I just got back from Alabama. It was twenty-nine degrees one night, and the next day the sky opened up as if Noah’s ark had hit a sandbar and heavenly floodwaters had been dispersed to dislodge it.
However, it is warm here in Florida, and I am itching to fertilize my citrus trees and set out bedding plants. I hope that you are seeing hints of spring where you live.
My oldest son, Jeff, lives near Birmingham, and he grows citrus and veggies in pots. He has been good enough to share with us some photos and a tip or two. Container gardening might be something that you’d like to try, if you don’t already. He, of course, brings the plants into the garage during the cold weather. Here are a few of his trees:
His cat, Gixx, is strolling by, keeping an eye on the plants.
If you are just starting out, grow Meyer lemon. Everybody needs lemons for recipes and such, so you will quickly use them. There are dwarf varieties of citrus that grow well in containers and take up less space if you are storing them inside during cold weather.
Look at Jeff’s tomatoes in a pot. Picture eight or ten pots lining the driveway or on the patio. Container gardening makes it so much easier to water and fertilize the plants, and it is easier to control insects. Peppers, herbs, even cucumbers and squash grow well in pots. Train trailing plants to meander on porch or patio railings.
For another container idea, I grow herbs in an old wheelbarrow that is missing a tire. I propped it up, Pop drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, and right outside the back door I have herbs available most of the year.
I baby my unusual fruit-cocktail shrimp plant like it is a two-year-old. For a month or so, I’d been bringing it inside late each day if the temp was going down lower than fifty degrees. I know, I know. But you wouldn’t leave a two-year-old in the dark in fifty-degree weather.
Anyway, when a few leaves yellowed, I didn’t think much of it… just marked that up to the cooler weather. Good thing that this morning I noticed that Ace Hardware has their spring plants and all the fixins out. Nothing would do but to go and look the situation over, although I’m a little skittish about planting bedding plants this early. I had a $2 coupon off on potting mix, so decided to get a bag and re pot the shrimp plant, hoping that would satisfy my urge to dig in dirt.
When I took the fruit-cocktail shrimp plant out of the old pot, I inadvertently executed an apocalyptic intrusion on a thriving city of ants—I mean L.A., New York City, Chicago ant city. A Google search suggested that I spray the plant with a mixture of white vinegar and dish soap. Sounded reasonable… if Dawn can give a second chance to an oily duck, it should do the same for a plant.
I sprayed, they ran; I hosed them down, they swam. I felt bad, I felt guilty, and I felt drunk with power.
As soon as the last of the pesky little creatures lay dead, had staggered off or swam away, I put the roots in new soil and moved the pot to an area so that any ant survivors wouldn’t make their way home, all the while talking to the shaken plant that I’ve named Paula, for no other reason than Paula Deen has a pretty good recipe for fruit cocktail cake.
Once the ants are gone, Google says to make a little wall with coffee grounds around the circumference of the pot to keep them from moving back in. I did that soon as we made afternoon coffee.
One last thing. Have you ever done a spilling basket of flowers? It is so easy to do. Turn a plastic basket or wooden tub on its side, fill with dirt and plant petunias, impatiens or any plant that cascades. Continue the dirt a couple of feet outside the basket, building a burm and plant with bedding plants. This is especially pretty if placed downhill or on an incline. Take a look.
Green thumb wishes to you! I’d love to hear your thoughts on container gardening.