Container Gardening Experiment Yields Mixed Results

my hand full of freshly rinsed cherry tomatoes from my garden

Does anything taste as good as something you’ve grown in your own garden? I don’t think so. We planted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes in container gardens for the first time. And we enjoyed a bountiful harvest of – tomatoes!

This has taught us that we need a deeper layer of soil in our raised garden beds. Most of the vegetables couldn’t get enough nutrients to thrive. The broccoli shot up like a fireworks display, with just as much staying power. It was also attacked by Japanese beetles but it was already a failure. Only three carrots survived and were stubby because of the aforementioned shallow bed. The lettuce ended up wild bunny food after it turned brown and mushy. And the cauliflower went from hopeful to sad and ultimately looking weak and inedible.

Close-up of a cauliflower plant that has curling leaves and a vegetable that looks underfed despite being fertilized and watered regularly.
I’m not hopeful for homegrown cauliflower.

But the tomatoes – they’re keepers! I have two cherry tomato plants and one beefsteak. I believe the beefsteaks would have ended up bigger with more soil to live in. There’s always next year. We were quite happy with our tomato crop.

And that’s what this season was all about. It was an experiment to see what we could grow and learn from.

My Mom planted a huge garden for many years with peppers, beans, peas, carrots, and other veggies. She fought off rabbits and other critters with a kind but firm approach. Back then, I didn’t appreciate what it took to grow our own food. I sure do now.

So, we’ll add more soil to the beds next year and I’ll be less ambitious with my crop choices. I’m thinking about one bed of only tomatoes and another of bee and butterfly-friendly flowers. The other day, a Monarch butterfly passed through our yard. I’d love to give them a reason to stay awhile. And although we are doing everything we can to evict wasps, a visiting bumblebee puts a grin on my face.

We left a country home that had a 3/4-acre patch of land for this one with a toenail-sized back yard. But we’re doing more here than we ever did with the rural property. Sometimes, less is more. Less to take care of, to tend to, and to screw up! No one will ever confuse me with a gardening expert. But I can try to become the best friend a bee ever had.

9 thoughts on “Container Gardening Experiment Yields Mixed Results”

  1. See if you can locate a book called Gardening off the Ground written by Art Drysdale. You can get artificial wasp nests which will keep them away and as previously mentioned Milkweed for the butterflies. Also the right soil and some fertilizer can help.

  2. Thanks, Allan. I just did a Google search and I’m happy to see that Art is alive and well at 84 and still doing gardening tips for Easy 101 in Tillsonburg! I’ll look for the book. We have hung the fake wasp nests and the wasps pointed and laughed at them! Sadly, we had to take down the hummingbird feeders because of them. We haven’t been able to find the real nest. Thanks for your comment.

  3. It sounds reductive, but all we can do in life is live and learn. Experiment, see what works, build on your experience, throw out what doesn’t work.

    But here’s the proviso: Some people are smart enough to learn, many are not.

    It is an inspiration to me to see you living and still learning!

    P.S. Are you turning into one of those people who loves gardening???

    1. I have spent a lot of time in my own gardens over the years. I’d say I get satisfaction from it, but I don’t love it. In Willowdale, it was all about removing the mint that the previous owner had allowed to spread everywhere! Or more accurately, trying and failing to remove the mint!

  4. It took me a few years of trial and error before I knew what I was doing in my garden. We now save coffee grounds and egg shells to feed the soil. Epsom salt can work wonders as well. I have oregano and marigolds planted around my vegetables to deter bugs and critters (although there was that one bunny who ate all my parsley this year).
    My Mom could throw a pit in some soil and next thing you know there would be an orchard growing outside. She used to graft fruit trees because we didn’t have a lot of property in the house I grew up in. So, one tree would bear two different fruits. Unfortunately, I just never paid attention or asked questions when I was younger. Now I grow enough food and spices to last me the winter. I am living in a mason jar household, lol.

  5. Adding powdered milk to the soil can add nutrients and calcium and its best to apply when the soil is wet or give it a light spray. Be careful with adding coffee, it can increase the soil acidity.

    1. Thanks, Allan. I follow a guy on Instagram called Creative Explained. He has loads of advice on homemade pesticides and fertilizers. Brilliant stuff.

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