Category Archives: Container Gardening

Container Gardening

5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening

5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making
It’s planting season for fire escape gardens here in Brooklyn, and I spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon elbow-deep in dirt. Here’s a little tour of this year’s crop, plus my five must-do tips for growing a successful container garden, no matter where you live!

5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making

Tip 1
Select container-friendly plants that are right for your climate and light level. I get strong light from the north at the beginning of the day, and I’ve had especially good luck with hot peppers, strawberries, nasturtiums, and mint. If you’re new to gardening, the plant tag or seed packet will tell you when to plant and how much sunlight is needed.

Ready to get started? TLC has a great list of fruits and vegetables that thrive in pots here.

5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making
5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making

Tip 2
To avoid having to re-pot plants mid-season, make sure you buy containers that are large enough and deep enough to accommodate the root system of your full-grown plant. If you’re planning to put more than one plant in the same container, make sure there’s room enough for both to grow. If you don’t, there’s a good chance that neither plant will thrive. (I’ve definitely been guilty of over-crowding in the past—just ask me how much I hate to thin seedlings—so I’ve learned the hard way that squished plants mean sad, small plants.)

Make sure you check the plant tag or the back of the seed packet to see how deep the dirt should be and how far apart each plant should be spaced.

5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making

Tip 3
No matter how big that hole in the bottom of your pot is, add a drainage layer to the bottom of your pot before adding soil and plants. Plants without good drainage can’t thrive, and the roots might even rot.

Think of this tip as a really good excuse to take a hammer to some of your old cracked and chipped pots. It’s fun, it relieves stress, and it makes your plants happy!

5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making
5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making

Tip 4
Water your plants regularly—especially when the temperature rises—and use a fertilizer that promotes growth and supports flower and fruit health.

If you’re planting an edible garden, don’t skip this step! Since you’re already going to all this trouble, you want to give your plants every opportunity to thrive and produce a healthy, tasty crop, right? I generally use a seaweed-based fertilizer, but you can find a good list of other options over at Life on the Balcony. (See my strawberry flower up there? It loves seaweed!)

Please note that the seaweed fertilizer link provided above is an affiliate link, and I will be compensated if you choose to make a purchase after clicking through.

5 Tips for Successful Fire Escape and Container Gardening | The Zen of Making

Tip 5
I don’t use pesticides, so I rely heavily on the benefits of companion planting. Companion planting can help your garden in several ways, including improving soil nutrition, boosting the immune systems of other plants, providing natural pest control, and enhancing flavor.

On my fire escape, I’ve combined the following: basil and tomatoes (flavor), strawberry and thyme (pest control), dill and cilantro (pest control), and oregano and hot peppers (pest control, flavor)

Golden Harvest Organics has one of the most thorough companion planting lists that I’ve found yet. There’s also a helpful chart on Wikipedia.

That’s it for my garden! What’re your go-to gardening tips?

Sunday Snapshot: Vegetable Planting Day

vegetable planting

It’s officially planting day for the fire escape garden here at TZoM headquarters, and the tomatoes, peppers, and assorted herbs are all itching to join my already-blooming strawberries outside. But first, maybe an afternoon cocktail?

What’s in your garden?

Tutorial: Recycled Wine Bottle Planter

Tutorial: Recycled Wine Bottle Planter | The Zen of Making

Make your own recycled wine bottle planter with my special Earth Day tutorial!

Tutorial: Recycled Wine Bottle Planter | The Zen of Making

Supplies:
* Empty glass wine bottle, cleaned and dried
* Thick rubber band that will fit snugly around the bottle
* Wet/dry sandpaper, 1 sheet coarse grain and 1 sheet fine grain
* Tealight candle
* Paper towel
* Wool felt, 10″ x 3″ rectangle
* Cotton sewing thread
* Baked clay pellets, 1 cup
* Potted herb of your choice (I used rosemary)
* Hydroponic fertilizer

Tools:
* Glass cutter
* Ruler
* Lighter or matches
* Close fitting household cleaning gloves
* Safety goggles or glasses
* Protective face mask that covers nose and mouth
* Sewing machine (you can also sew by hand)

Or, if you want the look without all the work, you can always pick up a recycled Growbottle kit! (No judgement here—all green is good green!)

