Holy smokes, I’m in Amsterdam! I’m here visiting my sister!
We’re going on some little organic gardening adventures while I’m here, to get everything we need to do some organic container gardening.
And we’re going to take you with us. I’m super excited!
I’ll be posting a new short video every day for 12 or so days, to give you some useful container gardening ideas.
Please share this on facebook, twitter, etc. by using the buttons up above the photo. I really want people to join us!
By the time we’re done, you’ll have a step-by-step guide so you can easily set up an organic container garden yourself.
We’ll keep it simple, but we’re also going to teach you how to do a great job, which means doing a few things most people don’t take the time to do.
By the way, the reason I decided to do this is because I regularly meet people who are excited to check out this website when I tell them about it…
But I often feel the site probably isn’t ideal for the average person because I focus more on rather involved gardening techniques in order to grow highly nutrient-dense food…
So this page is my little gift to anyone who has a sunny window where they could set up a simple container garden, even if it’s just 1 or 2 containers.
Choosing A Good Container
No, we’re not on any kind of Amsterdam drugs in this video or any other video – we just make each other laugh like siblings do.
There are hundreds of items you can use as containers for gardening. Just make sure it’s sturdy, non-toxic and has drainage.
And the bigger the better, because those roots need all the room they can get.
So when you plant your herb, it should look a little too small for the container, because it needs room to grow.
Here are the main kinds of pots we usually see in a garden center:
- Unglazed terracotta/ceramics are very porous, so they let lots of air into the roots and allow them to stay cool, but also need frequent watering and can’t take much frost or they may break or at least harm plant roots.
- Glazed terracotta/ceramics are similar, but hold more water and less air, so you may need a lighter soil mix, such as one with perlite. Some of them can take frost, although if they have soil in them, they can still crack.
- Plastic containers can get very hot, especially dark ones. They don’t allow for airflow and they stay very wet, so you need a very porous mix that allows for airflow and drainage. Some of them are made with toxic chemicals. Metal containers behave similar to plastic.
In recent years there are more and more environmentally-friendly containers made of various kinds of plant fiber or plastic.
You’ll probably want a plant tray to catch the water that drains out the bottom of each container in your organic container gardening setup.
You can make your own organic container gardening soil mix, but it doesn’t really make sense unless you’re doing a lot of potting.
So buying some is probably your best bet.
If possible, get something that’s certified organic. It may have an OMRI Listed symbol on the package or another certification.
That means it won’t contain chemicals and sewage sludge and other yucky stuff.
Try to find one with lots of compost in it, or if you really want to do a good job, find some quality compost in your area and make it 1/3 of the mix.
Perhaps you can find some worm compost, as it’s usually very good stuff.
I mostly stay away from peat and coir for environmental reasons, but most potting mixes do have peat, even organic ones, so sometimes you’ll have to use it.
While a basic organic potting mix is fine, I like to spruce it up a bit in order to grow more nutrition herbs.
So if I have glacial or volcanic rock dust, I will make it up to 5% of the mix. If the mix doesn’t have lime, I will add some calcitic lime or dolomite lime so it’s 1% of the mix.
Most organic container garden food plants could be started from seed.
But to me, if you’re just planting a few containers, it makes sense to just buy them.
It’s nice if you can find organically grown plants, but that’s difficult in a lot of places, so don’t worry, you don’t have to sweat it – you’ll take care of them organically and that’s fine.
Take a look at the plant in the garden center to make sure it looks healthy. It shouldn’t have any disease or insect predators. The potting soil should be wet.
As for which herbs to grow, most all of them will work in pots, so grow the ones you use the most. I’m not going to make a long list here, because you can try any of them.
If I have lots of sun, I like to grow things like basil, thyme, cilantro and dill.
If I have to live with shade, some of the herbs that seem to be able to take it are parsley, lemon balm, mint and chives.
One of the difficulties with growing an organic container gardening is that it’s quite an unnatural environment for the plants. That’s even more true indoors.
They don’t have most of the beneficial microorganisms they would normally partner with in nature.
It’s these organisms that protect plants from insect predators like aphids and spider mites, and diseases like mildew.
And it’s these organisms that actually feed nutrients to plants, in exchange for food the plants give them in return.
That’s why I always try to provide some of these organisms. I do this in the garden, too, but I believe it’s especially important in containers.
Compost is the best inoculant, but it has to be good compost. Worm compost is one great option for organic containers.
But there’s even more we can do. My favorite is a product called Effective Microorganisms.
It’s a mix of fermenting microbes that you mix with water and then spray on the soil and leaves in order to inoculate everything.
This can make the difference between a pest-ridden, deficient plant and a vibrant, nutrient-dense plant. I know most people won’t go through the trouble, but those who do will often reap some big benefits.
Most people use things like Miracle Gro on their container gardens.
I’m going to steer you as far away from that as I can.
