Starting Vegetable and Flower Seeds in Big Pots

With attention and lots of watering, the seeds I started in larger pots are doing well.

After caring for my seedlings in eggshell pots for weeks, I decided to start some seeds in big pots. They won’t dry out as quickly and are able to stay outside overnight.

I gathered up pots of all sizes that had been lying around and cleaned them out. for drainage I used yard debris, which was a mix of oak leaves, catkins (those long brown things) and Spanish moss. That mixture was pushed into the bottom of each pot before adding dirt.

I’ve planted basil, dill, cherry tomatoes, marigolds and cosmos. I used freezer tape to label the pots with the date they were planted.

basil and other seedlings in pots

Growing Basil

Basil can be difficult to grow in Florida, or so I’ve heard. I had some basil plants in the garden that lasted a couple of years, but then they died. Basil does self-sow if you let seeds form. I now have two pots of basil.

The basil seedlings became so crowded that I removed some of the plants by cutting them off. You should cut and not pull when thinning so as not to disturb the roots.

I kept the cuttings to use when cooking! So far, everything looks good and I hope to have nice big basil plants to pull from year round.

basil grown from seeds
Basil one month later – end of May

Cosmos and Marigolds

I chose two types of flower packets to grow from seeds. Marigolds are so wonderful for gardens, because they repel certain bugs that could be destructive. They should be dead-headed (pull off the old flowers) and I rip the flower head apart and scatter it among the vegetables. Every gardener probably includes marigolds when planting. I think certain varieties are better than others, but I didn’t have a lot to choose from at the store.

I bought two flowering marigold plants – see the orange one below – and will see what happens with the seeds.

little cosmos flower blooming
Flowering cosmos in a grow box

The cosmos seedlings are looking pretty good. A little purple cosmos flower has bloomed in my grow box. That plant was begun in an eggshell pot.

This is certainly a different looking cosmos from what I am used to growing in New Hampshire. Or maybe the plant needs to mature to grow larger.

Actually, the secret is to plant seeds in real good dirt.

The cosmos in the larger pot is looking nice and blooming regularly

Growing Dill

I always grew dill in my northern garden, but have not had luck growing it here in Florida. I do have a few small seedlings in the grow boxes, and now have dill sprouting in this terra cotta pot.

Because I don’t have much luck growing dill, I have chosen to grow fennel. It is similar in that it also grows tall and feathery and has flowers that attract beneficial bugs. Also the Swallowtail butterfly will leave her eggs on fennel, just like parsley and dill.

Dill seeds sprouting in a pot
Dill seedlings

I needed up putting the dill into the potato garden and planted more dill seeds in a large pot.

Dill plant

Cherry Tomatoes

My cherry tomato seedlings were not doing much at first, but now in May they are large plants. I’ve transplanted them a few times and they have little tomatoes on the vine.

Plants by the end of May

Planting Potatoes in a Container Garden

My son had collected a couple of big white barrels to use for rainwater catching from the roof. He cut one in half crosswise and built stands for both halves to create raised garden beds for growing potatoes.

I’ve grown potatoes a few times, and fresh dug potatoes are delicious. Now, I have no yard space to grow them, so they will go into the containers.

homemade DIY barrel raised garden beds

The potatoes I used were simply old red (and one white) potatoes from the kitchen that had developed growth from their eyes.

I know that most information about planting potatoes says to buy special seed potatoes, but I never have. The reason for buying seed potatoes is to prevent disease, which is a good reason. I already had the sprouted potatoes so I used them. Also, orders are for pounds of potatoes – which I don’t have room for.

Read this page at Microveggie for ideas on where to buy seed potatoes.

The potatoes from the grocery store usually sprout on their own if left long enough, but I’d love to begin with the good, disease free ones, and keep planting from there. Don’t ever use the green parts of potatoes for anything – planting or eating!

