September 29, 2016

Growing Your Garden

After a long, cold winter, green thumbs begin to dream about homegrown tomatoes. It’s time to make big plans for our backyard gardens. Local wisdom dictates planting after Mother’s Day to avoid frost, but that seems a long way away.

Luckily, there are things you can do now to get a jumpstart on fresh tomatoes and zucchini.

Sterling Lewis grew up on a farm in Kamas, Utah, and throughout his 84 years, he has always kept a garden. About 15 years ago, he turned to container gardening as a way to make life easier.

The containers are 55-gallon plastic barrels cut in half. Sterling prepares the soil, using a mixture of compost and topsoil. The existing containers are ready for early spring because in the fall, he removed the previous season’s plants and let the soil rest in place throughout the winter.

Many gardeners start seeds in their homes, but, Sterling says by planting in containers you can avoid that step. His containers sit on cement and thus hold heat better allowing his seeds to sprout sooner. He figures that by using containers his plants come up two to three weeks earlier and stay around a little longer in the fall.

Container demonstration garden from Weber State University. Container gardens enable gardeners to easily customize soil conditions and nutrients to provide the ideal living conditions for vegetables

Container demonstration garden from Weber State University. Container gardens enable gardeners to easily customize soil conditions and nutrients to provide the ideal living conditions for vegetables

The biggest advantage to using containers is that it is, “good for this old age stuff.” Sterling can sit and garden and doesn’t have to bend over as far to pick weeds or harvest. He also has fewer bugs to contend with. Watering his container garden is about the same. He waters when they are dry. One caution is to watch out for over watering. If the water pools in the bottom the plant roots will rot.

Tomatoes, Swiss chard, and beets are Sterling’s main container crops. He says, “Beets are a big deal. I eat them everyday.” He also has a container full of chives that return every year. He likes them because they attract honeybees. The bees pollinate his garden and backyard fruit trees.

When it’s time to buy new plants, he says, “the only place I go is Lambert Floral.  I have a good success rate with their plants.”

For those who can’t wait for the snow to melt and a chance to start digging in the garden, containers are a way to get a head start on spring planting.

If you have a nice garden, don’t forget to enter our garden contest!