Gardening Adventures

Lessons Learned From Planter Gardening This Season

Gardening is a mix of science and art. It’s possible that you can carefully craft the perfect garden space with optimal soil nutrients, ideal sunlight, and a well-timed watering system and have nothing go as planned. Even the best gardeners experience challenges during the growing season, and sometimes they have complete garden fails. Gardening is a learning process for everyone, not just a product, which is part of the appeal.

It’s also comforting for beginning gardeners to know that even the most experienced gardeners still have their obstacles to overcome. Many of the pros live by the philosophy, “If you’re not killing plants, you’re not stretching yourself as a gardener.”

Our CedarCraft team field-tests each one of our planters during the gardening season, growing a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the process. You can see how our own gardens grow on Instagram as we share photo updates throughout the year. Rest assured, even though our garden may look beautiful, we experience our own challenges too. We’d love to share some lessons that our Colorado team learned from the 2015 gardening season.

 

Weather

This is one of the biggest hurdles for every gardener around the world, and it has been since the beginning of time. Floods, droughts, cold snaps, high winds, and hail are all elements that can wreak havoc on your garden.

Our Colorado team had an exceptionally wet and cold-ish May, right when the planting season began. It was a little too much for the cucumbers to bear and we lost them all.

 

Lesson Learned: Patience is a virtue, especially in gardening. It’s better to wait a little longer than jump the gun when planting your starters to make sure they have a good chance of establishing roots.

 

Soil

We spent a lot of time on procuring the right mix of soil for all of the planters this year. What we found was with that particular mix, our tomatoes flourished and thrived in the ground planters, but our spinach and lettuce greens needed a little more help with the same mix in the Urban planter. We had to switch out soils in that planter, and once we did, the spinach grew like wild!

 

Lesson Learned: Ground planters with sturdy plants do well with the soil mix we wrote about earlier this year. The Elevated planters will do better with a softer container soil mix.

 

Water 

We did pretty well with keeping up on our watering cycles this year! Nothing dried out or wilted… until we went on vacation. Summer is a time to enjoy vacations with kids out of school and the warm-weather adventures at your feet. Our Colorado team went on a backpacking trip for a few days thinking that the garden would be OK. While there were cool temps in the high country, it was a lot warmer in the flatlands. We came back to find some of the plants drier than they should have been, which caused a few to bolt early.

 

Lesson Learned: set up watering systems if you can, and at the very least, have a neighbor or friend come over to water your garden while you’re on vacation. We have some exciting new developments with our product line in 2016 that will help you with this! Look for an announcement in January.

 

Pests

This may have been the biggest challenge for us this year above all else. Rabbits scaled chicken wire fences to nap in the cilantro, birds filled up on strawberries, squirrels pilfered the peppers, and bugs munched on kale and cauliflower. It was garden warfare despite our best efforts with all methods of pest control.

 

Lesson Learned: We’re still learning. We’ll see what we can do to lessen the likeness of “Mr. McGregor’s Garden” in 2016.

 

Unexpected Experiments

We had one planter that we lovingly called the “misfit garden” where we planted extra starters and companion planted plants that you’re not supposed to place next to each other. We didn’t have high hopes for this section of the garden, but decided to take the risk anyway to see what would happen.

There were some fails in there for sure, like the extra cauliflower plants not producing anything at all, but we found some unexpected success, like potatoes and pumpkins thriving!!

 

Lesson Learned: It’s OK to take risks! Don’t be afraid to fail, because you might just experience some unexpected successes. And sometimes those are the best!

 

Despite our own challenges this year, we came out of it with first-hand knowledge to apply in the 2016 growing season, and we had some delicious harvests along the way. We’re certainly looking forward to the gardening adventures that the next year will bring!

Planting Your Garden

The sun is shining, the grass is green, it’s time to get your hands dirty and plant your garden! Here are the things we've covered in other CedarCraft blog posts on what you need to know before you get those plants in your soil:

 

 

Now it’s time to get the details on how to plant a plethora of fruits, herbs, and vegetables in your planters!

If you are a beginner gardener, your best bet is to establish your garden with starters rather than seeds. This will reduce the margin of error for you as you gain more hands-on experience.

When choosing where to purchase your starters, avoid Big Box hardware and garden stores. They often have plants that are sick with disease, which will spread to healthy plants in your planters. Visit your local garden center where the plants have been grown there or the surrounding area. Plus, the gardeners working there LOVE to share their wealth of knowledge to help you out.

Local farms and CSA’s will have plant sales in the spring, giving you the opportunity to grow exactly what your favorite farmer has decided to produce for crops that year. These are generally organic and GMO-free plants as well.

Horticulture organizations and university departments will host starter sales as a fundraising source for students. This is a great way to get plants at an affordable price while supporting local gardeners in your area! 

 

Once you’ve purchased your plants, roll up your sleeves, because you’re about to play in some dirt.

Because you’ve mapped out your garden, getting the plants in is pretty easy. A calm, overcast day is ideal for planting conditions, but it’s not a problem if you’re planting on a sunny weekend.

Make sure your plants are well watered in their cell containers and stay nice and snug in there until the very last minute. You want to protect the tender roots from sun and wind exposure to reduce the amount of shock they’ll go through in the transferring process.

Prepare your soil by watering your planter so that the plants aren’t going in dry spot. They’ll need a lot to drink to get established! After digging each hole, add some more water before placing the plant in. Then after gently covering the top (not packed down, because the roots need air), water it again.

Transferring plants can be a stress on their roots and health, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on them for a week or so. Make sure there’s enough water to keep the soil moist, but not too much to drown them. You may need to water frequently if you see them begin to wilt. You may also want to shield them from sun and wind during that week if your climate is especially harsh.

 

After a week or two, their roots should be established and leaves will be a perky green as they have settled into their new CedarCraft planter home!