March Potato Planting

I’m in Florida, and March is the time to get serious about planting a garden. This year I grew seeds in eggshells and purchased new grow boxes for the vegetables.

red and white potatoes with eyes

Beginning of March: After adding bags of organic garden dirt to the barrel beds, I mixed in some leaves to loosen the soil, bone meal (good for developing good roots) and blood meal. I add the “meals” this because I use these amendments in all my gardens each spring. Otherwise, no fertilizer needs to be added to potatoes while they are growing.

Compost would be nice to add, but presently I am in the middle of making my own compost using the Hot Frog Composter. It might be ready for Fall planting.

planting potatoes in raised container beds

Potatoes should be cut with only a couple of eyes in each piece. Plant each cut piece with eyes facing upward and cover with a couple of inches of dirt.

I put five cut pieces into each bed. This is probably too many. Also, the barrel beds are really too shallow, but I have no other place to grow potatoes. I will see what happens.

Potatoes in soil

We had a lot of rain for a few days after they were planted. My son had drilled holes in the bottom of the barrels for drainage. After a week or so the green leaves began to show. (Leaves are poisonous, so keep pets and kids away.)

potato plant
Potato plant
potato plants in grow box
Potatoes

As the green stems grow and get tall enough, I am adding more dirt. The potatoes will grow off tubers under the soil. The more dirt for them to spread out, the better. Unfortunately I don’t have much land for growing potatoes in the ground.

Building up the soil around the greenery

Potatoes grow well with green beans planted nearby. This is what my gardening book advises. If your garden is in the ground, and you have space, maybe do this.

When Are Potatoes Ready to Dig?

Once the tops – those green parts – die back, the potatoes need to be dug up. How long does it take? In general, three months, give or take.

It is possible to gently dig around the plants before this to pull up small potatoes for eating. After the plants have been growing for a couple of months, it is possible to carefully dig around and find a couple of small potatoes to eat. In a small household, like where I live, this is a good idea so I won’t end up with all the potatoes being ready at once.

In the ground, I would use a pitchfork and carefully lift the soil around each top. They can really branch out, so dig around.

Because they are in the barrel, I’ll choose a time when the soil is dry (hopefully) and dig with a hand shovel and gloves.

When all the potatoes are pulled out of the dirt. Let them sit in the sun to dry a bit. DO NOT RINSE THEM… just brush the dirt off. Often gardeners will say to cure them, which toughens the skin for storing. If your harvest is large, see what to do here at “How to Harvest and Store Potatoes”.

Potato tops can go into the compost pile. Leaves of potato plants are poisonous if eaten, but can go into the compost to be broken down. Only do this if the plant shows no sign of disease. Read more about composting questionable poisonous plants.

I will follow up with more information about my potato garden as the season progresses.

More Gardening News

Rubber Trees in The Florida Landscape

It all began with one indoor rubber tree plant. When it started to look gangly, I cut it back and stuck the cuttings in water to see what would happen. You can read about the rubber tree trimming here. Many of the cuttings did root and I simply planted them in the ground. A few never rooted for whatever reason.

rebber plant cuttings
Cuttings in water

I ended up with four rooted stems which I planted straight into the dirt outside. I’m finding that my rubber tree babies are growing wonderfully in my Florida yard. But is there a drawback to having rubber trees in the yard?

Continue reading “Rubber Trees in The Florida Landscape”

Update on Garden Hydrangea, Surviving Summer

Now my little hydrangea is in the ground and here is what I’ve learned. Deadheading Florida hydrangeas is a good idea. I found new growth and new flowers hidden beneath those huge, dying blooms.

blue flowers turning green
Blooms turning green and dying

Until a few weeks ago I had not tried to grow a hydrangea in my Florida yard. I kept thinking there was no way it would do well in all this heat. So the fact that my little hydrangea plant is doing so well is a nice surprise. If it has been growing in a greenhouse it would adapt well to warmth, and it does seem to be thriving this summer.

Continue reading “Update on Garden Hydrangea, Surviving Summer”
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