We’re working hard to get all 5,000 square feet of our garden planted this week—we’re running a little bit behind (we normally try to have it all in by the first weekend in May), but that’s okay! We’ll still be swimming in veggies in a few weeks. I’ll update you more on the garden goingson in a post next week, but for now, I wanted to share with you a smaller scale gardening project I did last week—a container salsa garden!
Our garden is a good trek away from the house, so every season, we also do some container gardening up near the house for easy grab-and-go veggies. Our house is surrounded by dense woods on three sides, so we don’t have a lot of sunny spots nearby, but we do have a few that are garden-able. One of them is actually our back deck! And since there isn’t much soil on a deck, we place veggie planters out there to help supplement our big garden’s production. This year, we’re trying out deck railing planters. I love that they don’t take up any floor space on the deck, and they’re just so darn cute.
Even though we’ve upgraded to a large garden, I still have a soft spot in my heart for container gardening. I first caught the gardening bug working the pots and planters on my tiny apartment patio when my husband and I lived in the city. We grew cherry tomatoes trailing down from hanging baskets. We grew butternut squash in half whiskey barrels. We built a small raised bed out of concrete blocks and grew everything from peas to spinach and eggplant. We were able to produce a huge amount of food on our tiny outdoor space. I truly believe that everyone can grow their own food, no matter if they have nine acres out in the country like we do, or just a sunny windowsill in a high rise. A small salsa garden like this would be a great way for someone who is low on space to get started with growing food. And you’ll have (almost) all the ingredients you need to make delicious salsa come this summer!
The ingredients for salsa also happen to be some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden, so this is a great place to start. Here’s what you’ll need to get growing:
Container /// To container garden, you need a container! To grow the three plants I recommend here, you’ll need a good-sized container. A deck railing planter like the one I have here would work. A half whiskey barrel would also be big enough. You could also split up the plants into three smaller-sized pots or planters if that’s what is easiest for you to get your hands on. The plants won’t quite flourish in the containers the same way they would in the ground because of the finite amount of soil and nutrients available, but you’ll still have great success!
Soil /// The biggest struggle with container gardening is even watering. Containers tend to dry out quickly in summer heat and hold onto water when it’s been raining. Getting a good, moisture-control soil can help regulate the water issue. You can find lots of high quality soils at most garden stores that have natural additives (like perlite or vermiculite) that help regulate water.
Plants /// You need four veggies to make salsa —tomatoes, hot peppers, cilantro, and onions. Onions aren’t super well-suited for containers (although, you can definitely do it), and they are readily available for cheap, so we’ll leave those out. Head to your local garden store and pick out some high-quality vegetable plants. I really like the plants from Burpee Home Gardens. They are readily available (you can find them almost everywhere), they are always in great shape, and they have a good selection of plants that are perfect for home gardeners. For my salsa garden, I picked up a Fresh Salsa Hybrid Paste & Saladette Tomato, a Jalapeño Gigante Pepper, and a Santo Cilantro plant. Chop the Fresh Salsa Hybrid Paste & Saladette Tomato into tiny cubes and it remains perfectly firm and solid in salsa recipes. Plum-shaped and “dripless,” this tomato is all meet and is also perfect for bruschetta and light sauces.
Water & Sunshine /// Make sure you have a water source that is easily accessible to your container, either by watering can or hose. And make sure your garden spot has abundant sunshine—you’re looking for at least six hours of sunshine per day, preferably more.
To get started, first up, you’ll want to set up your planter close to where it is going to “live”. Why? Because all that soil is heavy! Trust me, you don’t want to have to hulk that full planter all around your house to get it in position. This salsa garden is going on the deck, so I planted on the deck. Next up, we’ll start filling the planter. A good tip to help with soil drainage is to cover up the drainage holes in your planter with some gravel or broken pot shards. If you don’t, sometimes the soil will pack into the drainage hole and plug them up. With the gravel in the way, the water can still trickle through, but the soil doesn’t plug it up.
Then start filling in the planter with soil. I actually make my own potting soil—a combination of peat, compost, garden soil, vermiculite, and an organic fertilizer used for fruiting plants. But, you can definitely pick up your own at the store.
Once the planter is almost to the top, it’s time to plant! We’re going to start with the tomato plant. Grab a trowel, and dig a good-sized hole in the middle—you’re looking for a hole that is a touch deeper than the pot the tomato is in and about twice as wide.
Once the hole is dug, gently pull your plant out of the pot. And then gently, take your fingers and just loosen up the roots a bit. No need to tear them apart, we’re just looking to open them up a touch.
Then place the plant the hole, and fill in Tomatoes like to have their stems buried a bit (and in fact, will grow new roots from where the stem is buried), so mound up that soil all along the bottom of the stem—just don’t cover up any offshoots. Once the hole is filled, press all around the plant to make sure it is nice and secure in the hole.
Voila! One down. Now, you’ll repeat that process for both the pepper and the cilantro plant—but for those two, you don’t bury the stems at all.
Once all three plants are in, give them a good drink of water. A good rule of thumb when you are watering planters is to water them until you start to see water coming out of the drainage holes, then stop. It should be a nice soaking!
Place the planter in its final resting place, and keep it watered over the next few months. Planters will dry out quickly, so in the heat of summer, you might have to water it daily, but it will be worth all the work, because in a few months, you’ll be able to make the most amazing salsa you’ve ever had!
It’s a good idea to have a tomato stake at the ready for the tomato plant, it will get quite large and need some support. Just when you see the tomato plant looking a little droopy, use some strips of soft cloth (an old t-shirt works wonderfully) to loosely tie the tomato plant to the stake. If you’re low on space, you might want to think about keeping the tomato plant pruned so it doesn’t get too unwieldy. Thankfully the Fresh Salsa Hybrid tomatoes from Burpee Home Gardens are nice small fruits—4 ounces each—meaning they won’t weigh down the plant too badly, especially if you keep it harvested.
Win some cash to spend in your garden!
Burpee Home Gardens is offering up a $100 American Express gift card to one lucky Wholefully reader to spend on gardening supplies and plants! To enter, leave a comment below telling me what your favorite veggie to grow (and eat!) is. So start gardening now by visiting BurpeeHomeGardens.com and find a store near you!
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