If you live in Florida (like me) this is the time of year when the other 47 states (few few excluded) are very, very jealous of you. Why? Because you can start your spring garden or have started it in December and they can't.

This year (2013), I could have not ended it...actually I still have some some green peppers growing and my jalapeno plant. Pretty awesome right?! This year I am doing it up right. I have two gardens going: one in the ground and the other in pots.

Why pots, you are asking your computer right now? :)

Pots are a great place to control your plants. Some soil is hard to grow certain plants, but if you have a pot garden you can create the kind of environment that you plant wants! My mom cannot grow tomatoes to save her life, but she can in pots.

The reason I like pots is because you can move them around, there is great weed control (if there is any weeds to control, that is), and you can grow things that otherwise would be hard to grow.

So, here we go.. I will show you how to start you very own pot garden! 

Tip #1: Use Clay Pots
I am not for plastic pots. My philosophy is that if it isn't from God's green earth then it isn't supposed to touch our bodies. Plastic is not a natural substance. It is man made. You can't go and dig it up and you can't make it in your backyard with things that you can dig up... I know they say it is safe if it is BPA free, etc. I don't believe it. So, I stick to clay. It is natural and I can make in my backyard. I don't. But, if I wanted to I could! ;) The reason clay is a great material to use is it doesn't get too hot, puts no harmful anything in the soil (because it does get heated up from the sun), and it keeps the soil in the pot nice and warm but not too hot, which the plants LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE! I got mine from home depot on clearance. But, others I purchased at full price. For $25 or so.
Bell Peppers
My AMAZING husband putting some compost/manure in the pots :). He's so great!
Tip #2: Get the Right Soil
Soil is very important. You don't want to go to your backyard and just throw in any ole' type of dirt. It needs to be full of nutrients. There are four things that you soil needs to consist of:
1. Manure 
**Cow, Horse, Goat - An animal that only eats natural vegetation. All of the vegetation that the animal eats is ground up and made into a super potent vitamin and mineral slime that plants LOOVE! I use Black Kow Manure, but you can use any of the above.

2. Compost 
**Compost is natural vegetation that has rotted to the point where it turns to dirt. All of the vitamins and minerals combine with bacteria which grows with the healthy foods and makes it even better - worms love it because they can eat it and turn it to...
3. Worm Poop
**Worm Poop is vital to a garden's success. If you have worms in your soil you know you are feeding your plants with nutrient rich soil, if you don't you need to add # 1 & 2 to get them. You also need to add some worm poop to give an extra boost. With manure, compost, and worm poop (along with the worms in your soil underneath) you have a triple threat of natural fertilizers.
4. Water
**For the past couple of weeks I have been watering my soil. Silly as it sounds it helps distribute the nutrients throughout the soil. Obviously you need to water your seedlings and plants too and that is vital but water will transform non absorbing dry soil to rich, dark, and super absorbent soil.
Black Kow Manure
Cow Manure/Compost Mixture
Tip #3: Placement is Key!
Think about it. If you were told by God that you were to go and live in the Sahara dessert and must thrive and produce many children - how would you fare? I don't know about you but 1. God wouldn't do that because He knows what is good for us and 2. Kids wouldn't even come close to happening..I would be trying to survive for my life each and every day!

The same is for your plants. Each plant has needs. Just like a lizard could live perfectly fine in the desert and have plenty of babies there are plants that could do the same... like cacti! Basil, for example, likes shade. If you put it in the sun it will wilt and die. Been there done that! Trust me. My first year gardening I murdered most of my plants in the first months...and I was mad at them (I know I am crazy for having emotions towards my plants, but I am a VERY emotional and caring person!). I didn't understand what their problem was. I gave you good soil, watered you, and this is how you repay me!? Well, that one was definitely my fault. Sorry, Basil!

I did the same with spinach...except they didn't even both to go past germination....

But, since then, I got my act together and here's how... I read the seed packets and made sure I put my pots in an environment where my plants would thrive and have "babies" of their own. 

So, read your packets people!!
Tip # 4: Get a Safe Hose
I'm not going to lie. I'm about to do a flashback to my younger, youthful days when I drank out of the lead infested hose, which I will probably regret someday when my head is twitching to the left... :( Thank goodness for detoxes like the Gerson Therapy... Anyways...those were the good days but the hose was not! 

You can buy a hose that doesn't have any harmful chemicals or toxins. When you are feeding your plants and nutrients are going through the root system via water it is better to make sure the water you are putting in the soil isn't already filled with some additives. I use the Apex Habitat Eco-Smart and Family Safe hose, which I purchased from Amazon.
Tip #5: Water in the Morning
Your plants have to have water. It is essential. Short story. We moved for a little while and had our friend use our potted plants and eat their children (haha had to say it!). He was a first time gardener. When we moved back to Florida (6 months later, which another very long story), we got our plants back. They looked kind of sad. Actually, they were dying. I started watering them like crazy and didn't go light either. I would spend quite some time filling the pots up all the way with water and once I got to the last pot I did it one more time. Guess what the results were?! The plants had NEW growth! That's right! My once dying bell pepper plants are making a come back! So, cool. So, back to the point... my mom would be shaking her head right now, which she probably is right now reading this because I rant and ramble too much... Oh, well (HI, MOM! LOVE YOU!).

From the story above you learn that water is essential BUT...if you water at the wrong times, guess what? You will again commit murder... I know... poor plants... I didn't kill too many watering at the wrong time but I could of if I didn't figure it out quicker.

