Step outside the box with creative vegetable garden options

Jessica Walliser/ For the Tribune-Review
Galvanized livestock troughs make great planting beds

If you are eager to start a new vegetable garden this spring, but you don’t want to fuss with removing sod, building fancy wooden raised beds or tilling up the ground, consider stepping outside the box and getting creative.

There are several alternative ways to start a new vegetable garden that don’t rely on one of the above options. Using one of the following raised bed alternatives means you don’t have to build anything or disturb your site. You simply have to purchase the “bed,” put it in place, fill it with soil and get planting.

Essentially, this hybrid style of growing is part container gardening, part raised bed gardening. Yes, growing in smaller containers is an option, too, but smaller pots dry out so quickly, and you’re wedded to a watering and fertilizing schedule all summer long.

When you use one of these larger “bed” options, both of those tasks are minimized.

Livestock troughs

Made of galvanized metal, livestock feed and water troughs make excellent vegetable planting beds. They hold a lot of soil, so they let root systems grow deep to access water and nutrients.

If they have a drain hole, simply make sure it’s open before you fill the trough with soil and plant. If there’s no drain, use a drill to open up a dozen ½-inch drainage holes in the bottom of the trough.

Livestock troughs last for many years and make a beautiful vegetable garden with minimal weeding required.

Fabric raised beds

Fabric planting bags are very popular due to their low cost and lightweight nature. They also benefit plants because they keep the roots from circling around inside the container.

Several companies now make big, deep fabric planter bags that are essentially raised beds made of fabric. They’re frost-proof and can be left outdoors all winter long, and their larger size makes growing big veggies — like zucchini, squash and tomatoes — possible.

Inexpensive and often made from recycled geotextile fabric, these garden “beds” allow you to create an instant vegetable garden.

Pre-made corner brackets

Another way to fashion a vegetable garden quickly is to use pre-made raised bed corner brackets. Rather than needing to screw together an official raised bed frame, lumber slides into these metal corner brackets to create the raised bed — no tools required.

They’re available at various heights so you can build a bed to the height that’s best for you. You’ll find steel versions that are very long-lasting, lightweight aluminum versions and even plastic ones if you’re really on a budget. There are stackable and decorative options available, too.


Gabions are boxes or cylinders of wire that are filled with rocks. They’re often used to control erosion along roadsides or as stream-side retaining walls. But, gabions can also be used to make inexpensive and quick frames for raised beds.

It does take a good bit of work to fill them with river rocks, but they offer a unique look. Purchase enough gabions to frame the outer edge of a garden bed, fill the gabions with rocks and then fill the interior with soil and plant.

How to Incorporate Gardens in Home Design Save this picture!


Indoor gardens can contribute important benefits to home living, ranging from aesthetic beauty to improved health and productivity. Research has shown that indoor plants help eliminate indoor air pollutants called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that emanate from adhesives, furnishings, clothing, and solvents, and are known to cause illnesses. They also increase subjective perceptions of concentration and satisfaction, as well as objective measures of productivity. Indoor gardens may even reduce energy use and costs because of the reduced need for air circulation. These benefits complement the obvious aesthetic advantages of a well-designed garden, making the indoor garden an attractive residential feature on several fronts.

© Hiroyuki Oki

However, indoor gardens require many conditions to ensure that they grow smoothly. These conditions also vary depending on the type of plant(s) being grown and the methods in which they are displayed. To address these considerations, we’ve compiled an introductory list of requirements, common plant types, and display methods below.

© Rafael Gamo


Light: Plants need light to photosynthesize, grow, and survive. Without light, plants may fail to grow completely, won’t produce flowers or fruit, and may even die. This consideration is particularly important for indoor gardens, which even if near a window, may not receive adequate light in winter months. Thus, indoor gardens will need particular lighting systems to ensure maximum growth.


The Problem with the Peat Moss in Your Pots (and What to Use Instead)

This common ingredient takes a lot of the guesswork out of container gardening but is unfortunately connected to climate change.

Better Homes & Gardens

By Dan Nosowitz January 16, 2020

Almost any potted plant you can buy grows in a soil mix that contains peat moss, and most bagged potting soil does, too. You can also buy it on its own to mix into your own potting soil blend. It’s especially useful for growing flowers and food in containers because it helps these thirsty plants get the moisture they need. Despite the fact that this brown, fibrous substance is so common and useful in the gardening world, peat moss has long been a sore point for those in the industry because of its sustainability—or more accurately, the lack thereof. Here’s what you need to know about the downsides of peat moss, and what you can use instead.

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Grow fruit even in limited spaces

Coalfield Progress, A progressive newspaper serving the mountain area since 1911
by How Does Your Garden Grow? By Sharon Daniels
January 17, 2020

You can grow your own fruit crops even if you don’t have land to plant anything into the ground, or if your soil is terrible, or if you’d prefer a crop to be sited near the house, or if you may move in the future and want to take your orchard along.

Large containers make this possible.

Strawberries have long been planted in large tub containers or in pyramid terraced gardens which accommodate their runners.

A 10- to 15-gallon pot can accommodate dwarf thornless raspberries which bear full-size fruit, or a crop of self-fertile gooseberries.

