Tips for Container and Raised Bed Gardening

Local gardening expert Jean Bartlett began gardening at a young age. Now that she is older, she has modified her techniques, but has no plans of stopping. We sat down with her for a Q & A — read her answers below.

When did you first become interested in gardening?

When I was 13 or 14, my family had a place to have a huge vegetable garden. My parents, two of my brothers and I worked in the garden. Not saying weeding, hoeing and fertilizing was fun, but the family togetherness is something I still remember fondly, and that most likely sparked my interest. Recently my daughter told me one of her fond memories of childhood was my vegetable garden, especially when I grew brussels sprouts in a tiny garden in Baltimore city. Now her son comes from Westchester County, NY, to visit and writes and talks about his Meme’s garden.

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What do you enjoy about gardening?

I enjoy planning what is going to go into the garden, playing in the dirt and taking time to walk and sit in the garden and see and feel the peace I find there. I also love the diversity of having both sun and shade gardens incorporated into the space I have.

When I first bought this house and garden, I had been away from the South for almost 45 years. I had Eddie Martin at Philips Garden Center do a layout of the beds and re-educate me on what would and would not do well here.

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What is your favorite thing to grow?

It’s hard to answer that. I adore having flowers, shrubs, bulbs, trees and weeds to use in flower arranging, but most likely, I enjoy the vegetable garden best. Digging to get your potatoes and beets, sharing with friends and neighbors, watching the peas swell and get ready to pick, realizing you need a quick salad and going out to cut lettuce, arugula or kale leaves. Yes, the answer is vegetables.

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Why did you choose to plant raised beds?

Three or four years ago, my knees did not cooperate for long days of working in the dirt. Again, I asked Eddie from Philips Garden Center to make a raised bed vegetable garden for me. As time goes by, I will need to have a cutting garden in raised beds and containers. One of the nicest things about the raised beds is that I can bend over to work the beds rather than squat or get on my knees. It is easy to change crops as the seasons change, and it also keeps me from over-planting. I keep one or two of the high beds for getting extras started for extending production period.

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What are the benefits of container gardening?

For me the benefit is that it is easier for me to get down to plant, weed, look for insects and pick produce. I do not have as much sun as I would like, so with my containers, I can move them to sunny locations. I keep lettuce close to the patio for munching. For my flowers, I like containers so I can put a spot of color in a bed of scrubs or a speck of white in the blue hydrangeas. I also like the diversity it provides for my garden. I like being able to change the crops with the season. I have a 5’x3′ section in a raised bed with curly kale. I will be taking it out in the next few days. It is so easy the prepare the space for planting with eggplant. The space is manageable for me because it is raised and contained.

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What is your best tip for a beginner?

Start small, read as much as possible and always work first to make your soil right for what you plan to plant. When I first started gardening, I would dig up a space about 8’x8’ and put the dirt, clay and whatever else on a big tarp. Then, I would mix in sand, peat and better topsoil. I loved mixing that all together and filling my space in with all the great feeling dirt! My favorite book for reference Is America’s Garden Book, which was first published in the 1930’s. There are updated versions.

Mud & Magnolias visited Philips Garden Center for Raised Vegetable Gardening 101. Watch the video for JoAnne Kent’s five best tips! 

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