Get Started With a Container Garden

Avoid a Big Salad e. coli scare and bring fresh foods to your doorstep (or porch or rooftop deck) with a container garden.

The staff at Urban Earth Nursery in Fremont encourages aspiring gardeners to put aside fears or past fails and give it a try.

“Kill some things,” said owner Kristin Schultz. “That’s a very crucial part of the process.”

What to plant

Urban Earth specializes in plants that are hardy enough for the Pacific Northwest that urban dwellers can grow in small spaces. Those who are feeling hesitant could start with herbs to gain gardening confidence. Mint is a crowd pleaser for its range of uses in desserts, main dishes, and, of course, mojitos.

“The easiest thing by far is mint,” Schultz said. “You can dry it out or over water it and it will be happy and content.”

She says mint is ideal for containers because it’s invasive, so a container gives it a finite amount of space to grow. Sage and thyme are also great beginner herbs.

If you’re feeling confident in your gardening skills, consider lettuces and berries. Kale, spinach, and chard grow in early or late summer and can handle Pacific Northwest weather. Lettuce is also rewarding because you can harvest leaves as they’re ready and it will continue to grow back.

Just be sure to nourish with an organic high-nitrogen fertilizer to keep a healthy salad supply for the season. Planting flowers like alyssum near your lettuce can help attract pollinators.

Bushel raspberries and blueberries are other candidates for container growing. Urban Earth outdoor buyer Natasha Krasen has endless tips for growing blueberries. Get two bushes to ensure pollination and use coffee grounds for nourishment. Blueberries love acidic soil.

Tomatoes, another popular container crop, can be more challenging. They should be planted at just the right time of year, which requires monitoring night temperatures. They can be started inside and then brought outside when the temperatures are right. Refer to the Tilth Alliance Maritime Northwest Garden Guide for local timing.

Make your garden your own

Coryn Carson, marketing coordinator at Urban Earth, encourages everyone to grow what they like for the most rewarding experience.

“Don’t feel like you have to grow what the neighbors are growing,” she said.

She also recommends stopping into a garden store and asking some questions. A five-minute conversation can be the difference between a garden that survives and one that thrives. To set yourself up for success, monitor your container location for a few days. Track whether it gets sun in the morning or afternoon and for how long. Also, think about how much time you want to spend tending to your food babies.

The staff can set you up with whatever you’re interested in—herbs, squashes, berries, lettuce, and small fruit trees for your own apples, pears, and figs. Don’t think lemons and limes are just for Florida either. They’ll grow outside in the summer, then bring them inside come fall.

“It’s really a matter of playing,” Krasen said—that means both playing with what you grow and how you design your garden.

“You can use different devices for your container,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be an expensive pot.”

She said some good combinations are marigolds, basil, and tomatoes or beans, corn, and squash.

“The main thing is to plant things with similar watering and sun needs,” Krasen said.

Candace Nelson

In the mountains or water debate, Candace Nelson chooses water every time. She is a Master of Science in Nutrition student and loves taking any fitness class that makes her forget she's working out. Read more at candacenelson.net