GARDENING IN IOWA

Gardening doesn't have to be expensive

From the Ground Up | Linn County Master Gardeners

Don't spend a lot of money on containers. Make your own flower containers with ice cream pails covered in discounted fab
Don’t spend a lot of money on containers. Make your own flower containers with ice cream pails covered in discounted fabric and burlap.
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During the global pandemic, many people are looking for ways to occupy their time by learning new skills or starting new projects. Gardening is on the top of the list for many, but the idea can be overwhelming, both in scope and cost. Anyone can grow food, so if the desire is there, give it a try with an open mind. Half the fun is in trying new things and learning what works for your personal situation.

Below are some ideas and tips to make your garden project easy, low-cost, enjoyable and fulfilling.

I usually recommend container gardening to the new gardener who wants to start small and is short on time or money. It’s possible to grow a wide variety of vegetables and flowers in containers when the conditions are right. You’ll need an area in your yard, patio or deck that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. If you don’t have that, you can still grow food and flowers in shady areas. Leafy vegetables and others like broccoli and cabbage grow well in shade. Try to include flowers and herbs in your containers to attract pollinators, deter garden pests and just because they’re beautiful.

Once you decide what to grow in your container garden, you can buy transplants or start seeds indoors. Seed starting usually begins in March or early April, so it’s too late for this year unless you want to start seeds for some late season planting. Starting seed indoors gives you more control over the growing process. It’s easy to do, less expensive and gives you a head start on the growing season. Bonus: it’s fascinating and rewarding to witness seed germination, the growth into a seedling and into a transplant that grows in the soil and to reap the rewards of the final, fruit-bearing plant that feeds your family.

When growing seeds indoors, you’ll need a good source of light, a little warmth and a proper growing medium. Make sure to purchase good quality seeds. Seed packets usually contain a minimum of 25 seeds and can last a few years if stored properly. It’s easy to find or make containers to start your seeds. You can make newspaper pots or egg cartons to start seeds then transfer seedlings to disposable paper cups. You’ll have transplants ready for your container garden in a matter of weeks.

You can spend a lot of money on new garden containers but most of us have plenty of things sitting in the garage or cellar that can be used. You can use a canvas shoe caddie for strawberries or herbs. Paint or decorate old 5-gallon buckets and cat litter pails for peppers and cherry tomatoes. I’ve made adorable flower containers with ice cream pails covered in discounted fabric and burlap. Cinder blocks can hold herbs and flowers and make an attractive border around your garden, especially if painted. Worn and discarded items such as watering cans, woven baskets, wheelbarrows, painted tires and even old boots and handbags can hold pretty flowers and herbs and add a rustic element. Pallet gardens are popular now and some stores are happy to part with their pallets at no charge.

For gardening questions call the Linn County Extension Hortline at (319) 447-0647.

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