**Please note that the links provided above are affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you choose to make a purchase after clicking through.**

Step 1
Measure 5″ up from the bottom of the wine bottle, then use a rubber band to mark the measurement.

Once your line is marked, go ahead and put on your safety goggles and gloves. You’ll want to wear them through step 6.

Step 2
Using your glass cutter, carefully but firmly score a continuous line around the bottom edge of the rubber band.

Step 3
Use a candle to heat up the line you just scored. To increase the temperature of the glass sufficiently, you’ll need to hold the bottle very close to the frame and turn it slowly and steadily. Don’t be alarmed if you hear popping or cracking noises as the temperature of the glass rises.

When you’re done, you should see a dark mark all the way around the bottle.

Step 4
While the glass is still hot, submerge the bottle in a sink filled with ice cold water. Because of the drastic temperature change, the top and the bottom should separate right away. If they don’t, try tapping the bottle firmly on the bottom of the sink.

If you’re having trouble getting a clean cut, your scoring might not be deep enough, or your glass might have cooled. Before picking up the glass cutter again, try another round or two of heating the glass and submerging it in cold water.

Step 5
Use a paper towel or cloth to dry the two sides of the bottle, carefully cleaning the black marks off of each side. The cut glass edges will be very sharp, so make sure you’re wearing gloves and paying attention.

Step 6
It’s time to sand the rough edges on each side of the cut bottle.

Put on your face mask (you should already be wearing your goggles and gloves). Then, standing over the sink with a trickle of water running, use your course grain sandpaper to smooth the sharp edges around the top and the bottom pieces of the bottle, keeping the place that you’re sanding wet at all times. Continue sanding until both sides of the bottle are smooth to the touch, and there are no sharp edges. Smooth away any remaining rough spots with your fine grain sandpaper.

When you’re done, the entire cut edge should look dull—if you see any shiny spots, keep sanding.

Note: Unless you’re using a grinder, your edges are never going to be perfectly straight and flat. Embrace the imperfection!

Caution: Glass dust can be extremely hazardous to your health if inhaled. You should wear a mask and goggles to protect your eyes and lungs while working, and always sand glass using water, which cuts down on the amount of glass dust that is released into the air.

Step 7
Set your glass bottle aside, then cut a felt rectangle that is 10″ x 3″.

Step 8
To create the wick, fold the felt rectangle in half length-wise, then use your sewing machine to stitch the two sides together along the edge opposite the fold. Once the fold is secure, stitch two or three additional lines down the length of the felt strip.

Note: If you’re using a plant that requires a high volume of water, you may want to use thick cotton or braided polyurethane yarn. If you choose cotton, you will need to replace the wick as needed, as it will eventually rot.

Step 9
Wet the felt wick thoroughly, then insert it into the top part of the wine bottle, fishing the end through the neck of the bottle so that it sticks out about an inch below the opening. Place the top half of the wine bottle into the bottom half. (You may fill the bottom with water now or wait until after you’ve added the plant.)

Step 10
Fold the extra length of the wick over to cover the opening between the top and bottom of the bottle. The end of the strip should now reach just below the top of the rim.

Step 11
Rinse your clay pellets thoroughly to remove any dust, then fill the planter slightly less than halfway, feeding the wick up through the middle.

Step 12
Clean any dirt off of the roots of your plant, then insert it into the center of the planter.

Tutorial: Recycled Wine Bottle Planter | The Zen of Making

Step 13
Fill the planter the rest of the way with clay pellets, securing the plant in place. If you haven’t already filled the bottom of the planter with water do so now.

Tutorial: Recycled Wine Bottle Planter | The Zen of Making

Step 14
Your plant doesn’t have any soil to provide its nutrients, so don’t forget to add some hydroponic fertilizer to the water to keep it healthy!

I hope you enjoyed this bonus Sunday project! Happy upcycling and happy Earth Day!

Shared on Find Your Direction!

Sunday Snapshot: Hot Peppers


As it turns out, our fire escape is the perfect place to grow hot peppers.

Tomatoes? Maybe next time. Catnip? Meh. Nasturtiums? Goodness, no. But, hot peppers? Abso-freaking-lutely!

We couldn’t even get the tomatoes to flower, but somehow we have three different kinds of hot pepper plants, all absolutely filled with ripening peppers. So, who’s got a good hot sauce recipe?