax square and gently fold the creases so that the liner lies securely inside.  Chop up your veggies while you’re at it.

Step 4:  Whisk up your eggs with a 1/2 cup of whole milk, and get your work station prepped.  Fillo dough can be temperamental and dry out extremely quickly, so you’ll want to have everything else done and at hand before you even open the fillo.  Make sure you let it thaw in the fridge overnight and that it is room temperature when you open.  Here’s what your workstation should look like:

Step 5: Work as fast as you can so the fillo won’t dry out!  Carefully open and cut into 4″ squares, then quickly cover the portion you are not using with a slightly damp towel. Using a pastry brush, paint melted butter between each paper thin layer until you have a stack 3-5 layers thick.

Step 6: Work them into the tins just like you did with the wax paper, then dump in a 1/4″ cup of whisked egg and toss in a scoop of veggies and bacon.  Top with salt and pepper and cheddar cheese, and bake for 20 minutes at 375º.
 
Easy, right?  You could even press down refrigerated biscuit dough instead of fillo dough and save yourself some time.  I think they turned out nice!  I sent these to work with my honey, since it was his turn to bring in breakfast for his team.  He said it was a big hit.
These cool really quickly, and you can pull them out of the pan by the corners of the wax paper.

Happy Mother’s Day next week to all our favorite moms!!

About Camille

Camille has written 8 post in this blog.
I’m an old-fashioned Boston seamstress in love with my hubby and boys! I hate the rain, love getting emails, and could live on ice cream. I am a former Home Ec teacher, a casual marathoner, and a thrift-store shopaholic!

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