Grow a lot in a little space: edible container gardening

Has your desire to grow your own food been stymied by a lack of space or sun? You’re not alone – it’s a common scenario in our heavily wooded community. But don’t despair, containers might be your answer. With a bit of planning and minimal investment, you’ll amaze yourself with the bevy of edibles you can grow in just one pot, bucket, crate or barrel. And you’ll add beauty and interest to any landscape, balcony or patio. 

Where to start

Begin your plan with a list of vegetables you most enjoy. Then consider the season and planting time. The Montgomery County Master Gardeners’ Vegetable Planting Chart makes an excellent guide.  

Creating a beautiful edible container is as simple as following a recipe. When planting multiple varieties into one container, make the most of the space by including a: 

  • Thriller—a tall, showy  plant (perhaps your favorite variety of pepper) 
  • Spiller—a trailing/vining  plant (try your favorite squash—the flowers are also edible) 
  • Filler—smaller edibles to add color and texture (purple ruffle basil, bunching onions, oregano) 

Vegetables and herbs make fantastic companions. Basil and tomatoes, for example, complement each other just as well in a container as they do in a sauce. Learn more about growing herbs in Texas here.

Look for the largest possible plants to give your edible container a great start. Check with plant retailers, nurseries, and home improvement stores. Many groceries stock potted vegetables and herbs, as well. 

Gather supplies

As for containers, almost any type of material will do: terra cotta, fiberglass, wood, plastic or metal. Err on the side of a larger container to give your plants room to grow. In our hot climate, larger containers also do a better job of keeping roots moist. And make certain it has a drainage hole.

Spring for high quality potting soil. You’ll thank yourself – good soil is key to growing successful edibles. And spend a few extra dollars on quality fertilizer. Whether your gardening preference is organic or conventional, be sure to look for one labelled ‘slow release’ .

Vegetables need 6-8 hours of full sun. Walk around your yard at different times during the day to find the location that receives enough light. Once you’ve found the right space and gathered your supplies, it’s time to start planting. 

Plant and enjoy

Place your new edible container garden in the sunny location you selected and add soil. Gently transplant the plants from the nursery pots to the prepared large pot. Place the “thriller” plant in the center of the container. Add the “spiller plant(s) near the edge of the pot. Fill in with the “filler” plants. Fertilize using the label directions. Water thoroughly. Your edible garden is complete! Container gardens require early morning or late evening watering daily in the southeast Texas climate, unless rain occurs.

Enjoy these additional resources: 

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Happy 50th Birthday, Earth Day!

Tips for celebrating at home

April 22, 2020 marks 50 years of celebrating Earth Day and the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Although a monumental day such as this is usually celebrated with festivals and mass gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to recognize this milestone and do good for the planet. 

Discover the natural world in your own backyard.

Become a Citizen Scientist by observing wildlife and logging pictures using iNaturalist. Download the app, snap a picture, receive help identifying species and help scientists conducting global research. 

Start a garden to grow your own vegetables or to support pollinators

  • Keep organic waste out of landfills and create rich additive for your garden by starting a compost pile with green food scraps and yard waste. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Right 

  • Reduce the amount of waste you generate by choosing reusable alternatives and purchasing items with less packaging. 
  • Extend the life of products by reusing them; get creative by turning trash into treasure. 
  • Recycle right. Check with your local government about current recycling practices. Remember not to bag your recyclables and only put the specified items in your recycle bin.  

Watch a new documentary, webinar or presentation to learn more about our environment and how to preserve it for future generations. 

Stay Connected  

  • Think globally by subscribing to national and world-wide environmental organizations. This website has compiled a list of several groups that educate on important causes around the world, making it simple to learn how you can support their efforts.  
  • Act locally. Subscribe to The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Blog for ways to get involved in our community. Input your email at the top right of this screen and click the link in the confirmation sent to your email from Wordpress.  

Make Earth Day every day by continuing to practice environmentally friendly habits. If you would like more information on how to be green in the spirit of Earth Day or opportunities to get involved in our community, contact The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department at 281.210.3800 or enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.   

Gardening with Children: easy strategies during social distancing

With the extra time created by social distancing, gardening is an activity that children of all ages can enjoy. Simple and exciting gardening opportunities abound in your yard and even inside your home. Here are a few tips to get you started with minimal supplies and minimal cost.

Look around. Get Creative.

Take a quick inventory of your gardening supplies. Just a few simple tools that are needed to start: a spade or trowel, hoe or small gardening rake are essential. If a tool is missing, improvise using items from your home. No trowel? Use large cooking or serving spoons. Lacking a rake? Try a large cooking fork. Plastic milk cartons make excellent watering cans and soil scoops.

