Military Families — don’t let a lack of time or space get in the way of gardening your way to a healthy lifestyle this spring. Planter, container and other creative gardening ideas can provide the fresh produce Families crave without taking much of a “bite” out of time and space.
Plant containers of nutritious vegetables and herbs. Include a few planters in the front yard. Even plant right inside bags of gardening soil for the easiest garden ever!
All that’s needed is potting mix, fertilizer, plants or seeds, and containers with drainage holes. Use large diameter pots or long, deep window boxes. Bigger containers hold more plants and need less frequent watering. The self-watering variety contains moisture even longer.
Planters need not be expensive. Since service members move frequently, ask departing neighbors if you can purchase or have theirs. Other good sources of low-cost planters include the Fort Huachuca Thrift Shop, yard sales, flea markets or on local Facebook or Internet “for sale” sites. Purchase planters with a single look or theme, or be eclectic. Containers and pots add décor to Fort Huachuca military homes, increasing occupants’ chances of being selected as having the “Yard of the Month” during growing season.
Once planters and supplies are purchased, it’s easy to begin.
Add small stones to the bottom of each container to assist with drainage. Read the label on the container mix bag. Fill containers with a well-drained potting mix. Add a slow release, organic nitrogen fertilizer at planting for better results with less effort. It provides small amounts of nutrients throughout most of the season and eliminates the need to mix and water in fertilizer throughout the growing season. Sprinkle a bit more on the soil surface during midseason or when changing out plantings.
Leaf lettuce, spinach and radishes are ideal plants for cooler weather. Fresh-from-the-container-garden vegetables make tasty salads, and the greens provide Vitamins A and C, plus calcium. Use edible pansy flowers to dress up a salad or freeze pansies in ice cubes for an added gourmet touch to cold beverages.
For summer, use tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and peas, beans and cucumbers trained to grow on a trellis. All of these are full of nutrients and can be an attractive vertical accent. Surround the towering vegetables with basil, sage, carrots, beets and a colorful trailing annual such as verbena or lantana.
Don’t forget to add a few green onions or garlic. The fragrant foliage can be decorative, and these vegetables offer a number of health benefits.
Check containers daily and water thoroughly as needed. Self-watering pots need less frequent watering, allowing busy military gardeners the opportunity to grow plants in pots with minimal care. In most cases, there will be little or no weeding involved.
This could be easiest garden ever
A gardening idea that has recently gone viral is planting shallow rooted vegetables directly into bags of gardening soil which can be reused again once the plants have lived out their life cycles.
Purchase a 50-pound bag of potting soil. If possible, place it up off the ground on wood slats laid across plain or decorative bricks, slump blocks or saw horses. The higher off the ground, the less bending the gardener will need to do to tend to the vegetables or flowers.
After using a tool to punch drainage holes on one side of the bag, flip it over and place the bag in its permanent growing season location. Using scissors or a cutting tool, cut a rectangular hole in the middle of the top of the bag, leaving a six-inch border of plastic on all four sides. Remove the plastic cutout. The exposed, contained area will become the planting bed.
Ensure the soil is well moistened. Using a small gardening shovel, break the soil apart so it can breathe and accept moisture easily. When ready for planting, the soil should be well aerated.
Using seeds for shallow rooted crops such as lettuce, spinach, radishes, herbs and chives, follow the planting directions. Or, use the “garden” to start tomato or other plants from seeds. When finished planting, water the soil carefully.
Savvy locals know the best time to plant is when the mesquite trees begin to leaf out as they are beginning to do right now. Until the mesquite foliage matures, be prepared to cover the gardens on chilly nights.
Until the season is done, cut lettuce, spinach, chive tops and herbs for use, as needed. The fertilizer should help the leafy foliage grow back quickly.
Small or large, plain or decorated, enjoy the benefits of container gardening. When it’s time to leave for the next assignment, recycle containers by passing or selling them to neighbors who can also enjoy nature’s bounty or a more beautiful yard.