Wouldn’t you love some lovely little home-grown salad greens (rather than the stuff gently rotting in plastic containers?) But don’t have the space, the time, or the money for the gardening equipment displayed in catalogs and websites? Here’s a small, simple, inexpensive deck garden just about anyone can manage.
Hello. I’m Ellen Shapiro, the other horticulture co-chair of the Garden Club of Irvington. No one would put me in the same “grower” class as my co-chair Renee Shamosh. She is a master grower of vegetables (and everything else), having hybridized tomatoes, developed methods for saving seeds, and successfully grown major food crops in a plot on Irvington’s Columbia University property.
Although I loved growing vegetables in a sunny East Hampton garden years ago—it was a group project—three major problems caused my past vegetable-and-herb gardening attempts here in the Rivertowns to fail: (1) Shade (2) Critters (3) Space, lack of it. Last summer, however, a large willow tree fell down and had to be removed. With more sun this year, instead of our usual deck plantings of flowers, I decided to try vegetables in containers: salad varieties that are easy to grow and small (no peas or beans, pumpkins or squash). Here are the steps I followed, and which I hope will work for you, too:
First, there’s the issue of seeds, which are sold out almost everywhere. In early April, I placed an order with Renee’s Garden (a different Renee, this one in Boulder, CO). They eventually sent four packets and gave me a refund for the others. The Burpee seeds were selected from the rack in the local Stop & Shop, and the Hart’s seeds are from Rosedale Nursery on 9A in Hawthorne, where last week there was an excellent selection (with social-distancing measures in place).
Last Sunday, after Home Depot delivered three large bags of potting soil and one bag of seed-starting mix, we were ready to go.
First, my husband Julius and I laid down a tarp to protect the deck from spills. Then we collected and rinsed the containers: lightweight pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets that in past seasons had been used for flowers. We filled them 3/4 full of potting soil and 1/4 with seed-starting mix.
We then followed the directions on the seed packets, which generally consisted of “plant one inch apart, cover with 1/4″ to 1/2″ of fine soil, and gently tamp down.” I watered with our new lightweight, flexible ZeroG hose with Relaxed Gardener Watering Wand, which lets you make fine adjustments to get a soft spray that won’t disturb the soil or the seeds.
Now, how to remember what’s in each container? I made labels by printing the photo of the seed packets on an 8.5 x 11″ sheet of heavy card stock, cutting them out, and taping a small wooden skewer to the back of each.
Yesterday I used a mixed a capful of liquid seed-starting and transplanting fertilizer into two gallons of water and sprinkled the containers. I plan to stay equally vigilant throughout the growing season (insert smiley face here).
It’s strange to see “empty” containers, which just before Mother’s Day every year, were filled with flowers like Begonia ‘blazonry,’ my favorite for hanging baskets.
I’ll re-photograph the containers and post again in a few weeks. Let’s hope the seeds sprout “according to package directions” and that the birds and squirrels stick to their previous diet.