Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

If it will hold soil, it’ll hold your garden




I am happy to report that I received lots of great feedback from gardeners of all kinds: first time, veteran, apartment dweller and more.

It seems that many people take delight in finding free or darn near free items of various and sundry nature to turn into gardens. From a wheelbarrow with rusted out spots for drainage to a swimming pool with no use for swimmers, many readers e-mailed, called or stopped by to tell me their stories.

The important point is that you can plant a garden in just about anything that will hold soil. Just don’t forget drainage. One gentleman bought a pair of “dirt” cheap bathtubs and put them on timbers so he could run drainage pipes out of the drain. An enterprising and hardworking retiree filled her swimming pool starting with several feet of free rocks and rubble for drainage, many feet of free fill dirt, topped with yards of her own lovingly churned-out compost.

No matter how large or small the project, the first word of advice is just do it. Human beings have been growing food and living by those efforts for thousands of years without reading online instructions or following precise recipes for soil mixes. Had they not been successful, we wouldn’t be here. This really is easy. You have four basic ingredients in a garden: soil, sun, water and plants. How hard can this be?

• Soil: The better it is, the better your plants will grow. What is better? Hard rocks bad, soft earth good. Use your hands and your nose to learn about soil. When you smell the fragrance of fertile earth, you will understand.

• Sun: We have plenty of it and it’s good for plants. Sun, water and nutrients are what plants use to create chlorophyll, the plant building blocks. So don’t hide your plants from the sun; they won’t burn up. They do need plenty of water to do their job and they should be born in sun so that is what they are used to. Lack of sun makes puny plants with stretched stems that have a hard time holding themselves up.

• Water: Many vegetable plants, particularly our summer plants, are big plants that grow vigorously. To do this, they need plenty of water. Don’t give them a minute drip that is barely enough to keep them alive and wonder why they are burning up. Look at your plants: learn from them. Plants that are drooping are telling you something important: more water, mom!

• Plants: Start with vigorous plants that have been grown in the Arizona sun. If you start your own seeds, a cozy window sill is great while they are germinating. Once those babies are up, it’s time to give them more real sun every day. And air movement, too, to make the stems strong.

Don’t forget your sense of humor! Fortunately this isn’t life or death for us. If your plants teach you that there has been something lacking in their regimen, learn from it. Learn to laugh at our own human foibles in living so far from the earth. Your garden will forgive and continue to teach you as long as you will listen and learn.

Next week: What kind of stuff can I grow that I like to eat?

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at familyplus@tucsoncitizen.com.

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service