City Girl Gone Gardening: Things are A-Growin’

By Jackie Hollenkamp Bentley

Louisville, Ky., – In my last post, I showed my “artistic skills” by painting old city recycling bins (my niece, Joetta, guessed correctly and won the “grand prize” of my lasting admiration). I’ll admit I felt like a kid again with a paintbrush and my imagination.

recycled garden bins

But I couldn’t wait for the paint to dry so I could transplant my herbs and seedlings. But, of course, as I always do, I ran into a problem. I didn’t have enough dirt. Sigh.

I had already purchased two whopping bags of Metro Mix that would cover about 5 cubic feet of space. I estimated that that would be enough. Hey, I’m a writer and I detested word problems in school. Being that my gardening budget is drained, I had to get creative with my fillers.

This is where I threw everything but the kitchen sink in the bottom. I used old egg cartons, scrap paper, the cups that the seedlings grew in as well as the empty dirt bags I happened to have saved from putting in my raised beds. Of course my compost went in as well. So I was able to make the dirt stretch to get everything I wanted to plant in the containers.


And everything continues to grow! Woo hoo!

As for my raised beds, well, nothing has died yet! Again, Woo hoo!

I am using old medical tubing my neighbors gave to me when I first started my gardening adventure a few years ago. They said the wider tuber would be gentler on my plants and not cut into the stems. They are right, of course.

In fact, I had to “stake” my tomato plants, which is always a milestone for me in that it tells me that maybe, just maybe, they will continue to thrive and produce buckets of tomatoes for me.

The arrows point to those little "suckers" that will zap the good stuff from the plant. I just simply snipped them off.
The arrows point to those little “suckers” that will zap the good stuff from the plant. I just simply snipped them off.


You’ll notice a trellis in the front raised bed which doesn’t contain tomatoes or peppers. What it does hold are green beans and squash plants. The green beans are bush-type so they won’t spread. However, the squash vines like to spread out and since I’m tight on space (I don’t want my kids running over them with the lawnmower), I’m going to “train” them to grow up the trellis. Fortunately, I’ve had the fancy, green one for a couple of years. My project this week is to get creative and fashion another one for the cucumbers in the other two beds.

I also used a trick I learned last year from the internets: I side-dressed all the tomato and pepper plants with Epsom salt.


What is side-dressing? The first time I heard the word, from my dad’s farmer friend, I acted like I knew exactly what he was talking about. Then I looked it up on my phone when I was alone. Honestly, it’s exactly what it says. You put whatever you want to feed the plant “around” the base but not necessarily touching the stem. The good stuff then seeps down into the root system.

Why Epsom salt? It’s magnesium sulfate and that apparently helps strengthen a plant’s root structure and whatnot.  All I know is that my tomatoes and peppers did great last year.

Hopefully, I can say the same this year.