An even larger container can let you harvest from dwarf cherries which grow 6 or 8 feet tall and wide but are easier to pick from than a full-size cherry tree, or even an apple tree grafted on dwarf rootstock. You do need two varieties of apples for cross-pollination.

Some fig varieties are fairly perishable, but if you grow them at home you can harvest fresh ones. I found a self-fertile fig for container culture or small spaces, so you can eat fresh fruit or dry it for later use.

Don’t use native soil when you plant fruits in containers. Instead, mix 50 percent medium bark, 30 percent peat or peat/compost and 20 percent perlite. For each five gallons, add two tablespoons lime and dolomite lime each, one tablespoon kelp meal and one tablespoon bone meal or rock phosphate.

You may not need a huge amount of soil as the rootball will help fill the pot and you add fresh mix to the bottom and around sides and top.

Blueberries are delicious to eat out of hand, top breakfast cereals, cook into jam, or bake in muffins, cobblers and pancakes. Grocers sell them year-round, but if you have the space, they are easy enough to raise in containers.

Patio blueberries stay naturally small and are readily available. Check the gardening catalogs which may be filling your mailbox this month. Some patio blueberries grow about three feet tall and produce a few pounds of full-size fruit. Others are classified as “very dwarf” and remain only a few inches high even when they are four or five years old.

Blueberries should be pollinated with a cultivar which flowers at the same time. Look for varieties you harvest early or later to extend the crop period.

Some container-grown fruit crops may be indoors at least in cold months of the year. This is not a new concept as wealthy families in the 17th through 19th centuries had the means and desire to have fresh fruit, and it became fashionable—as well as practical—to build orangeries.


The Best Palm and Fern Houseplants to Grow

AuthorAntonio Pachowko

Posted on Houseplant Indoor Gardening

Container Plants and Gardening

In this article, we will be broaching the best palm and fern houseplant to have in your home.

As we want our homes to have the best greenery as possible, we look to palms and ferns to bring green hues to our lives, so that we can bring the outside gardening space to our living spaces.

Palm and fern do make a home
Palm and fern do make a home.

Palms bring up an image of tropical climates in our own homes. It gives a picture of sipping a pina colada under a palm tree. They bring relaxation to our homes, an area of peace and relaxation without our place of sanctuary.

Palm plants like the same conditions what we do: warm temperatures, average humidity and good levels of lighting. Palms and ferns will most definitely add a degree of the exotic into our homes, as we can live side by side with these plants.


Ferns are wonderful indoor plants, where they can add much greenery to an indoor space, especially in winter where outdoor greenery is not much to be seen. Ferns tend to be easy to look after provided that the plant has the right level of light and moisture.

Ferns are one of the oldest plants known in existence and most of them are tough as boots. There are so many different species of fern from all regions of the world from cold area to tropics. They also come in many different sizes from miniatures to tall tree ferns.

Palms and ferns are great houseplants as long as you look after them well.

What follows are the palms and ferns that I would recommend to be grown in your homes, along with the suitable growing conditions:


This is an extremely pretty and delicate leave plant that has arching black stems that have many tiny rounded leaflets. These leaflets start life pale green or pale pink and mature to a bright green colour.

Adiantum capillus-veneris
Adiantum capillus-veneris

This plant will suffer if it is neglected so it will need careful monitoring.

The biggest problem is adiantum needs constant humidity. If the air is allowed to dry the leaves will turn brown at the edges and will eventually die back completely.

This pot plant grows up to 8ocn in height on its preferred position of light shade. To be at its best grow in average to hot temperature (16 degree Celsius to 27 degree Celsius).

This plant needs lots of water during the growing seasons, sparingly in winter. Needs to be fed once a month in the growing season with a houseplant liquid fertiliser. For an attractive alternative lookout for Adiantum raddianum.

ASPLENIUM NIDUS (Bird’s Nest Fern)

There are a beautiful group of ferns that do well under indoor growing conditions. It is an unusual fern as the fronds are solid leathery and heavily divided. The fronds are large, leaf-like and glossy, which are light green in colour and have darker midribs.

Asplenium nidus
Asplenium nidus

The fronds form a rosette-like clump in which material collects in the centre of the rosette. This creates a bird’s nest effect.

This 1.2m tall plant need a humid spot in warm temperature and a decent level of shade. The plants prefer to be grown in an ericaceous compost when you are potting the plant on.

The compost must be kept moist at all times, but appreciates not been overwatered in winter. Be carefully the plant’s fronds are brittle and can easily break-off. Do not overfeed.


This is a 90cm tall slow-growing fern that has long fronds that are borne in a clump formation on a short trunk. It is a plant that can be kept in cool condition, this is provided that is watered sparingly. Young plants need warmer temperatures to hasten its development. The short trunk is only visible as the plant matures and grows.

Blechnum gibbum
Blechnum gibbum

The ferns preferred position is a warm and moderate humid spot in moderate shade. As said it can take cool temperature of watering is reduced.

In warm surroundings, it will need plenty of water, whilst in winter and in cooler conditions, just keep the roots just moist. It is best to water with rainwater, as hard water can reduce the vitality of the plant. Does not need feeding regularly but once or twice during the growing season.


