Grow Your Own Chinese broccoli

Published on March 17th, 2011 | by Becky Striepe

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Grow Your Own Food Challenge: My Tiny Container Garden

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Chinese broccoli

My goal this spring is to grow some food. Not a ton of food, but some. I invite all of you to join me and share your experiences!

We talk a lot about the benefits of growing your own food around here, and it’s easier said than done. Food plants take maintenance and care, and when you’re working with a limited amount of space, it can be even more challenging. It’s easy to make excuses for why we can’t grow our own food. The real trick is to just start doing it.

Confession time: I have what some folks call a “black thumb.” I’m a plant killer. I love planting and photographing plants, but when it comes to actually watering them, I am a complete flake. It’s led to quite a few gardening catastrophes followed by a period where I couldn’t face another failed crop. It had been a couple of years since I tried growing any food plants, and my friend Mike recently inspired me to give it another whirl.

mint

Food Garden Inspiration

Mike’s whole attitude about growing food is an inspiration. His philosophy is to do what you can, and not to beat yourself up when you fail. That’s easy to forget when you’re tossing yet another dead tomato plant into the compost heap, and I’m grateful to him for reminding me. I encourage you guys to check out his site, Urban Organic Gardener, for lots of gardening tips and advice.

Since this is my first time back on the gardening saddle, I thought I’d issue myself a challenge and throw it out there for anyone else who’s needing a little push to get planting. I’m starting out with a tiny container garden on our front porch. Here’s what I’ve planted so far:

  • mint
  • oregano
  • hot green peppers
  • Chinese broccoli
  • rosemary – The rosemary was actually already out there in pots, but I’m determined to help those plants flourish!

rosemary

Watering is my big weakness, so I’ve set a calendar reminder for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning so I won’t forget. Since there are so few plants to tend to, I’m planning to use shower water I collect in a bucket while the water heats up. I just planted on Sunday, and I’m going to make sure to water three times a week and follow up with photos and updates as much as I can. I’d love to have you guys join me! Feel free to comment with updates about your own gardens or even email me through the site’s contact page. I’d love to read and possibly even share you stories!

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • http://www.Insteading.com Tricia Ballad

    I’ll join you! I’m starting seeds for my herb and veggie garden this weekend. Several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, carrots, peas, basil, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, and chocolate mint. Plus whatever else I decide looks good!

  • http://Web Mitchell

    I’ve always wanted to do this. I haven’t grown anything since I was a kid. Now that I have my own home, I’m going to give it a go! My backyard is really small, so container gardening is perfect!

    Here’s a link that I found: http://gardening.about.com/od/vegetablepatch/a/ContainerVeggie.htm

  • http://currentlyavailablefood.blogspot.com/ Kari

    I just started my garden a few months ago – starting seedlings indoors. Yesterday was so awesome out that I spent several hours turning soil and getting things ready. I’m very excited as I’m sure you are. I’m sort of new at the gardening experience too, although I’ve done herbs and peppers in the past.
    I wanted to share a little tip that I learned at a gardening workshop I just attended. If you want to compost but don’t want to do a big “to-do” outside, you can save all your scraps, blend them and just pour over your soil. I keep my scraps in a plastic bin in the fridge for a few days until they add up. Then put in the blender with some water, take outside and pour over the garden soil, et voila. Thanks for your post.

    • http://Web Travis

      it is very dangerous to put uncomposted plant matter on your garden, no matter the form it is in. any little beasties (fungal problems, bacteria) living on the skin or in the flesh will contaminate your soil for years.

    • http://Web Anita

      Do be very careful with your kitchen waste. It must never contain meat, fish, dairy or eggs, whether or not they are raw or cooked.
      AND always remember cooked food attracts rats!!
      Just use vegetables and fruit that are past their best,also waste like banana skins, apple cores etc.
      Egg shells don’t decompose so bin them.
      Happy gardening folks
      Ax

  • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

    I’m very excited about all of the positive feedback! Feel free to share your progress in comments or via email…I’d love to see how things are going for you guys. Let me know if you post on your own blogs, too, and I’ll share the links. Rachel Shulman is jumping in too, documenting her progress as she transforms her yard into a food garden.

  • http://www.veggielakelandliving.co.uk Anita

    I have avery small garden so just every space there is I’ve put a container there.
    I’ve been doing this for a few years now and I just grow what is expensive to buy …a big variety of herbs and lots of different types of salad leaves, spring onions, radish, strawberries etc. Root vegetables and brasicas need a deepth of soil so they are never very successful. Last year as a new veg I tried fennel, very successful. Beetroot too although it’s a root veg it tends to grow on the surface.
    Trial and error folks, don’t be affrid to grow anything, some will be brill others not …the trying is fun!
    Put a few colourful flowers in between, makes it all look very pretty
    After the summer, tip out the soil and mix with some compost,
    Anita

  • http://caitscott.com cait scott

    It doesn’t take much green to put a smile on my face. Whether your growing 3 plants or 30, you’ve got a “green thumb” or a “black thumb” growing veggies is an wonderful experience that we can all take part in!

