Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

container gardening

Lettuce, kale, chives, and pansies make a colorful and edible garden accent.

Why not celebrate Earth Day by jumping on the grow-your-own-veggies bandwagon? Colorful salad bowls are a great way to grow your own produce in a limited amount of space. And they can be far more than strictly utilitarian. Combine salad greens with edible flowers and herbs for a showy and tasty mix.

The folks at PanAmerican Seed and BallHort have made creating your own salad bowl a snap with their new SimplySalad seed pellets. Each pellet contains a mix of several edible greens. Global Gourmet provides Asian flair with lacy red and green mustards paired with lettuces of the same color. The Alfresco blend brings a Mediterranean vibe with arugula, endive, and radicchio combined with red and green lettuces. And for the less adventuresome, the City Garden mix teams mild leaf lettuces in a variety of burgundy and green hues.

This photo shows the Global Gourmet salad mix in a container garden, along with Alfresco mix seed pellets in a vial attached to its store display card.

By planting several salad bowls you can have a steady supply of greens for your dinner table. This bowl is ready to harvest. I’ll simply cut the greens off a couple of inches above the ground. In about 3 weeks, they should be ready to harvest again. I expect to get several cycles of harvest from the bowl before summer’s heat puts an end to the harvest. A bonus with growing the greens in a bowl: I can move the container to the shade when temperatures heat up, extending the harvest season. And I’ll be sure to plant some more pellets in mid-summer for fall harvest. By then, I’ll have lots of tomatoes and peppers from my garden to add to the salads!


One of the themes at the Tropical Plant Industry Expo in Fort Lauderdale last week was living walls–the concept of growing plants in vertical spaces. This attractive display by Triad Plant Company creates a mosaic of tropical foliage plants tucked into a foam substrate wall perched atop a water reservoir. Essentially, the system is a recirculating fountain which trickles water through the foam to keep the plants’ root systems moist.

That solves one of the major problems with living walls. Watering them can be a messy task. Although I’m all for additional ways and places to grow plants, I’m not so sure that I’d want a living wall next to a carpeted floor! Even with this self-contained system, there are bound to be leaks or dribbles of water onto  surrounding surfaces.

Another water-related problem with vertical growing systems is uneven water availability, according to staff at Longwood Gardens, who reported on their experience with their new living wall at the conference. Think back to elementary science class and a demonstration about how much water a saturated sponge holds. When the sponge lies flat, a bit of water drains out of the upper portion of the sponge, but the bottom half remains saturated. When the sponge stands on end, a lot more water drains out of it because there is a much greater distance from top to bottom, and the capillary water (the water held in the pore spaces of the sponge) in the upper portion of the sponge drains out. Similarly, the upper portion of living walls will dry out faster than the lower portion. That means you may need to plant drought-tolerant plants at the top and moisture-loving ones at the bottom if you decide to try this new technology.

Here are a couple more examples of vertical growing systems seen at the trade show:

Planting pockets that hang on a wall.

Tillandsia meridionalis, an air-plant bromeliad, mounted on a wall plaque.

The planting pockets by WoollyPocket are watered like houseplant dish gardens. The bromeliads are misted frequently to supply the moisture that they need.

It remains to be seen whether vertical growing indoors is just a fad or a trend that is here to stay. Certainly it’s another way to enjoy the beauty and healthy benefits of plants in indoor environments. What do you think? Are they worth the extra effort?


For years flowers have grown around a plethora of garden accents–from the gazing ball…to trellis…to statues for whatever mood fits you.

But for me I prefer highlighting my garden with vintage finds.

Small chicken feeder filled with begonia, coleus in navy blue planter

Purple fountaingrass planted in galvanized bucket, foxtail fern planted in brown pot

It’s a true extension of my interior space. And that’s what I think gardening should be about–revealing your style throughout the spaces that you enjoy the most. Take a look around your home…find what makes you the happiest, the most comfortable, and see if you can incorporate that into your own garden.

Large chicken feeder filled with geranium, sweet potato vine, fiber-optic grass, and calibrachoa

Here’s a quick glance at the chicken feeder…before the plants took over. This summer I was going with “more is better” philosophy….I might have learned my lesson.

Keg barrel with galvanized tub filled with salvia, sweet potato vine, and Wave petunias

Galvanized tub filled with fiber-optic grass, salvia, ivy geranium, and sweet potato vine,

As you may have figured out….I love weathered galvanized metal and have a chicken feeder fetish. Recently, Deborah Silver on Dirt Simple rounded up a fantastic lineup of containers that I’d love to have in my garden. There’s more to these obsessions,  but I’ll save that for another story-time. Do you have a fetish? One that you carry on into the garden? Tell me about it! I don’t want to be the only one!!


Cassava and coleusThis beauty of a container comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. It’s a lot of fun, eh? And pretty simple! It contains variegated cassava (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’) and a couple of kinds of coleus. I think it’s a great example of how you create a really dramatic container planing with just a few plants.


With temperatures here in Des Moines forecast for the mid-40s this weekend for the first time in more than 3 months, we’re daring to think that spring may finally be on its way. It will take several more weeks for all the snow to melt away, but in the meantime I can plan and dream about what I’ll plant in the yard this year. We’ve recently come out with two new books that will help.

Beds&Borderssmall Containerssmall

Both of these books feature plant-by-number plans for gardens that are sure to appeal to those who like a template to follow. Each plan lists how many plants of each type are needed, shows where to plant them in relation to the other plants, and has a picture of the gorgeous results you can get by following the plan. If you can follow a recipe, you can plant these gardens! If you’re more inclined to venture into uncharted territory, you’ll  find lots of inspiring plant combinations and ideas to incorporate into your own plans.

Both of these 224-page books are published by Wiley Publishing and retail for $19.95. They are available at major bookstores or you can purchase them online at Wiley Publishing or at Amazon.com. Here’s a link to details on Beds & Borders. And here are the details on Container Gardening.


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