Howdy! Doing a little spring cleaning over here – fingers crossed I don’t screw anything up! In the meantime, I want to remind you that you can also find Green Penny Pincher on Facebook and on twitter as @greenpennypinch. I do occasionally post deals and hints over there that are too small and fleeting to make it to the blog, so add me!
Ask Green Penny Pincher a question and enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card!
It’s easy! Ask a question or let me know a relevant subject you’d like to see covered on Green Penny Pincher, and be automatically entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card! Enter as many times as you like – different questions each time, please!
Winner will be chosen at random on Monday, April 11. Contest open through Sunday, April 10, 2011 at midnight EST.
(Please include your email or Facebook profile URL if you would like to be entered, so that I can contact you if you win!)
Photo by starjewel - Some rights reserved
At the request of lovely reader Eve of Modachrome Home, I present to you a quick overview of container gardening for both vegetables and flowers, as well as a few suggestions for shade-loving plants. In the interest of time, this article won’t be all-inclusive, but it’s a good start to container gardening, and I have provided some links as well as further reading at the end.
Seeds or Seedlings?
Normally, I’d say seeds are more economical. In this case, though, if you’re a beginner and don’t have a huge area to work with, I actually recommend buying small plants. Why? Starting seeds can be a bit overwhelming for a novice gardener, and you rarely get less than 25 seeds per container. You’re only going to want one or two of each plant, especially vegetables, so make your life easy and pick up a few inexpensive plants.
- Tomatoes, of course!
- Peppers – Plant your peppers in nice-sized pots and bring them in for the winter for yummy peppers all year round!
- Peas - Peas are a special one in that they grow well in the spring and fall, but not in the summer. If your schedule and climate allow, there is still time to get a spring pea crop in – otherwise, save it for your fall container garden.
- Zucchini – Zucchini plants are LARGE, about 4 feet diameter. Plant them in a big enough pot and be sure you have room for them to spread out. One plant will give you LOTS of zucchinis.
- Eggplant – I personally have yet to master eggplant, being plagued with cold weather and/or eggplant-loving pests. This is one plant I have decided to skip and let others grow for me.
- Herbs - Herbs are great for growing in containers, and can be grown indoor on your window-sill as well! Caution: Mint is invasive and should ALWAYS be grown in its own container.
- Strawberries are a great chance to use those nifty pots with the holes in the sides, and home-grown strawberries are much tastier than their grocery store counterparts. Be sure to eat them before the birds do!
Most veggies need full sun, which means about 6 hours per day. There are some shade-tolerant vegetables.
It is best to water in the early morning, taking care not to over-water or to get the leaves and stems wet, rather, just the soil. Also be sure that the containers you use have good drainage.
Perennials vs. Annuals – Perennials come back year after year, while annuals die off after their season is up. Understandably, annuals are much cheaper than perennials. When choosing, consider whether your containers are large enough to keep the plants from freezing over winter, or if you’ll be able to put them somewhere (basement, etc.) to go dormant. Sometimes a mix of a few choice perennials filled in with annuals is the way to go.
Creative Containers – Before you head off to the garden store and buy all sorts of garden containers, take a look around and see what you already have that would make a good container. The main priorities are that it holds enough soil and is deep enough for the roots, and that it has proper drainage (which can be done using a power drill). A few ideas for unique containers:
Large coffee cans (metal cans will not last as long due to rust)
Small trash cans
Baskets (line with a plastic bag or container)
Large watering cans (when my metal one sprung a leak, I planted mint in it!)
Shoe organizer (I can’t wait to try this one!)
Old dresser drawers
Recommended further reading:
Container Gardening e-Handbook, Mother Earth News, $9.95
As I prepare to host my own first green giveaway – a process much more intensive than one would imagine! – I thought I would share a few great green giveaways I have found online. You gotta be in it to win it!
- Head over to ThreeDifferentDirections.com to enter to win a simplehuman® CW1354 Flip Lid Recycler from Hayneedle.com! (ends March 22nd)
- Visit BabyElanDaily.com and enter to win your choice of Dandelion eco-friendly baby toys from Natural Luxe Eco-Chic Boutique. I love this giraffe:
- Click here to enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card from Urbansherp.com (enter once per day through March 22nd) – maybe you could spend it in the Green Penny Pincher Shoppe!
Know of any eco-friendly giveaways going on? Please share them in the comments!
Before I start, I wanted to mention ebates one more time – it’s a great shop-through site that allows you to earn cash back on purchases (I have made quite a bit!) and hooks you up with coupon codes for the associated shops. Join today and save while you shop!
My mother, a great cook and a bit of a frugalista herself, recently remarked with surprise when I told her that we make one chicken stretch into at least 5 meals, 2+ servings each (and that doesn’t count the meals for our 1-year old!) I’ve been doing it this way for so long that I couldn’t imagine NOT – for lack of a better term – stretching that chicken. Remember back in this post, I talked about how to make the most of your food, and I brought up the fact that in most other countries, meat – if used at all – is treated as an ingredient, not a main course? Sure, a big ol’ steak tastes good to me too, but it’s not frugal and it’s not green.
For those who have cut meat out of their diet completely, good for you! As long as you are making sure to eat a balanced vegetarian diet, this is a much more responsible way of eating, both for your body and for the earth and its limited resources. I have not yet made the commitment to vegetarianism, although I am trying very hard to be aware and respectful of the meat that makes it to my plate and into my belly. In the meantime, I will do my best to “use it up and wear it out” when it comes to my meat consumption.
Spring is right around the corner (here, at least!) and it’s time to start thinking about what to plant and how to plant it. At our house, tomatoes are a no-brainer. I can’t get enough organic, juicy, flavorful tomatoes, picked right from the vine! I usually grow 3 varieties – a cherry or grape (for nibbling as quickly as I can pick them!), a paste tomato like a San Marzano for sauce and salsa, and a nice fat beefsteak tomato like the heirloom Brandywine to slice up for sandwiches. Even if you only have a little front stoop or fire escape to grow on, there are plenty of container varieties out there, and if you’ve ever had a home-grown tomato, you know that no supermarket variety can compare!
A common problem with tomato plants is something called blossom end rot. It’s not a disease, or a pest, but simply the result of too much water, too little water, uneven watering, and/or lack of calcium in your soil. That is why even if the view out your window is still snow and ice, you still need to start today preparing your battle against blossom end rot by saving your eggshells.
If you don’t eat eggs, find someone who does and ask them nicely to save the shells for you. Reward them this summer with some of your delicious tomatoes and perhaps some fresh mozzarella and basil.
Here’s how: After cracking and removing the egg and throwing it in the frying pan, rinse the inside of the shell and just let those shells dry and pile up – you’re going to want about a lot of them! At planting time, add a dozen crushed shells to each hole or pot before planting the tomato. Be sure that your plant is planted deep enough and/or in a big enough pot with good drainage and plenty of good soil.
The calcium from the eggshells will improve your soil and help regulate water needs so that blossom end rot doesn’t occur, as well as help the tomatoes produce the aromatic oils that will make them unbelievably delicious!
Expect some more garden and outdoor advice in the near future here at Green Penny Pincher as I get my yearly attack of spring fever. If there’s anything in particular you’re interested in hearing about, just ask!