Palms tend to be graceful foliage plants that will eventually become large enough to fill a corner of the room. They are not fast-growing and are well adapted to growing indoors. They are also easy to look after.

This palm is no different, as long as it is given moderate amounts of water in the summer months and its roots are not allowed to dry out. The roots hate being waterlogged and under these conditions, the plant will do particularly badly.

Chamaedorea elegans
Chamaedorea elegans

This 3m tall plant has small clumps of stem bearing fronds with wide leaflets. The plant appreciates being grown in warm, moderate humid conditions in light shade to good levels of light, but away from direct sunlight.

The plant hates its roots to be disturbed, so only pot on with the plants start showing signs that it is root-bound.

Every spring add new compost on top of the old compost layer. Old plants may look unattractive and you may need to start all over again with a new plant.


This is a half-hardy palm that is often grown outdoors in a container and then moved indoors before the first frosts hits. It can even suffer slight frosts and still survive. This implies for a houseplant that it does not require high temperature to grow, as long as the temperature is greater than 10 degree Celsius.

What is an impressive feature of this palm is that the thin, glossy leaflets are arranged in an attractive formation around a central point. This gives the appearance of a great circle of spikes.

Chamaerops humilis
Chamaerops humilis

A young plant the leaves emerge at compost level, but as the plant matures it forms a structure from which on top of the leaves are produced. The lower leaves gradually turn brown and die back as the plant grows upward. All you need to do is remove these brown leaves as soon as they appear.

This fern can get pretty large, up to 3m in height but this is unusual for container specimens. Grow it in a good, bright site in warm temperature in summer and cooler temperature in winter.

Water moderately when growing in spring to autumn, sparingly in winter. Humidity does not need to be high at all.

Feed once a month with a balanced liquid fertiliser.

CYCAS (Fern Palm or Sago Palm)

For a palm, this is an odd-looking plant but it is most certainly exotic. Cycas produces tough arching leaf stalks covered in spiny leaflets. As new leaves are produced from the plant the old ones fade forming a thick spiky crown.

Cycas 'Sago Palm'
Cycas ‘Sago Palm’

Cycas like good, bright light but away from bright sunlight. This 6m tall plant will require watering moderately in summer, less so in winter. It will need an occasional misting in summer, and do not worry about the giant size it can grow to, as it is very slow-growing. Warm condition is a must and must be met at all times.

Be aware Cycas are intolerant of any chemical pesticides, so do not use any with this plant around. Any pest infestations need to be removed manually.


This is an unusual looking fern, where the fronds produced are glossy green and look like holly. The plant can grow up to 90cm in height and is not a difficult plant to grow as it often survives harsh growing conditions.

Cyrtomium falcatum
Cyrtomium falcatum

All that is required is good drainage and a 15cm diameter pot full of houseplant compost.

Grow it in a cool position that gets plenty of air and moderate shade. North-facing windows are an ideal location. In summer water generously, whilst sparingly at all other times.


This is a relatively small fern that grows up to 45cm in height. It has feathery fronds and creeping underground stems that look like a hare’s foot.

Davallia canariensis
Davallia canariensis

It is best grown in special containers so that the underground stems can be allowed to creep over the surface, you can also grow it in a hanging basket to give the best effect.

Grow it in moderate shade in a frost-free position. Water moderately in summer where the compost is never allowed to dry out. Water sparingly in winters, whilst feeding regularly in summer.


North Coast Gardening: Try growing your blueberries in containers

Photo by Ashlee Attebery on Unsplash
January 16, 2020

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to growing blueberries is getting the soil just right to suit their needs. If soil is does not drain well in winter or is not acidic enough, blueberry bushes will fail. An easy way to circumvent these issues is to grow them in containers. This is an effective way you can control soil drainage, pH and fertility. Here is what to do:

· Choose wisely: It’s best to choose varieties of blueberries that will perform well in containers.  ‘NorthSky,’ ‘Sunshine Blue’ and ‘Patriot’ are good for container growing. The dwarf Bushel and Berry series of blueberry plants are bred to be small and also do well in containers. Please keep in mind that blueberry yield will be best if you have at least two different varieties growing near each other.  Even if the plant label says self-fertile.

· Don’t skimp: This means go for the gold when it comes to the planting mix. Blueberries do best in an acid, well-draining planting medium. You can make your own mix by mixing equal parts of peat moss, acid planting mix and perlite. There are also excellent pre-made planter mixes created for blueberries.

· Fertilize: Blueberries need an acid type fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Acidic fertilizers help keep the pH 4.3 to 5.5, ideal conditions for blueberries. Cottonseed meal and blood meal are excellent natural fertilizer that blueberries love. Use them with coffee grounds first in early spring as buds begin to open, then again late spring. That is the fertilizing window. No more after that.

· Full sun: Blueberries need at least six hours of sunlight a day. On the foggy coast, they need even more. Well-tended bushes will always look good with less sun, but fruit yield will be low.

· Water: Never allow blueberries to dry out during the summer fruiting months. Plants should be soaked at least twice a week, more often if it’s hot and windy.