You should only water your plants in the morning. When the sun is still low and it is still relatively cool outside. Here's what happens at each time of the day if you water.

Early Morning (when you should water): The sun is still low and the water will have plenty of time to absorb into the soil. If the leaves get wet (you don't need to water the leaves), the water will have time to evaporate before it gets too hot and scorches the leaves and kills them. The plant gets a good drink before the sun is high in the sky and is able to transfer and process the photosynthesis from the sun into the leaves and do it's business (in short).
Afternoon: The sun is high in the sky is it is giving the leaves on your plant the energy it needs to grow. If you water your plants the water can splash on the leaves which will actually burn the leaves themselves. Not good. Also, the water that you put on the soil in the pots will evaporate mostly before it can absorb. So, your plants only get a fraction of the water and their leaves are burnt to a crisp. YIKES! If you miss the early morning watering... afternoon is not a good idea. Just skip it and make sure you water the next morning.
Evening: Ahh...this seems like the PERFECT time to water, right? It's cool outside. The sun is low... But, there is one problem. The sun isn't coming back. It is going night night. You and your plants won't see the sun for another 10 hours or so... Night time is the time when your plant rests. It processes all of the energy from the sun during the day and replenishes itself.

If you water your plant in the evening you will give your plant a new organism. MOLD! Mold is not a good organism like decomposing vegetation. It can make your plants very sick and kill it. When you water your plant, the water will absorb but it will just sit in the soil. The sun won't be out and your plant won't need to the water to transport all of the nutrients throughout the plant. It only needs to do that when the sun is out. Each plant needs all of it's essentials together to function. Water, sun, and nutrients. If you take one out your plant will suffer.
Tip #5: Water Everyday
Your plants are in pots. Pots have holes on the bottom and drain out water. It is awesome because it acts like the ground and doesn't drown your plants, but it loses water and doesn't stay moist if you don't keep watering them. Remember my story earlier about the first time gardener and my sick plants? Well, the soil was like sand. After watering it for a month it is back to perfect health.
Tip #6: Pick Your Food When It Is Ready!
I know this is a "DUHH!!!" tip, but listen carefully. I have talked to MANY people that say they can't eat anymore of _____________ <--- insert veggie there. So, they let it stay on the plant until they are ready for it. Two things happen 1. The veggie over ripens and is gross to eat. and/or 2. you send a message to the plant that you have had enough and you don't want anymore. You really do! You can't ask the plant yourself, but I have enough experience, so just trust me on this one! 

If the vegetable is ready, PICK IT! If you aren't ready to eat it, FREEZE IT! You can freeze ANYTHING! I have in my freezer right now frozen, peas, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, celery...the list goes on. Most things freeze beautifully.

When you pick the vegetable it will make more because it knows that you need more. You are probably sick of stories by now but I have another. The same first time gardener didn't pick his veggies when he should have. He left them there because he didn't need them/wasn't ready for them, so the plant was dying. The first thing I did when I got the plant was I picked EVERYTHING off of the plant. I got the, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" look. Well, actually, he asked with that look and I told him. Since then (and a little water) the plants are growing again and starting to produce more vegetables. I gave the plant the signal to make more. When you leave a plant with mature fruit it will stop producing and assume you are going to take the vegetables that are matured and save their seeds.

So, just as mom says, "EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!" I say, "PICK 'EM, TOO!"
Tip #7: Add Nutrients to Your Soil Periodically
Every once and a while (3 weeks or so) you are going to need to feed your plants a little bit more nutrients. While the original soil is full of nutrients the plant does eat some, so you have to put it back in the soil to make sure you plant doesn't run out. You can do one of two things.
1. Lightly mix in some worm poop (castings is the mature way to say it) into the soil and water as normal. or
2. Make Worm Tea. They used to sell this at the store, but I haven't seen it in a while. You can still purchase it online, though. You can also make your own. If you have the worm castings (which I recommend) you should make it. It is super easy! Recipe is, here. You can also make your own worm castings too, click here to learn.
Tip #8: Layer Your Soil
When you are putting your compost/manure into the pots make sure to layer it and then blend it when you reach the top with your hands/arms. This will help all of the nutrients distribute well.
When making the dirt mixture put compost, manure, compost, manure, and continue until you reach the top. Then, using both hands/arms, blend it together. CAUTION: You will get dirty!
Newly soiled pots!
Below are some more pictures and tips! Enjoy!
Growing seeds!!!
Basil - These Italian beauties LOVE partial shade. When the leaves form a head, pinch them off! They will split and grow two new sprigs. When they flower, they are seeding and the plant is done. Put the flowers on the soil and when they are ready they will grow again all by themselves! So, keep the pot in the same place and soon you will have more if the environment is good.
Here we have tomatoes (in the front), Basil, Zinnia's in the ground, potatoes in the back right in front of the butterfly plant, marigolds, and a pineapple.
Potatoes - Cut the potatoes into pieces and plant. That's it! They love water and good draining dirt. Off of 2 cuts I got about 18 potatoes...amazing!
Tomatoes - These guys LOVE the sun and WATER! More water/sun the bigger the tomato.
Side view of the garden: Rosemary (in the ground), bell peppers, pineapple, potatoes, tomatoes, Okra (in the ground - doesn't do well in pots, too tall), and flowers to attract pollinators.

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