First, I don’t want toxic chemicals on my food.
Second, I don’t support Scotts, the makers of Miracle Gro, so I wouldn’t buy their organic stuff either.
Third, I want a much more balanced fertilizer, something that supplies all of the trace minerals my container plants need. In turn, I get those minerals when I eat my plants.
That’s where ocean water comes in. Research has been done on this for 50 years. The results of fertilizing with ocean water can be quite incredible. I’ve seen it myself.
You can easily get it if you don’t live by the ocean. You can buy it as a product where the ocean water has been concentrated. No need to worry about the salt.
Along the same lines, seaweed has been used for a long time as a fertilizer. It also has natural hormones which encourage plant growth. You can buy liquid kelp. I use it and ocean water, but you could choose one or the other.
Too lazy to go out and buy a fertilizer? Okay, just use a bit of molasses, or sugar, or even coca-cola. Yes, even coca-cola! I’m a bit of a health nut, so I haven’t had a Coke in many years and I don’t recommend it for people, but it’s actually great for plants. It supplies sugars and carbon and phosphorus to feed soil microbes.
Update: The year after we did this, I decided to start selling these fertilizer in the U.S., so you can now learn more about them here.
Finally time to plant this organic container garden!
Fill your container with potting mix.
Water it in and it will settle, so add more potting mix and water that in.
Leave an inch or so of room at the top of the pot to make future watering easier.
Gently take your plant out of the pot and spray the roots with any microbial inoculants and organic fertilizers you may be using.
Plant it so the top of the root ball is level with the top of the soil. Spray the leaves with your liquid goodness, too.
A mulch will help conserve moisture and keep the roots a bit cooler. You don’t have to go crazy trying to find some, but if you can get your hands on a few leaves, they’re the best because they slowly feed the soil. Even some stones are a start, because they at least decrease evaporation.
Now there’s just one thing you absolutely have to do.
I won’t give you a schedule, because it depends on many factors.
Basically, it’s good to let the soil dry out a little between waterings, in order to encourage the roots to travel a little further, and to discourage disease.
But other than that, water is key.
The way to know when to water is to put your finger an inch down into the container soil and feel it. If it’s dry, it’s time to water.
With a watering can, water until it comes out the bottom of the pot.
Dealing With Pests
By preparing the soil well in our organic container gsrden – using compost, rock dust, microbial inoculants and fertilizers – we’ve gone a long way to preventing pests.
That’s because pests only go after unhealthy plants.
I’m not going to get too much into it here, but that’s the way it is.
You should spray your plant regularly (monthly or even weekly) with EM and one of the liquid fertilizers I mentioned, in order to keep its health up, which will keep pests away.
But be careful not to over-fertilize – I’ve done it several times and it ain’t pretty.
If you get soft-bodied insects like aphids, you can make a mixture of garlic and soap and water. Crush 1 medium clove of garlic and marinate it in 1/2 tsp of mineral/vegetable oil for at least 24 hours. Then add 1/2 tsp of soap and mix well in 1/4 cup of water. When it’s time to spray, dilute this again in 1 liter of water and spray on the plants in the morning. The garlic, oil and soap all have their own insecticidal properties, and they work on some fungal diseases, too.
If you get a disease, you can also try baking soda at 1 tsp per liter of water. Efficacy is greatly improved by adding an equal amount of dish soap or insecticidal soap.
The garlic and baking soda can work pretty well, but they don’t fix the reason the pests were there in the first place, which is lack of plant health, so be sure to try to improve that. I always come back through with EM a day after I spray this stuff, in order to repopulate the leaf surface with the good guys.
Maintenance And Harvesting
If you’re growing herbs or any kind of organic container vegetable gardening, most plants will prefer full sun, so that’s where your containers should go if possible.
But if you only have a bit of sun, that can work okay, too.
Outside is better than inside during the warmer part of the year, as it’s just a more natural environment for them.
But inside can work if you have a sunny window and some decent airflow to prevent disease.
Near the kitchen is awesome because you’ll have a water source right there and your herbs will be right where you need them.
For maintenance, optionally spray your inoculant and liquid fertilizer monthly or weekly.
And most important, water when it gets dry.
The plants will take a little while to get growing. They have to get comfy in the container first.
But eventually, they will shoot up and you can begin harvesting.
Use scissors for that. Cut a branch back down to where other branchlets come off it, or down at the stem.
- Get a non-toxic container with drainage holes
- Get an organic potting mix
- Buy the herbs you want to eat
- Buy some EM1 or SCD Bio Ag online
- Buy some sea minerals or liquid kelp
- Plant your container garden
- Be sure to water when needed
- Keep plants healthy to prevent pests
And definitely ask me any questions below about organic container gardening for beginners. Or leave a comment to add your container garden ideas to the discussion.
Or you can even upload a photo in the comments area below of your container gardening herbs or other plants.