OrganicTexasMama
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Starting an organic veggie/fruit garden in containers

Hi! I'm just starting out with an organic vegetable/fruit container garden and am terrified I'm going to do something wrong and ruin it all. :/ I wish I had someone here to walk me through, step by step, but I'm hoping I can at least get some advice as I go along. :)

I have been consulting "Bountiful Container" and "Grow Great Grub" as my primary resources. I've also consulted with a couple of folks at a local organic gardening center. I confess to being rather overwhelmed with the amount of new information, to the point that it has, at times, been difficult to process it and make sense of any of it. I'm trying to take baby steps and learn things as needed, but I know if I go too fast I'll end up frazzled.

So, here's where I'm at:

I purchased organic starts from Sarah's Starts in Oregon, which were trucked in and arrived last Tuesday. I got:
- Diva cucumber (6pk)
- Zucchini (6pk)
- Sweet crimson watermelon (6pk)
- Big Beef tomato (x1)
- Strawberries (x4)
- Thyme (x1)
- Hummingbird/honeybee variety - lavender (x2), and two others I can't remember
- variety of lettuces (these were included, free, so I'm not entirely sure what they are)
- I had ordered additional herbs that were out of stock, so we'll get those another time. There's also a verbena plant my son picked at the garden store because he liked the flowers. :)

I have planted thusly:
- 4 strawberry plants in an approximately 18x12" terracotta pot
- 1 Big Beef tomato with pre-fab trellis (4') and six lettuces surrounding, in 20"x12" wooden barrel tub
- hummingbird/honeybee plants in 17"x8" wooden barrel tub
- thyme in 6" aluminum pot with holes punched for drainage
- verbena in 6" aluminum pot with holes punched for drainage
- approx 3 cucumber plants and 3-4 watermelon in a 20"x12" barrel tub (I think I'm going to need to move some of these, but they were dying quickly in the 6-packs so I needed to do something, and that's the last container I had.)
- I still need a container for my zucchini, which are doing alright in the 6-pk still. I'm debating using a food-safe plastic tub, but my husband is against using plastics for the potential leaching.

Everything is planted in an organic 50/50 mix I bought at the organic garden store. The guy i spoke to when I bought it indicated I wouldn't need to add compost or anything as it was already included (and I did see that on the ingredients). I watered the soil as I filled the containers and then watered the plants thoroughly after planting. I poured a dilution of liquid fish around all of the plants the day they were planted.

Other than that (most of which only happened yesterday!), I've just been trying to keep them watered. It's basically summer here, already, though actually a bit mild for us. Temps have been in the lower 80s during the afternoon, sometimes a little muggy and sometimes (today) quite dry and pleasant.

I did also buy liquid seaweed as I've heard it's good for pretty much everything, but I haven't used it. (I bought one spray bottle, which wouldn't spray, so I just used it for diluting the fish and poured from there to the base of the plants.)

I am not sure how I'm going to work the cucumbers and, particularly, the watermelons. I knew it was risky getting watermelon, but I'd *LOVE* to have them work - even if we only get one fruit! I ended up putting the healthiest looking of the starts all in the same pot because I had no other place, and the cucumbers, being half dead, weren't going to fill it up. I'm not sure if we should plan to let the watermelon run down and along the ground, or if we should try to trellis it and keep things up. I have been planning to trellis the cucumber and have a smaller trellis purchased for it. These are just flat, more decorative, trellises I purchased at Lowes. They did seem sturdier than the tomato cages, though they don't have the benefit of the conical shape.

So, I would love any help evaluating what I've done so far and what else I need to do. I know gardening takes time and work, but I just want to make sure I give it the best I can and, hopefully, get to enjoy some of the fruits of the labor!

Thanks!
OrganicTexasMama
~ OrganicTexasMama, newly entering the world of organic container gardening

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Handsomeryan
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Good luck with the gardening. My best advice is just to watch your plants closely and take action as you see problems begin to develop. "What is this bug I found on my leaf, is it a good bug or a bad bug?" "Why are the tips of the leaves turning yellow? ect.

Gardening seems really complicated but keep in mind that nature was growing plants successfully for a long time before people came along and tried to intervene.
Gardening is mostly an issue of your enthusiasm holding up until you get used to the work.

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stella1751
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I grew cucumbers for years in containers. I never could find room for them in the garden, and they do great in containers. I would put three cucumber plants in each 18" pot, place the pots in a row, pound in a T-post at each end, and run 3' chicken wire across the T-posts. It worked just fine, and I always got tons of cucumbers.

I'm not familiar with the Diva cucumber, though. I always used bush cucumbers because their vines only go about 3'.

As for watermelons, I found a great thread last year for growing container watermelons: [url=https://www.mybalconyjungle.com/watermelons.html]My Balcony Jungle[/url]. One of our members also had a thread on trellising watermelons last year: [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=27681]"First time melon grower (pics)"[/url]. It was really informative. In that thread, another member posted a video: [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il_pZFLGfmo]Slinging Melons[/url]. Using the information in that video, I'm going to try trellising small melons this year (Sugar Baby and Burpee Fordhook).

