Friday, January 18, 2013

Mission: Companion Planting in Containers

Now that I have my super awesome, extra amazing, mindbogglingly spectacular companion planting chart I've been spending time staring at pictures of vegetables while trying to make decisions regarding next year's plantings.

Planning where to plant your edible garden each year can be exciting if you rent your home.

Priority needs to be given to container gardening, because in the end, that may be all you have left.  In-ground planting should be reserved for plants that you can easily leave behind.  Planning which crops go in the ground, and which plants go in containers is the first necessary action.

I consulted the companion planting chart from the beginning, deciding which plants I most wanted, whether they could be in-ground or container plants, what they were compatible with, and which plants act antagonistic toward them.

I did this by hand.

See, some people prefer typing, but my brain changes course so quickly that I never know what I'll end up with.  A list can quickly turn into a spider diagram, and if I'm typing, the stress of having to change everything causes the analytic part of my brain to shut down and fantasy takes over.

Figure waving arms in the air, saying, "I'm going to plant buttercups that produce fairies, mushrooms for their houses, and a small patch of moss so they have a nice gathering place!  It'll be perfect!"

It's not pretty.

So I took my notes by hand.

handwritten list in columns in a spiral notebook.  Columns are: What will be planted, ground or container, companion, and antagonistic.  Various crops are listed within each slot

That's not very pretty either, but at least it all makes sense!!!

I need to go over this list and see how well fennel and horseradish grow in this climate.  I haven't seen them at the farmers market, and I've never planted either of them, so I'll need to research them - find out if they're a good fit.

After taking notes, the next step is to see where there's actual room for the containers.  

Things like sun exposure and vulnerability to wind need to be taken into account, as well as which areas are already reserved for potted plants that are waiting inside the house for warm temperatures to return.

I like to draw out a picture of the area, in order to get an idea of which containers can go where, which areas are already reserved, and what may be blocking light in various locations.

Pot green pot locations laid out among brown porch furniture.  Yellow question marks on areas that are undecided, and labels over areas that are already taken.  A brown house looking thing stands at top center, blocking much light.
That house-looking thing is my daughter's playhouse.
Oh, and the picture is
not to scale.  
We have a huge porch.  I'm lucky in that regard.

Unfortunately, it's also highly shaded.  That poses a bit of a problem.  Last season's tomatoes had to be moved due to lack of light.  Fortunately, once they were relocated, they nearly burst with fruit.

The question marks are in areas that I can plant something new.  Some of the locations have specific containers, due to my own aesthetic tastes, and I can be versatile with others.  I have a purse that I transformed into a planting container that will remain on the corner bench.  It just makes sense that a purse would be placed on a seat, after all!

Containers that I've labeled need to stay in their given locations.  They work well where they're at, and moving them could cause problems.

The next step?  

Now I need to figure out combinations of plants for different spots.  Tomatoes shouldn't be near potatoes, but both of those plants would do well near marigolds, which would also bring bees aplenty!

I also need to look at specifics regarding the different species of plants within the same genus.

I can plant crookneck squash in a container, but not any of the winter squashes I've seen.  Various types of beans manage to be beneficial to some plants, yet antagonistic to others.

Container gardening makes this a little easier to work with.  If a mistake is made and a plant needs to be farther away from another than originally thought, well... you just move it!

The only problem that I can see is going to be moisture during the summer.

For the most part, container plants need more water than their in-ground counterparts.  Mulch, mulch, and more mulch is going to be necessary, in order to hold in that moisture.  The good news?  As it breaks down, it'll help feed the soil.

Have you looked at the companion planting guide I talked about yesterday?  What ideas have you come up with for your own garden?

My planning will take me a bit of time, based off of seed availability, as well as rearranging containers within my mind.  The porch is only one small segment, after all.  I also have a front porch, a clothes line for hanging containers, cinder block planters, and a couple of tree stumps.

The sky is the limit!

Literally. If there's enough space to set a pot down, there's enough space to garden.  A clothesline, a tree, a roof, even, as a fellow reader once mentioned she's doing at her home.  I totally envy that!  I can't even get onto my roof!

Someone needs to invent hover-planters.  Now that would be awesome.

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