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      Thanks, Cait!

  • http://Web Christine Farrell

    What a brilliant idea – bucket to collect the shower water while it’s heating. Yes, I’ll certainly be adding this into my to do’s.
    I enjoyed the rest of the article too, and I am currently working on my garden, 15 minutes at a time. My back can’t cope with any more, but I am working towards 2 x 10 minutes and working up to 2 x 15.
    My hugest problem with growing food to eat is neighbourhood cats – I most certainly will not grow plants that we could be eating raw when neighbourhood tomcats are spraying them! Washing doesn’t do enough to remove that, as far as I’m concerned.
    If folk want to have cats as pets, the categorisation should be changed from “wild” and then people would have to be responsible for their cats. If cats are to be deemed “wild”, then they should not be allowed as pets.
    Sorry that’s really a separate rant.

    I’d love to grow more of my own veg – but I’ll not be doing it till I can get the neighbourhood cats to stop using my garden as a spraying and toilet stop.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      Thanks, Christine! I wish I could remember where I read that tip, but for my little container garden it’s the perfect amount of water.

      That’s very frustrating about the cats. I have heard that putting rocks/pebbles around your plants can help keep kitties from using the surrounding area as a bathroom, but I haven’t seen any tips on keeping males from spraying. If you find a solution, I’d love to hear! We have strays around here too.

    • http://Web Anita

      I do believe this works but I have never tried it …fill a large polythene bottle with water(remove the label) and lie it down in the garden. Cats are frightened of them and keep away!
      Also, when the pots are empty cover with chicken wire or place a small one on the top so there is no room for a cat to use it. I have had up to 4 cats and never had any bother.
      At the end of the year, you should wash your pots to keep away fungus/bacteria with Jeyes fluid, cats hate the small! (so do I!)
      As before …happy gardening
      Ax

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  • http://Web Lupe

    I just started a garden at our house for the first time and i’m very excited! We have cherry tomatoes, roma, celebrity (which i heard is the easiest tomato to grow), bell peppers, potatoes, green beans, and strawberries. It does seem like a lot of stuff, but some of it are in containers and some is in the ground. We currently have 3 little cherry tomatoes and 3 little strawberries, my son is excited as well, maybe more for the strawberries than anything else. We too have a stray cat problem, but i’ve heard that putting moth balls around will keep them away, they don’t like the smell. So far they haven’t been too much of a menace… at least not yet.

    Today we got cantaloupe, cucumber, and watermelon seeds all ready to go… have no clue as to where i’m going to put them. But we live out in the country with plenty of room, i just need to figure out a place to put those things, which i wasn’t too sure about doing, but my son picked the seeds and i felt bad if we didn’t at least give it a try.

    I’m excited to see how everything turns out and if it doesn’t at least it’s a good excuse to be outdoors!!!!!!

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      That sounds like a beautiful garden. And I love that attitude – even if I kill all my plants, at least I got to play outdoors and get dirty!

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  • http://VegetablesonDeck Eliot W. Collins

    I grow tomatoes and lettuces in large flower-pots on my deck.

    I used to be able to grow many vegetables in my yard, but now so many deer have moved in that it is no longer possible. The deer were “cute” at first, but now they are simply destructive pests. Putting up a fence is impractical. I am not permitted to shoot them either. This is especially annoying since I was here first and the deer moved in after I did.

    Growing tomatoes in flower-pots requires that they be watered daily over the summer. This is quite a pain, but it is the best that I can do.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      That’s a shame about the deer. My sister in law has a lot of deer, and they keep them out of the garden by putting food (apples, I think?) at the corners of the lot. That way, the deer eat the fruit and don’t bother coming further onto their property. It helps that they have a very large plot of land, though. Not sure how big your property is. :)

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  • http://Web Joy Inniss

    I grew my first garden last year 2010. I was excited from the start because I wanted to prove to my friends and family I had a green thumb. I grew tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, sweet potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, red and green peppers,collards, pumpkins, thyme, grapes, canteloupes, and sweet mint. Lots of my friends and family thought I was crazy at first because I spent 4-7 hours at a time preparing the ground and then planting, and watering. What they really didn’t know that growing this garden was more therapuetic for me especially working in the mental health field. As I saw my seeds grew into plants and then eventually food I felt fulfilled that my hard work paid off. I was able to share the fruits of my labor with family and close friends. I lost 20lbs eating what I grew and working really hard in my garden.

  • http://Web Kathleen

    Great article :) Reading these comments, I can see that a lot of people have some of the same problems I do in terms of keeping a garden safe (ie, cats and deer coming around for a snack or turning your hard work into a litter box). I have some other issues that I’m wondering if anyone has words of wisdom for. I live in Maine where there’s really only a few months warm enough to garden, and right now it’s chilly out (about 42 degrees F) and rainy. But it can’t quickly get up to the 70s, 80s and be very sunny and humid. Any recommendations for maintaining a veggie/herb garden with these kinds of conditions? I’m hesitant to start anything without some good tips. Thanks!

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