Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Container Garden

After Three Sisters Farm, I visited a very different sort of garden:  an urban garden in containers.

I first saw this garden a few years ago when the gardener had a party.  She has expanded it with more containers and more flowers and herbs and vegetables. She adds a few new containers every year.
The containers sit on and beside an asphalt driveway.

A galvanized tub makes a great container for plants.  Rather than drilling holes in the bottom, the gardener simply filled the bottom of the pot with shards of broken pots, to provide drainage.

These are tiny petunia-like flowers, but I'm not sure they are actually petunias.

One downside to container gardening is the fact that you have to water a lot.  But sedums like dry soil, so they're a good choice for containers with a sharp, well-drained soil mix.

Cute containers are one of the fun parts of container gardening:

Some people use old shoes, olive oil cans, plastic buckets, and wheelbarrows as planters.
Also you can make your own containers with hypertufa, a mix of concrete, perlite, and peat moss.

Some people like self-watering containers.  The Mother Earth News  had an article about how to make them.  You can also buy self-watering containers, for a bit more than it would cost to make them.

There are also water-retaining gels, or crystals, that you can mix with potting soil.  When you water, the gel swells up and then slowly releases water to the plant.  The pros and cons of this stuff are discussed in this article.

This gardener also has a water tank that collects water from her roof to water the garden with:

One of the most aesthetically pleasing things about this container garden is that some of the containers are on the ground, but some are propped up at a different level, on a chair or on rocks. This makes the garden seem more three dimensional than a garden that's planted in the ground.  I mean, all gardens exist in three dimensions, but a regular garden in the ground is planted mostly on one plane. With containers, there can be multiple planes, almost like terraces.

A neighbor gave the gardener these beautiful stones, and she is planning to lay out a terrace and some walls with them.

She said it was surprising how well the hostas have done in her containers.  Mostly we think of planting annuals in containers, but a lot of perennials like them too.  There was a huge rosemary plant spilling out of one pot, for example.

You can think of a container garden as a collection of really small raised beds.  The plants are easier to reach; the soil is loose and easy to weed; and each pot can have a mix in it that is specifically tailored to that plant's requirements.  Plants can be moved around fairly easily to make the most pleasing arrangement.  Makes you wonder why we work so hard to plant things in the ground!

Three Sisters Farm

I met some farmers at the farmer's market in Cookeville, and I liked their produce so much that I went to visit their farm.  It's called Three Sisters Farm, because three sisters and their mother are the farmers.

It's a beautiful small farm outside Cookeville.  There are extensive vegetable gardens, beautiful flowers (mostly perennials but also some annuals), hay fields, some berry bush plantings, and best of all:  goats!

This is a young Nubian goat.  A very friendly youngster.

Nubians have long, pendulous ears, rather like Brahma cattle.  More specifically, these goats are Anglo-Nubian goats, a breed that is a cross between an English dairy goat and a Middle Eastern breed.  Their milk has a high butterfat content.

Above is one of the nannies, or does.  And below is a billy, or buck.

Three Sisters Farm also has chickens.  The cutest one is a banty rooster.

He's tamer than any rooster I've ever handled.  He will let you pick him up and pet him.  None of my roosters were ever that gentle! Some of them fought me every time I went in the chicken pen.  This banty is not a fighting cock, as far as I could tell.  Good thing he lives on a peaceful farm.

The three sisters like to grow guords.  That was one of my earliest horticultural passions also.  A friend burned a picture of a goat onto one of their birdhouse guords: