Daydreaming Of Container Gardens

Are you dreaming of spring? I know I am! This past weekend we were hit with another two day winter storm, which brought 2 inches of freezing rain, snow and winds. I grew up north of the city, so snow in April is hardly unusual. But I’m not living further north anymore, and even for Toronto, this is a bit ridiculous. My instagram feed is filled with wintry pictures from other bloggers. Normally it’s comforting knowing you’re not alone. But this time, no dice. So I’ve resorted to ridiculous, fun cocktails and daydreaming of container gardening. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at gardening, but are limited on space, or don’t have a yard, you’d be amazed at what you can do with containers!

How I Started Container Gardening

I’ve lived in the city for about a decade now. Ever since then, I’ve patiently waited for when I’d have space, otherwise known as a yard, to grow a small garden. One early spring day after moving in with Mr Whymances, I was looking out over the common area outside our front door and noticed we got some decent sunlight. True, it wasn’t technically our private space, but people seemed friendly enough. I had started researching what was possible with container gardening, and lo and behold, I noticed a seasonal nursery selling organic seedlings practically across the street. I went over to ‘look’ and came out with a few herbs. I figured I’d give it a try. If that worked out, and no one complained, maybe I’d add a few more plants next year.

WELL…. It wasn’t more than a week later, I stopped in again to browse. Surely I walked out empty handed right? Hah! What was a few more plants? I wasn’t in anyones way after all. As the nights were still too cold to leave them out, it was a few weeks before I transferred them to containers and realized exactly how many I had gotten. Whoops….

I swear I was aiming to start small….

What I Learned That First Year

My parents had a garden when I was young, but after that, I wasn’t surrounded by a garden day to day. In one place, we had a raspberry bush, and a garden at my grandparents if we happened to visit in the summer. I always enjoyed going out and eating freshly picked fruits and veggies. So I didn’t have a ton of personal gardening experience. Some might say I bit off a bit too much. I like to think of it as a stretch project with lots of growth.

You Can Grow Almost Anything In Containers

When I first came across the idea of container gardening, I figured I’d be limited to a few herbs. Which is totally tasty and better than nothing. Unlike my assumption, you can grow almost anything in containers. With a little bit of research, almost every plant comes in a variety that is more suitable for containers. Like tomatoes? No problem! Get a smaller bush like variety. Think you can’t grow eggplants? Think again! Here’s what I tried the past few years:

  • Herbs: chives, basil, dark opal basil and dill
  • Salad: Swish chard, dinosaur kale and mustard green
  • Usual suspects: Czech tomato bush, radishes and beets
  • Special wins: Alpine strawberries and fingerling eggplant

Plants Are Frugal Creatures

The first year, I spent a lot of time debating and researching containers. I thought it mattered. In the end, I decided to buy cheap plastic ones as this was my first year. I had no idea whether I’d enjoy gardening or how it would work out. Turns out, I’m glad I didn’t waste my money. Plants are frugal creatures. They know their goal and what they need. They don’t give a damn whether you dress them up in fancy clay pots, plastic ones or a cut off of the top of a 2L plastic soda bottle.

What Will Affect The Plant?

While you can find a variety suitable for container gardening for most plants, and they don’t care what their container looks like, they refuse to compromise on some key aspects:

  • The size of the container matters. It HAS to be big enough to accommodate it’s root system.
  • Their sunlight preference is non negotiable. Not enough or too much sunlight will affect your plant.
  • Since they’re limited to the container, nutrition and watering takes a bit more work. Quality soil, good drainage and ample watering is key.

How Did It Go?

I’ve been able to do this for two years now. It’s been a bit of trial an error. We had one

Smoked Eggplant Makes Excellent Baba Ganoush!

hot summer with another one that was cooler. Taking that into account:

  • Fingerling eggplants like it hot and sunny. They did better when it wasn’t the cooler summer but pretty good overall all.
  • Tomatoes haven’t done so well. They had the same amount of sunlight as eggplants, so I figured they’d do well, but they haven’t. So I’ll probably skip them this year.
  • Alpine strawberries are wicked! We had them growing into November.
  • Leafy greens grow well in containers. However they seem to get overwhelmed with leaf miner larvae no matter what I do. So if anyone has tips for that, I’d love to hear what’s worked.

What Does This Have To Do With Money?

Being a personal finance blog, I’m betting you’re expecting an expense report, or at the very least some details on how this saves us money. I didn’t track this expense in particular the past few years. But I can say with certainty that it wasn’t a cost saving measure. WHAT?! No cost savings? Simply put, this isn’t about saving money. Sometimes other benefits are worth more than money saved:

  • At it’s most basic, ‘because I can and want to’ is the reason and justification. I enjoy working with plants and challenging myself with urban gardening.
  • Learning a new skill. This may save us money if we had more space but we don’t. And the benefit of learning a new skill outweighs the cost.
  • We get to enjoy fresh food. And it tastes better. Even if some of it costs more.
Salad with 100% ingredients from container garden. Strawberries are tiny but mighty in flavour!

There’s a common misperception that frugality means choosing the most economical option. For things that aren’t important, I’ll skip or find the most cost effective option. That means there’s more money leftover not just to save, but spend on other things, even if it’s not the most cost effective.
Out of curiosity, I’ll track and share container garden expenses this year. Even if it’s just to support some healthy financial voyeurism!

So over to you! Curious about gardening? Or maybe you have some tips?

0 Replies to “Daydreaming Of Container Gardens”

  1. It really is amazing what can be grown in containers. I had the same initial assumption that most things wouldn’t grow, but it really is sunlight (and temperature) that are the limiting factors. Oh, and alpine strawberries are my husband’s absolute favorites.

  2. I’ve never had good luck with container gardening, other than with some lettuce and amazing strawberries! We’re fortunate to have enough space in our yard for a garden and I’m itching to get out working in it again!

    1. I put myself on this years wait list for a few community gardens. Crossing my fingers that I get lucky. If not, I’ll keep trying every year!
      Lettuce is the one thing I’m not having much luck with. It’ll grow but the leaves get overtaken with pests (leaf miner larvae).
      What’s your favourite things to grow?

        1. Totally agree about the tomatoes (no idea about the spinach). Surprisingly eggplants taste better too. Is there anything you don’t bother growing since it doesn’t taste better and it’s cheap at the store?

          1. We have heavy clay soil so I haven’t even tried growing potatoes. Every year I think I may, but then I don’t. They are so cheap at the grocery store. How about you?

  3. I’ve done container gardening for a few years off and on, and this time I have a super challenging space that only gets direct sun for about 4 hours during the day (townhouse on one side, arborvitae on the other). Hoping they’ll survive or until I can transplant them to a public garden space!

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