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Container gardening is a great way for those who lack growing space or who want to improve their growing skills to get started with gardening. We’ll show you how we’re working on our skills with a cheap and easy container garden and provide links to a boatload more resources to get you started.
We are building our off-grid house on 16 acres, but we don’t live there full time yet. Currently, we’re living in a condo with a deck and a patio. That’s it. And while we have about 2 acres of cleared land at our property, we don’t want to plant yet because we still have some big trucks and machinery left to do some work for things like the septic field and cistern. Plus, we really want to take the time to amend our soil to prepare for a “Back-to-Eden” style garden next year, so planting in our current rocky clay soil doesn’t seem wise. Containers are perfect for us.
We’ll give you some practical ideas in this post, but stick around to the end for a big list of other resources to get you started with a container garden!
How to get containers for FREE
If you want to start a container garden but lack the funds, there is an easy, free way to get your containers and it only takes a couple of seconds!
Ask for food grade buckets at your local supermarket.
I did this at a Kroger, but it works at most any store. I walked right up to the bakery and asked if they had any extra buckets to get rid of. To my delight they said YES and brought me out about 6 buckets ranging from 2-4 gallons a piece. And later while I was shopping one of the bakery ladies literally chased me down to give me a couple more before I got away.
8 buckets. All free, clean, and food grade.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge my total introversion and how hard it is to just walk up to strangers and ask for things, so if I can ask the bakery ladies for buckets on a whim, so can you!
I’d also like to acknowledge that y’all should probably eat the veggies you’ll grow in these buckets and not the frosting that came in them. YOWZAS CHECK OUT THOSE STATS:
Prepping Your Buckets
When I got the buckets they had already been washed out, but I did notice some residue and the occasional bit of blue frosting on the rims. I used some basic dish soap, water, and a sponge to clean everything off. I dried them with a towel and let them sit in the sun while I completed the next part.
Using a drill and the largest practical drill bit I could find (5/8″) I drilled five holes: one in the center and four in a circle around it.
The beauty of buckets is that you can start your seeds directly, and if the weather decides to pull a 180 and go from being 78 and sunny in February to being 30 and snowy in March, you can usually pull your buckets inside (I set mine on a long plastic sled to keep water off the floor). This may not be an option for everyone, especially if you don’t have adequate lighting or sunny windows, or if you have indoor cats and other critters who are inclined to disturb your buckets. Fortunately our cat seems to be staying away from them. The curious three-year-old boy, on the other hand? Well…lets just say the plant markers AREN’T for stirring the soil.
We went to a local store and picked up a few bags of organic potting mix. Per the advice of several people, we did not put gravel down at the bottom of the pot to promote drainage, just soil. With the drainage holes I drilled they seem to not get over-saturated. I’d like to experiment with some other self-watering setups with future buckets, but for these first four I kept it pretty basic.
Marking Your Seeds
Part of our goals include being as “zero waste” as possible. This means not creating garbage, making mindful product choices, and learning how to better reduce, reuse, and recycle the products we do buy. With this in mind, we started using bamboo toothbrushes about a year ago, even for our son! I saved a bunch of our spent brushes, removed the bristles with pliers (these aren’t recyclable in many areas unfortunately, but compared to throwing out an entire brush it’s a big reduction in waste), and kept the bamboo handles to use for projects like this. I used a marker to write the plant names on the handles and stuck them in the pots.
You can easily reuse other materials as markers including popsicle sticks, plastic silverware, paint stirring sticks (cut off the painted part if you’ve used it), and more. Get creative!
Container Gardening Resources for Beginners (and fellow brown thumbs!)
I’m no master gardener, so I need all the help I can get! Luckily, I have some great links for you to get your container garden growing!
Resources for some of the plants we’ll be trying out this year (hopefully!)
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