About Gardening: Bad Soil? Use Containers

by Mira Dessy

Dear Mira,
Last year, we moved into a house with a yard, and since I was desperate to garden after years in an apartment, I didn't do much preparation and I got poor results. We tilled the ground but didn't add anything to the soil and got 10 green beans for our trouble. Now I am getting ready for another year and am wondering what I can minimally do to improve my yield. My compost pile hasn't "cooked up" yet to use and some of the ideas on fertlizing are for much larger gardens (we are using about 100 square feet). It is important to note that we are renting and probably won't live here for more than a year or 2 so I don't want to get too much into making the perfect soil or acquiring things that will need to be moved. Are there some easy vegetables to grow without too much fuss that work well in a warm dry climate? Thank you.

Dear Anne,
Since you have bad soil to begin with and probably won't be staying in the house for more than a coule of years I actually wouldn't try to amend the soil at all. I would use the soil plot for things that can survive in horrible soil (like zucchini). For the rest of your garden I would recommend container gardening. The nice benefit of this is that you can grow whatever you want and when you move you can take the containers with you.

Containers are a very versatile way to garden you can do flowers, plants, shrubs, herbs, vegetables, and fruits in them. Since you are in a warm dry climate you don't have to worry about leaving the containers outside during the winter. Most terra cotta or plaster pots must be brought inside during the winter otherwise the can crack. You might even be able to find some attractive large tubs at your local farm and garden center. Any big container will do.

Once you have your containers you can plant to your hearts content. You can also rearrange the individual containers to create a more pleasing garden or if you notice that something needs more or less shade than it is currently receiving.

There are a number of good books on container gardening:

  • Taylor's Guide Container Gardening by Roger Holmes is an excellent book.
  • Contained Gardens by Susan Berry and Steve Bradley is one of my favorites.
  • Container Gardening for Kids by Ellen Talmage is a great book with a new way to look at containers.

Try to see if you can get any of these from your local library first. It should give you a good start on your garden.

If you have a question for Mira send it to her at: Mdessy@together.net.

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