Monday, July 25, 2011

Container Gardening, The Third Year

Each year, the contents of my vegetable containers spill more into the ground, and this year it feels like I really have established a garden! The first year, we had no ground at all by our apartment that we could use, but I grew potatoes (and one onion) in pots. Last year, I used mostly containers and put a few things in the ground, but I had very little overall yield (except for potatoes and onions).

Lavender, which was only about 1" tall last year
This year I've taken over more of the landscaped area in the front, and (as Jaymz pointed out) I've succeeded in bringing a lot more color to the look of the place! I have to admit, seeing flowers instead of ornamental grass (for example) when I walk outside does make the place feel more like home.

More than enjoying it simply for looks (which I do, very much!), I love how gardening makes me feel. I find myself going outside to look at and tend to my vegetables more when I'm having a stressful day. I enjoy seeing how much they grow and change from day to day, and witnessing the effects of my care for them. I can't help but see many parallels between gardening and parenting: the plants grow and change (so fast!) and you never quite know how they're going to turn out, but the process is really the fun part. The thing I find the most fulfilling about gardening is the sense of balance it cultivates in me. I enjoy the give and take, the cyclical patterns, and even the uncertainty of it.

Being able to eat vegetables I've grown in my own garden is also incredibly rewarding. I can't help but feel like I'm making a (very small) difference on the environment by cutting out the middle man for a few of our foods. And undeniably, helping green things grow (at the very least) helps to use up excess carbon dioxide in exchange for fresh oxygen. I also really enjoy learning new things, and it seems that there's never a shortage of things I don't know yet about gardening! It's fun to build my knowledge base through this process.

My garden is still small, but as I look back on how much it's grown in just a few years, I know it won't be long before I have a larger, more productive garden. But for now, I'm pleased with what I have.

Now I'm going to take you on a little tour of the bit of earth I tend (from the front door outward, because that's how I generally experience it):


Greeting you just outside the door is a large pot of very lively carrots. Several of them sprouted flowers recently, and I pulled them up just after I took this photo:
Did you know that Queen Anne's Lace is a type of wild carrot?
Yum! Smallish, but delicious.

Next to the carrots is one of my pots of potatoes. This one had white flowers a while back (and the other potato plant had purple ones).
See? The carrots are on the right. They're mixed colors
(white, orange, purple)...someday I'll know which ones grew the largest!

Then, to the other side of the entrance, most of the other container plants:
From top to bottom: Daphne, oregano, Walla Walla onions,
lettuce, rosemary, hot pepper, red onion (one of these),
more potatoes (with a few empty pots, too)
Some close-ups of a couple of those:
I grew this rosemary from seed this year, and they've grown very fast.
(I gave the third one away; I wonder how it's doing now!)
The pepper plant that defies all logic:
The stalk of this plant snapped almost clean in half at the base (by the rocks)
a month or so ago, yet it continues to grow...and thrive, even!

It has lots of these tiny, perfect flowers.
A little farther away from the house, the front bed (landscaped with lots of obnoxious plants by the rental company) which I'm slowly taking over:
Lavender, of course, as well as beets (bottom right, very small),
spinach (bottom left corner), strawberries (just above that),
watermelon (tiny, top right), and daisies (top left)
I'm not quite sure why the beets aren't doing as well this year, when last year we had many edible-sized ones by this point in the season. Oh well! The watermelon plants, too, are still quite small, but I remain hopeful, since they've grown fast over the past week or so:

Farther out, next to the road, I've planted several varieties of squash. We've opted to allow the native flora to take over the parking strip (generally, weeding out nettles and dandelions, mostly). You can see in last year's photos that after one Spring of neglecting the mulch cover, other grasses were dominant, but this year the clover is winning. I attribute the success of the squash this year as opposed to last year to the clover, since it's attracting lots of bees. I learned last week, when researching my Farm Fresh post on the zucchini, that all types of squash need plenty of bees to be able to pollinate most effectively.
Zucchini (in the foreground), spaghetti squash (middle),
acorn squash (top, quite small, right in front of the tree trunk)
The spaghetti squash is the most fruitful so far of all the squash plants, with many blossoms and accompanying fruit beginning to swell up:

Turning back toward the house, there are some more very tall daisies growing up under our South-facing windows. I enjoy looking out the kitchen window and seeing their sunny faces looking up at me:
And opposite those, is a giant tomato plant. It's really quite impressive, if I do say so myself. (I have a less-impressive one, too (a cherry tomato), growing in one of those inverted planters hanging above the pepper plant. It's not dying, but it doesn't seem happy, either. Perhaps the upside-down life is not the cherry tomato's cup of tea.)

In any case, there is a very happy tomato plant in my garden, growing in a large bucket with no drainage. The largest tomato on it is about the size of a small plum, and they're all still quite green and very fuzzy:
I love how, every time I touch this plant (even for just a moment),
my hand smells strongly of tomatoes after.

Mmmm, so lovely!
Gardening teaches me balance in so many ways. Besides the practicalities of providing the right ratios of water to drainage and sunlight to shade, gardening most definitely provides respite and perspective in my life. It reminds me that some things happen so slowly that they seem to go by fast. It renews my sense of wonder and fascination with nature and science. Gardening reminds me to be flexible and adaptable, and most of all, to appreciate the journey.

Thanks for visiting my garden! I hope you'll come again soon.

How do you use nature to help you find balance? Do you enjoy watching your vegetables bear fruit (and which ones are you most excited about right now)? How does your garden grow?

"Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some."
Robert Fulghum

This post is part of my series on balance, inspired in part by the October 2010 Carnival of Natural Parenting. Without balance, we feel burned out, we lose perspective...we fall down. How do you find balance in your life? What does it mean to you to be in balance? Does it come easily to you or do you have to be more intentional about it?

I'd love to host your guest post for my series on balance! Contact me at if you're interested in participating.


  1. Lookin' good! Sigh, my garden has been a bit of a disappointment this year, with all of the strange weather we had, and now ravenous snails! But we always have wonderful herbs, and I'm still hopeful for the tomatoes!

  2. P.S. Clover roots also fix nitrogen in the soil, which squash is really hungry for, so it makes sense that they would thrive in that clover meadow! Another good spot for squash plants is the compost pile for the same reason (less bees, though).

  3. @Inder-ific: Thank you! I didn't know that about the clover & nitrogen, but now that you mention it, that does make perfect sense. And I forgot to add that there's a squash/melon looking thing (vine plant) growing out of our compost pile right now, too. (I didn't want to take a photo of it, since compost isn't very pretty. =P) Maybe it'll bear fruit and I'll get to find out what it is. Good luck with your tomatoes!

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