The Crimson Sweet is a bigger melon, though. I don't know whether you can trellis one that big. If you have space, a lot of it, your idea of letting it run on the ground might be your best bet 8)

Good luck with it!

Oh. I used to use liquid seaweed (Sea Magic) one week and fish emulsion the next for fertilizer. Now I use compost tea :)
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

OrganicTexasMama
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Location: Sugar Land, TX

Thank you, both! I'm trying to relax and just water them daily and see what happens. :)

I do have some slight yellowing on the tomato plant - little bits on the edges of some leaves. The verbena doesn't seem too happy, either. It's rather yellow. I am happy to see new leaves coming in on a couple of the cucumber and watermelon plants, though, so I'm hoping some of them will make it. The strawberries are already fruiting, which means I might have *something* successful, at least! :)

My biggest concern, at this point, is how much to water. I don't want to overwater and kill everything, but neither do I want it all to go dry and die that way. :? I am going with watering daily but trying not to over-soak everything. I do feel a little moisture when I put my finger in the soil, but I fear that if I leave it be, it'll be too dry when I check back again. Am I just being neurotic? :lol

How often should one fertilize in containers? I've done the one application of liquid fish, and that's it. I've got the liquid seaweed but haven't used it. No compost here, yet, but I may be able to buy some compost tea somewhere at some point... and, one of these days, I expect we'll start worm composting.

Thanks! :)
OrganicTexasMama
~ OrganicTexasMama, newly entering the world of organic container gardening

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SP8
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Yes getting your watering regime down takes a lot of hands on observation, trial and error etc. I raced home from work on plenty of occasions after a hot day and just knew that my tomatoes and what not would be suffering terribly. :lol:
I >>used to<< grow vegetables in containers on my balcony and this >>was<< my Blog:
VEGGIE-MIGHT

cynthia_h
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OrganicTexasMama wrote:
How often should one fertilize in containers? I've done the one application of liquid fish, and that's it. I've got the liquid seaweed but haven't used it. No compost here, yet, but I may be able to buy some compost tea somewhere at some point... and, one of these days, I expect we'll start worm composting.

Thanks! :)
OrganicTexasMama
Do whatever McGee & Stuckey recommend. They're my go-to authors on container veggie gardening! But whenever my veggies start looking like they need a little boost, I make worm "tea" or seaweed dilution and water them that way. Not on a schedule, but when they seem to need it.

After a while, you'll develop a feeling for when the plants want something extra. In the meantime, go with whatever the Bountiful Container recommends. :)

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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stella1751
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I let my containers go pretty dry between waterings. I would trickle water them until I saw moisture begin to appear at the bottom. The first time, I would lift the pot or just heft the lip on one side to get an idea of moist weight. After two days, I would check the weight again. If the pot felt light, I would water again. If not, I'd wait another day. And so on, until the pot felt light. Then I would water again. Depending on the weather and the size of the plant, the pots could go anywhere between three and seven days without being watered.

When I moved from Cheyenne to Casper, I made two trips with a rental truck, one each Saturday. On the first trip, I was able to squeeze all my cucumber containers in the back of the rental truck. After unloading the trailer and watering the cucumbers, I turned around and headed back to Cheyenne.

While driving up, seven days later, with the second load, I just knew the cucumbers would be dead. I ran for the hose when I got there, certain they would be dead. They were as dry as I've ever seen, but they lived, amazingly. They were young plants, though, so their needs weren't high.

IMO, it's best to err on the side of underwatering than overwatering.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

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applestar
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Remember that if you just planted them in brand new organic potting soil, it will already contain balanced ingredients for complete fertility. You may end up unbalancing the formula by overzealous fertilizing.

I agree about not overwatering, especially while the plants are still small.

On the other hand, once the plants are bigger and the roots fill the containers, you may need to water twice a day. I find 6" pots too small unless it's a clay pot in direct contact with moist ground.

My favorite method is to put containers directly on the ground because the abundant earthworms in my garden always move into the containers. I usually mix my own soil mix containing home made compost. Once they move in, they aerate the soil and provide on-going worm casting that are dispersed through the container. :()

This time of the year when they are waking up and are particularly active due to the frequent rain and moist ground, they quickly move into my tomato and other seed grown transplant containers that are being hardened off so that when I pick them up, I generally find an earthworm tail hanging out of one or more drainage holes. :lol:

Mandy
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reading this i can't help but ask...i live in an apt so i have to grow indoors, would it be beneficial to me to put some earthworms in my tomato and pepper containers?

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applestar
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Glad you asked! :D
Here is MY answer in this thread: [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=177156#177156]Helpful Earthworms, Unhelpful Cats[/url] :wink:

I talk about citrus trees in that thread, but this holds true for all my containers including a window full of overwintering hot and sweet peppers.

Mandy
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awesome thanks! im gonna have to find a place around here that sells em. so sandy down here i haven't seen an earthworm since i moved! lol

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SP8
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I never used any worms and didn’t have any troubles, although I’m sure they would be beneficial.
I >>used to<< grow vegetables in containers on my balcony and this >>was<< my Blog:
VEGGIE-MIGHT

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