Grow Fresh, Reduce Stress! 7 Container Gardening Ideas
Posted by Abigail Schmidt on August 04, 2014 (0 Comments)
It doesn’t take a top chef or a foodie to appreciate fresh ingredients. Any of us can appreciate fresh basil leaves over freeze dried basil flakes in a homemade pesto sauce, or vine ripened tomatoes over hothouse tomatoes in a caprese salad. The additional benefit of growing ingredients yourself is the added bonus of some relaxation and stress reduction!
Experts in the field of psychology confirm that gardening actually reduces stress and promotes an overall improved sense of calm and well being. As you need to really concentrate, it sort of demands that you put your phone down and focus on one task. This calms your mind and offers sense of accomplishment. A little gardening also attracts birds and butterflies to your outdoor space which enriches your connection to nature. The important thing to keep in mind when starting out, however, is to keep your garden from becoming too large or too much of a burden to maintain.
We forwent the whole idea of gardening this summer at our house because last summer’s garden was too overwhelming. Rows and rows of carrots, lettuce and skyscraper lattices for the tomatoes sounded great in theory, but we just didn’t have the time and it was not fun. Who wants to weed three hours on Saturday in the hot sun when we’ve all already worked a 55 hour work week - and the laundry isn’t going to do itself!
This year, however, I’m totally bummed that I don’t have anything to nurture or brag about to my family, never mind eat. There's no fresh pesto or fresh salads from my yard, so that won’t do either. There is a solution I’ve discovered for those of us who love a little gardening serenity and garden-fresh food, but either don’t have the space or the time to devote to such an endeavor. The answer is container gardening! You only take on as little or as much as you want depending on your space or time limitations, and you still get fresh food and bragging rights.
Here are several container gardening ideas that can really make a difference in your cooking, but don’t overwhelm you with too much green-thumb maintenance.
1. Tomatoes - One of the easiest vegetables to grow in containers, especially cherry and grape varieties. They do need full sun and a trellis as tomatoes love to grow vertically.
2. Mini bell peppers - Great container gardening vegetables as they produce mature plants faster than their full-sized relatives. They are a great option too because of their versatility in recipes once you pick ‘em!
3. Spinach - Another versatile ingredient that goes great in almost any entree or salad, and that requires little maintenance (just definitely don’t overwater). It's also the closest thing to a money tree, you can pick off spinach leaves and the plant will keep growing producing more spinach.
4. Basil - This herb loves a big pot, but it also doesn’t mind company. Add a parsley or cilantro plant to keep it company. Snip off bits of these herbs as you need them and they’ll keep growing for you.
5. Mint - Great container gardening herb. Add mint to water, ice tea or mojitos in the summer. Mint doesn’t mind partial sun as it's quite hearty. At home we even pick a few sprigs to place in a small vase of water in the bathroom which makes an awesome natural air freshener.
6. Strawberries - Growing this fruit in containers offers the sweetest rewards. They do like a lot of sun and well-drained soil. Be careful to pick the best container-friendly variety as there are a million and one available. Alpine, overbearing, and day-neutral give you more fruit and a longer growing season than June-bearing ones.
7. Lettuce - This is one of the easiest container vegetables that will do best to start as seeds right in the pot. You and whomever you cook for will appreciate for the freshest salad imaginable and there is an endless variety of lettuce types to pick from. I love the leafy red varieties and Boston bib the most!
Any container (plastic, terra-cotta or glazed ceramic) that’s big enough is great as long as it has good drainage. The easiest way to sabotage your plants is drown them, especially in rainy climates.
Opt for seedlings over starting seeds (except for lettuce) which need their own germination conditions. Seedlings tend to come with gardening instructions so you can decide what works for you based on that information.
Also, vegetables tend to need full sun for optimal harvest, but if you live in a really hot climate be sure to use light-colored pots and shade them in the middle of the day to keep them from frying in the sun.