Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lessons From My First Season of Container Gardening

By David Burton
University Extension

I’m declaring my first attempt at container gardening a marginal success. I started in April with family-wide excitement but finished up in early October with a whimper.
I enjoyed five green beans (yes, you read that correctly), many small tomatoes, several weeks of lettuce and carrots, five zucchini and three strawberries from my 12 different containers.
While my total volume of fresh produce was small this year, I did enjoy learning some basic facts of gardening. Unfortunately, most of my lessons came from mistakes.
So here is what I, a civic communication specialist with University of Missouri Extension, learned about container gardening this year.
There is such a thing as too much rain. Too much rain can cause blight on tomatoes, powdery mildew on zucchini, rot on strawberries and rust on beans. My plants had all four diseases.
Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun. The spots I picked for my tomato and zucchini containers did not receive enough sun. I thought I was doing them a favor by selecting locations that had shade after 3 p.m.
Location, location, location doesn’t just apply to real estate. The MU Extension guide sheet on vegetable gardening says this: “Selecting the location for a garden is an important decision. The right spot can make gardening more pleasant and convenient and contribute to plant health and survival.”
Animal netting can be your best friend and your biggest hassle. I purchased netting to keep the birds from digging soil out of my pots. It also kept the squirrels out of my tomatoes. The downside was that the netting nearly kept me out of my plants. I understand that my attempts to get under the netting and work provided my neighbors with hours of summer enjoyment.
Who knew that squirrels like to eat nearly ripe eggplants? Apparently, they like to wait until just a few hours before you pick ripe eggplant to actually eat on them. I’m thinking about ways I can have the last laugh this winter.
Soil tests are important, need I say more? Help ensure your gardening success by getting a soil test done at the nearest MU Extension Center. Fall is actually a very good time to do this since you can be ready to treat the soil come early spring.
The taste of lettuce gets stronger, and stronger, and stronger with each cutting. We really enjoyed our abundance of lettuce, but the third cutting nearly curled our toes. Next season we will stop after just two cuttings.
You can have too much of a good thing, like carrots for example. Next season I am only going to plant two containers of carrots and I’m going to thin them out.
I’ve learned from my gardening mistakes. This winter, I’m going to re-read my materials from MU Extension on container gardening, review the MU Extension vegetable planning guide, plan my container placements for next summer and get a live animal trap for my eggplant-eating squirrel.
For expert advice related to gardening, call the Master Gardener hotline in Greene County at (417) 862-9284 or visit MU Extension online at extension.missouri.edu.

No comments: