I’m currently laid off from my job, and am wondering how I’m going to afford flowers for my pots this year. In spite of my layoff, I’m pretty pumped because over the past couple of years, I’ve managed to find some great pots at garage sales for next to nothing. Big ones. Pretty ones. One of these pots was fifty cents. Seriously. God was smiling down on me that day for sure! Unfortunately, the pots I bought were different colors, and didn’t look so great together. But I painted them all the same color last week. Now they look a bit more cohesive, and I can display them all together. Here they are!
So I have some ideas on how to fill these pots, make them look great, not spend much money and have some great-tasting veggies too!
Before I fill my pots, I put some chunks of packing Styrofoam or foam peanuts in the bottom to help with drainage. I’ve read where that’s not really necessary, but it saves on the amount of potting soil I have to buy, and helps keep the pots as lightweight as possible. I had to drill drainage holes in a couple of the lightweight pots that didn’t already have holes in them. I also cut up a piece of screen and duck taped it over the hole to help keep the soil from running out.
It’s a must to invest in some good potting soil. Growing up in a rural area, I find it somewhat amusing that we buy dirt. It’s like buying…air. Dirt is everywhere after all! But if you try to put regular from-the-ground dirt in a pot, you’ll have a brick in no time. I’ve even tried to mix dirt with potting soil when I’ve run out, and that doesn’t work either.
Now my pots are ready for plants. And the cheapest way to grow any kind of plant is to grow it from seed. I know you’re groaning, and I understand the instant gratification of buying something already started for you, but just hear me out. Seeds germinate sooooo quickly, you have a much bigger variety of plants with seeds and any leftovers can be saved for years if you store them in a cool, dry place. So one packet that only costs a couple dollars can provide you with a few years worth of plants.
If you don’t like that idea, here’s another suggestion. I plant rows of lettuce, spinach, radishes, red cabbage, broccoli and so forth in my garden each year. And each year I cringe when I have to thin my seedlings as instructed on the seed packets. Pulling out healthy little plants sends chills up my spine, but if I don’t do it, I know my plants will be too crowded and won’t grow as big as they should.
Well, this year I came up with the idea of recycling the plants I thin out, and putting them into pots to keep from killing the poor little guys, and to fill my pots without spending any extra money at the same time. I won’t even have to use more seeds for goodness sake. I know…seeds are so cheap, so why bother? I say why not bother? It’s something new for me to try, and I consider it a challenge. But if you don’t want to take the time to use your thinned seedlings, you can still plant seeds into your pots and save yourself a lot of money that way too.
If you google information on transplanting seedlings, many sites will say you can’t transplant lettuce, spinach, radish, etc… Well, I’m here to tell you that you certainly can. Recycling your transplants instead of pulling them out and pitching them when you’re thinning, gives you more plants without using more seeds. You just need to do it before they get too big, and develop a long tap root. It’s also a good idea to do it on a cool day so you don’t shock the bejeebers out of them.
Since most of my seeds that I planted in April are for early, cool-season crops, they will only be in the pots for a short time and then will be harvested and eaten. So the main center plant in my larger pots will be a plant that will grow all summer, and will fill the pot on its own after the early plants are gone.
I’ve taken pictures of my three newly painted pots as well as other pots I’ve filled, but keep in mind they’re going to look very different in a month or so (I’m hoping.)
The main plant in this pot that is planted in the center is Red Express cabbage, which is a small-scale cabbage. Even if you squint, I don’t think you can see it in this photo yet. Around the cabbage is spinach, radish and lettuce—all taken from thinings from my garden. If all goes as planned, once the outer plantings are harvested, the head of cabbage will fill the whole pot.
The next pot is a fern I’ve taken from the ground and planted with some stone crop around it. It’ll look great when the stone crop spills over the edges of the pot. This pot was then “free” since these plants were taken from my yard.
This cutie patootie pot just has a few radishes in it. I’ll need to find something else to plant in this after the radishes are finished.
The key to moving radish transplants, or any other transplant for that matter is to make sure you take your trowel down way beneath where you think the plant’s root ends, and then ever-so-gently pull it out of the soil with as much dirt attached to the seedling as possible. I did manage to snap one of my roots on my radishes, and it was a gonner. I suppose one casualty isn’t too bad.
You also need to have a spot ready so you can put it right back into some soil. I’ve done this in the garden soil with lots of success too. You just have to make sure the soil you’re putting the transplant into is nice and fine–no chunks allowed! And of course you have to water very gently right away too. Watering these little babies with a garden hose would be like a tsunami that would surely kill them!
I planted a jalapeno pepper plant in the center of this pot that will grow and produce until the end of the summer. Jalapeno plants are gorgeous with their bright red and green fruits. Almost an ornamental plant! I don’t eat jalapenos, but I freeze them to use in Italian beef. I may try canning a small jar or two this year.
The pepper plant is surrounded by some chives that I thought I had dug up and gotten rid of, a tiny, tiny basil sprout that I again thought I had dug up and it regrew, a couple radishes, lettuce and spinach. The lettuce is both red and green and is going to look great once it gets going. I did try some carrot seeds in this pot too. Nothing like trying to plant a speck of pepper. Man those carrot seeds are tiny! Even I would not try to transplant a carrot! This pot will eventually be left with the pepper plant, the chives and the basil. The other veggies will be harvested at some point, and at the end of the growing season, the chives and the basil will probably be put back in the ground for the winter.
This one has a banana pepper plant in the center. I planted a circle of radish seeds around it that you can see if you look closely. (I ran out of transplants, so I splurged and planted seeds.)
My last large pot has a Roma Window Box tomato plant in the center. I’ve tried planting a tomato plant in a pot only once before, and I wasn’t impressed. But if at first you don’t succeed…Let’s just say I’m hoping I have better luck this time. Surrounding the tomato plant are the same types of cool-weather veggies as are in the other large pots.
Another advantage of putting cool-season veggies in a pot is that on really hot days, the pot can be moved out of the sun during the hottest part of the day if need be to prevent them from bolting and scorching. This way I can extend my growing season a bit.
These window box type planters that my lovely son, Ross, got for me have onion sets in them that I’m hoping will grow into tasty bulb onions. In the past, I’ve only grown green onions, so this is an experiment.
This tiny pot has some colored lettuce in it that was transplanted from my garden. Colored lettuce in a pot is beautiful. I’ve done it before, and it’s just as pretty as coleus or any other colorful, non-flowering plant that you would put in a pot.
This pot doesn’t have a drainage hole in it, so I took stone crop from my yard and stuck it in here. Plants don’t like pots without drainage holes in them, especially glazed ceramic pots like this one because they don’t breathe like clay pots. But stone crop is like a weed—a very cool looking weed, I might add—and I doubt it’ll croak despite the drainage issue.
Here’s a window box that I put inside my porch area that has primrose and creeping jenny.
Yet another pot of freebies from my yard has lamb’s ear, fern and burgundy coral bells. You can’t see the coral bells too well yet in this photo. It’s on the left. I’ll probably add something else to this pot when it gets warmer, but for now it’ll have to stay the way it is.
We’ve had a pretty wet spring so far this year, and as I’m writing this, I’ve moved my pots off my covered porch and out into the rain for some of “God’s water” as my sister calls it. Waaaaay better than the hose stuff.
Food for thought: Even we city folks have insects and bunnies, but pests are another reason to plant in pots. Pest problems are pretty much eliminated in a pot garden. (That didn’t sound so good, did it?) Pest problems are pretty much eliminated in a container garden, let’s say. Weeds–nonexistent. Also, I’m able to plant peppers and tomatoes a bit earlier than normal because if there’s a chance of frost, I can just move them inside my garage or my porch. You can also get creative with the type of containers you choose to plant in. You can use just about anything that can hold dirt and has holes for drainage.
If you can’t commit to daily watering, pots may not be for you. But if your heart desires fresh veggies in the summer time, and you have no earth of your own to dig in, and you’re sick to death of hearing about all the chemicals that are sprayed on our food, this may be your answer. There are many hybrids of tomatoes and other vegetables that are now made more compact specifically to be planted in pots for us urbanites.
Since probably 90% of my pots and gardening tools are from yard sales, I say hit some garage sales, buy some seeds and soil and you’ve got yourself an inexpensive garden!
Please note that a follow up post has been published called “How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget–Three Weeks Later” so that you can see progress of these pots! Here’s one of the updated photos from that post—
If you have an interest in decorating, home organization or DIY home improvement projects, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.
This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and a Journeyman Painter servicing the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.