Younger children can use small recycled containers as soil scoops

Small cardboard containers or cans are useful seed starting pots. Your Sunday newspaper is perfect for creating paper pots. Older children will enjoy making these seed starting pots for the family.

Shop around

When making the weekly grocery trip, add gardening supplies to your list. Most groceries are currently stocking flower and vegetable seeds and potting soil. They’ll likely have a selection of vegetable and herb starts on hand, as well. Another great option for starts are your local plant retailers. Many are now offering online purchasing with curbside pickup.

Time to plant

Flowers and vegetables can be planted in the landscape or in containers. Soil for containers can be sourced from an existing landscape bed, or commercial potting soil may be used. If your supply of planting containers is scarce, check the recycling cart. Large plastic containers can be transformed into pots simply by punching drainage holes in the bottom. Giving children the freedom to plant seeds any way they wish is a satisfying activity. The seedlings can be separated later on as a new gardening activity. When the seeds sprout, the joy is obvious!

Gardening has many benefits that nourish the body, mind and soul. Spending time learning a new skill while enjoying nature is beneficial for all ages.

Caring for a garden can become a regular part of your child’s daily routine. Even the youngest child will quickly learn how to carefully water the growing plants.

Start each day off by checking on your growing garden and watch how quickly children will embrace their new sense of purpose and responsibility

Many online resources are available to support creative gardening activities with children.  Check this list for simple, practical ideas to get you started:

The joy of gardening and the skills children learn will benefit them all of their lives. Get outside and get growing!

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Organic Spring Vegetable Gardening Class

Now is the time plant a spring vegetable garden. Whether you’re a novice gardener unsure where to begin or you’re experienced and looking to take your garden to new heights, the Organic Spring Vegetable Gardening class on February 22 can help. Skip Richter, noted author, photographer and horticulturist, will share his vast knowledge and experience with organic vegetable gardening in Southeast Texas. Skip will breakdown crucial information into easy-to-follow guides including when to plant specific vegetables, which varieties do well in our climate, and keys to preparing your soil. Montgomery County Master Gardeners will be available to answer your most challenging garden questions. Complimentary gardening resource materials and soil testing information will be offered. 

Can’t wait for the class? Check out Skip Richter’s YouTube channel, Gardening with Skip, that has over 120 videos on gardening in Texas. Skip is also the host of the Garden Success radio show and just published a new book, Texas Month-by-Month Gardening.

Space is limited. Register here for Organic Spring Vegetable Gardening Class and join us tomorrow, Saturday, February 22, 9 a.m. to noon at The Woodlands Emergency Training Center.

Organic vegetable gardening expert, Skip Richter, will walk you through simple steps to have a successful spring vegetable garden

Integrated Pest Management in the Home Landscape

Are aphids camped out on your roses? Leaf miners munching away at your prized lemon tree? It’s enough to send you scrambling for the quickest, easiest solution. That’s understandable. Just please don’t look for that solution in the chemical aisle at the hardware store, compromising the health of your backyard “habitat” and your pocket book. Integrated pest management (IPM) offers a research-based alternative to chemicals that is economical, environmentally friendly, and it works!

Leaf miners munching on citrus leaves can be frustrating for many gardeners

Pests in the home landscape may be an insect or other arthropod, plant disease, weed or other organism that negatively affects plant health or becomes an annoyance to people or pets. IPM is an approach to managing those pests that respects the interconnection and inter-dependency of all organisms. IPM is used to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment.  

Using a combination of IPM methods, like biological, cultural, physical and chemical creates unfavorable conditions for pests. Biological control is the use of natural enemies, like a ladybug, to control pests, such as aphids. Cultural controls are practices that change the environment to remove the source of the problem, like adjusting irrigation levels, since too much water can increase root disease. Physical, or mechanical, controls trap or block pests from access to plants. Barriers or screens for birds and insects are great examples of a physical control.  The use of a chemical control, or a pesticide, is used only when needed and in combination with efforts of the above mentioned methods. If pesticides are needed, applying them so they minimize harm to people, beneficial insects and the environment is imperative.  Check out this fact sheet from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for more information on IPM.

Ladybugs provide a natural pest control by preying on aphids

With the average homeowner in need of problem-solving techniques to manage landscape pests, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is presenting a FREE class on Integrated Pest Management in the Home Landscape.  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Specialist in IPM and board-certified entomologist, Wizzie Brown will offer practical research-based information to support implementing IPM in your own back yard.  Wizzie shares specific tools for use in the home landscape to strengthen plant health and reduce plant pests.  You’ll take home information that can immediately be put to use in your own yard or garden. 

Join Us
Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon
The Woodlands Emergency Training Center
16135 Interstate 45 South
The Woodlands, TX 77385

Space is limited and registration required. Register here.

Questions? Comments? Contact Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800