“The Bountiful Container” Book Review
You may be wandering whatever happened to our garden. We were pretty good about updating once a week and then you may have suspected that our garden suffered some horrible circumstance that we weren’t willing to share. Well that is almost true. This year was our first attempt at gardening and looking back we made lots of mistakes but we also made lots of progress. We ordered our seeds late, didn’t pay enough attention to what would grow in our area, didn’t have enough sun on our balcony to grow everything, etc etc.
What did we learn? ALOT! One of our best resources was “The Bountiful Container.” I apologize for not remembering what blog I first heard about this book from but it has been an amazing tool. At first we just checked it out of the library but after renewing it three times the library wanted their book and we still needed the info! Luckily we recieved our own copy as a wedding present. We wanted the book for the sections it devotes to individual vegetables and herbs but you will also find chapters on managing your space, designing (both color and seasonally), hardware, soils, and pest manangement. It is not an organic gardening book though so it discusses ways to deal with infestation using chemicals so keep that in mind. I did find it handy though in identifying problems with my plants. Those sections are good information to have and as an all in one book I like it. If however you want something much better in depth especially reference organic methods then another book would be better.
What we LOVE about this book is all the sections. If you want to grow beans in a container you look up beans (they are organized alphabetically. They’ll tell you some basic information about beans, they will cover how best to plant them, tips for successful growing, harvesting and then varities. The book will list varities and then specific beans within that varity that they have found to be sucessful as well as any special information. Again not all varities are going to be heirlooms (but many are) so you may not find the exact bean you want to grow but here but you get an idea of what varieties will work and how to care for them to get the most out of them.
Another cool feature is the concept gardens that are scattered throughout the book. Perhaps you don’t know what you want to do and are looking for inspiration, these are great for that. Not only do they give you a concept they tell you what to grow and what page to go to for more information on each plant. One that I really liked was country kitchen in the round. It shows you how using circular pots you can turn the area about the size of your kitchen table into useful kitchen garden.
If you are just starting out with container gardening or container vegetable gardening I think it’s really really useful. Perhaps if we had gotten this before we started we might have been better off.
In retrospect though I think we did really well with our first garden. We started late in the season, I think we planted seeds from May to June and the only thing we harvested was our Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans. The broccoli did really well even through the cross country move but got devoured overnight by something… The tomatoes and peppers were left with a friend and we heard that the tomatoes at least bore fruit. They still have some time left before Colorado gets frost and if they were moved in doors that would probably allow them to reach maturity. I was never able to get strawberry seeds to work or any of the herbs for that matter. It took me four tries but I did get bee balm to grow only to have it die in PA. That was my fault though I never found a spot with the right amount of light without frying it from the heat. Our current “backyard” is a concrete slab surrounded by concrete walls which we are going to have to find a way to work around this spring. Our spinach did great and was one of the easiest things to grow. Our lettuce on the other hand was a total failure but we did plant it in Colorado in June which is more then a bit hot. Our carrots were promising but we took the paper towels off them to soon and we just got scraggly carrot greens.
I (N.) learned I need to put a lot more thought into picking the seeds and watching the seasons so they are planted correctly. I know that people have successfully grown plants in zones that it shouldn’t be possible or in seasons it shouldn’t be possible BUT as a beginner there is something to be said for sticking to what it tried and true. I learned the hard way how hard it is to get seeds to become seedlings and that heat and moisture (especially in Colorado) is key. I now have a heating pad and domes to grow seedlings under to create that added warmth and moisture. I learned that while I am adamant about growing heirloom seeds it is a lot harder to find good instructions or tips for their growth so you just have to hope for the best and do what you do know. Even then you may still fail but you keep trying. I am starting to think ahead (although I still just got my garlic order in and those will need to get planted as soon as they arrive) and I have already plotted out and ordered my seeds for the spring. J. and I are assessing the soil and pot situation now and are planning on building wooden platforms in the back to make the most of our small space. We are also going to start worm composting and we will do a post on that later.
I don’t want you to think it was all negative though, we learned a lot that we shouldn’t do but at the same time gained a lot of confidence in our abilities. Now having learned through trial an error we are much more comfortable going with our gut and trying things out. The process of growing food from seed is no longer alien to us. And while we didn’t get to eat many fruits of our labor it just makes us more eager for next season.
If you haven’t tried gardening or you are thinking about doing more, we say do it! It really is fun and a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.