Tomorrow night is supposed to be our last hard freeze (high 20s) and I’ve already been working on my container garden. The wildflowers from last year are coming back in their containers because I left them out all winter. They’ll need a layer of new potting soil, and LOTS of water when the heat finally settles in, and that’s about it. I was very pleased with my two lavender plants. They made it through the winter. A couple of months ago I cut off all the dead stuff and now they’re really filling out with greenery. I repotted them into planters twice as big as the old ones. The lavender and the red amaranth–which I thought was cockscomb– were the favorites of the insects last year.
All my pots have small clumps of some little tiny pink and yellow wildflowers that have always grown in the flower bed, so I’m leaving them along and just pulling out the tiny maple trees and the grass that grows from birdseed. (BTW, you can fill in the bare spots in your yard with daily applications of bird seed. They never eat it all. But you have to mow it twice as often as regular grass.)
I already have two basil plants producing; one is from a cutting that I overwintered inside and one is a new plant that I just bought. Fresh basil is great. Drying basil is super easy. Just put the leaves in a small paper bag, fold the top down tightly, and keep the bag in a dry cabinet, pantry, or even your bedroom closet.
I had three onions that sprouted so I thought “why not?” and stuck them in a pot. I did that with the top of a bell pepper last year and got about 20 pepper plants. I had so many I had to give my neighbor half, and they kept producing well into the fall.
I’ll buy two cherry tomato plants again this year when I find some that already have fruit AND THAT AREN’T PRE-TREATED WITH PESTICIDES. If you put plants that come with pesticide from the store into your organic garden, you may as well just trash the whole thing. A few of the big box stores have stopped using bee-killing pesticides on their plants. You can also visit local farmstands that sell plants, but ask about pesticides before you buy. Don’t assume that just because they come from a local farm they haven’t been dosed with chemicals. Since I container garden because my yard is red clay and full of old tree roots, I only buy cherry tomatoes. They also kept bearing fruit into the fall. One of the good things about container gardening is that you can move your vegetables and herbs onto a covered porch or patio at night to avoid frost.
Easy flowers to grow from seed: marigolds, sweetpeas, sunflowers (the easiest of all and you don’t need fancy seeds from a packet, just the seeds in your birdseed) and moonflowers. Moths are pollinators too, so a well-rounded pollinator garden should include night-blooming flowers.
Marigolds just need potting soil, frequent watering, morning and afternoon sun, and large pots. They’ll quickly outgrow small pots and start drooping.
Sweetpeas are best planted in the ground and given something to climb–your porch banister will suffice–but they also do well and look and smell fantastic in hanging planters.
Sunflowers grow quite tall in pots, and they don’t need big, deep pots. Last year I did buy a packet of fancy mixed sunflower seeds and put three at a time to a pot. They grew to at least four feet tall. Sunflowers will face the rising sun. Keep that in mind when placing their pots.
Moonflowers are also very easy to grow and don’t require deep planters. They just need something to climb. If you don’t provide something, they’ll climb your sunflowers. Plant multiple seeds (they’re big) so you’ll have lots of glowing white plants after sunset. IMPORTANT: MOONFLOWER SEEDS CAN BE TOXIC. Keep them out of reach of children and pets. Watch for the seed pods to appear in early fall. When they dry out, you can extract the seeds.
This link, courtesy of @SonnyBeez on Twitter, is great because you just enter your zip code and learn the primary pollinators in your area, their favorite plants, and a lot of other information about organic gardening to feed pollinators, beautify your yard, and feed your family, or at least give you some cooking herbs and tomatoes and peppers for your salads and omelets.
The best water for your plants is rainwater. If you get a hard rainstorm in the summer you might want to try collecting rainwater for your garden, but you’ll have to use it within two days or you’ll be breeding mosquitoes.
Watering plants in containers on your apartment patio? If you don’t have/can’t use a garden hose, buy a plastic watering can. Plants do best when they get an approximation of rain water on their leaves as well as at the roots. I put my houseplants in the sink and use the sink sprayer to water them.
I buy American Seed brand seeds in boxes and packets at Dollar General. They’re organic. I’ve had mixed success with them. I haven’t had any luck with the impatiens and shade wildflower mix, but the partial to full sun mix boxes and the packets of sunflowers, moonflowers, sweatpeas, and marigolds have been marvelous.