It’s been roughly a month since I planted my seeds, and so far the results have been stunning! Within a week, pale green shoots started to peek out of the soil and quickly because to stretch upwards. At first, my 36 little sprouts were cute, and everyday I would carefully examine them to ensure that they were getting enough sun in the 1 square foot tray they shared. As they started to grow I had replanted some is large yogurt containers with holes cut in the bottom for drainage. It was a great temporary solution, but what plants do best is grown. It didn’t take long to realize that they would all soon need each a place of their own…and the tiny ledge in my kitchen would no longer be enough.
Planning my first container garden hasn’t always been easy. When I started I thought it would be pretty straight forward, buying a myriad of ceramic pots with different sizes and colors to really jazz things up…but those containers are expensive! I really didn’t like the idea of using plastic in my organic garden. It seemed contradictory and almost hypocritical, but I came to realize that what’s worse that using plastic is wasting money. To my fellow first-time gardeners…take it from me. You need not waste money on expensive garden pots to have a beautiful garden.
First, raid your Tupperware drawer! Most people in my family save their empty yogurt and sour cream containers to store leftovers in, but they’re also very handy for gardening. Got an old beach pail or waste basket? Those work perfectly too! Ceramic garden pots can range in price from $10-50 (that I’ve seen), and plastic ones are usually around $5, and while you may need them for your larger plants when they mature (tomatoes especially require a lot of space), you’ll save a ton of cash by using these grocery containers in the beginning. When my seedlings started getting too big for the seed starter tray, I simply took a few of these 16-ounce yogurt containers from my cupboard and cut some holes in the bottom, and then I filled them half way with potting soil. I scooped the seedling out with a plastic spoon and carefully filled in more soil around it. But don’t pack it in! It seeds air pockets.
Second, look for depth. Like with the seedlings, the small “toddler” plants (for lack of better term) will eventually outgrow your Chobani container; not because they get too wide, but because the roots get too crowded. One of the biggest hurdles in container gardening (at least so far in this journey) has been finding deep containers that can fit the expansive roots of my plants. For such things as herbs, you won’t need an enormous 5 or 10-gallon pot 1 -gallon size will be just fine, thank you. Going back to the yogurt containers…the reason why you want to put your baby plants in those instead of big pots is for water. If a tiny plant is in a big pot, all the water will go to the bottom, and the roots will be dry! Be sure to only transfer them to bigger pots when the roots outgrow the smaller one.
Third, transfer the plants. It can be a little daunting. I was so afraid of hurting my plants that I delayed transferring them for about a week (which made their roots get all tangled in the tiny yogurt pot). But I soon realized how simple it actually was. Before you remove the plant from its original container, fill its new container about 1/3 of the way with potting soil (or dirt and compost mixed together). You want to make sure your plant will have room, so place the plant (in its original container) inside the new one. The top of the soil (not the plant, the soil) should be 1-2 inches lower than the top of the new container, like so:
This will ensure some extra room on top for new soil and fertilizer.
Now the fun part. Start by running a butter knife around the inside edge of the container to separate the soil from the container walls. Using your right hand, make a “J” with your thumb and pointer finger and put it around the base on the plant. Then, flip the whole container upside down with the other hand. If the plant doesn’t pop out, DO NOT PULL! Instead, press the thumb of your left hand into the center of the bottom of the container, and it will slide right out.
If your plant’s roots are sticking out and crawling up the side, like mine, gently pinch the dirt around the them to loosen them. This way they will grow into the new soil. Now all that’s left it to fill it the gaps. Gently place the plant into the new pot, ensure that the roots are spread out, fill the remaining space with soil, but not all the way up to the brim.
Water it thoroughly and let it grow!