By Mary Ellen Bianco
The smell of freshly picked basil and the taste of a fresh tomato off the vine can be motivation to grow plants at home. We asked local expert Mary Ann Dallenbach, owner of St. Matthews Feed & Seed, for advice on ways to make gardening more accessible. Mary Ann says, “Grow what you like and start small. Pick three things — it’s supposed to be fun.”
Grow Your Garden Anywhere Container gardening doesn’t require a lot of space or effort. “There are tons of things to grow inside or on a balcony or patio such as lettuces, onions, carrots, and microgreens,” Mary Ann says. Microgreens are germinated seeds that have developed tiny roots and edible first leaves. “Lime, lemon, kumquat, and avocado trees can be grown in a container,” Mary Ann says. “Also herbs such as basil, chives, and cilantro, which like cool nights and warm days. Mint is woodier and hardy.”
|Denise Peterson, who is a master gardener, bought this Meyer Lemon tree from ValuMarket. Photos by Melissa Donald|
Mary Ann advises starting with a good, clean pot. Aphids can be carried in from a dirty pot. “Always use potting mix, which has the ability to expand, such as ferti-lome,” Mary Ann says. “It’s light and airy. Healthy soil equals healthy plants.” Next comes the choice of seeds. Mary Ann uses non-genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds. The GMO process makes plants more resistant to rain, drought, pests and diseases, but it is controversial since it’s done in a laboratory.
Adequate fertilizer and controlling pests is vital. “What you do to fertilize after the plant starts growing is important,” Mary Ann says. “If you want to grow organic plants for your fruits and vegetables, then you should use organic fertilizers.” Some suggestions are Espoma indoor plant food or Monty’s Plant Food, which is locally manufactured. Pests such as aphids can appear due to over or under watering. “You can control pests, and you need to do it immediately,” Mary Ann says. She suggests mixing one part rubbing alcohol to 8-9 parts water. It can either be sprayed on the infected plant, wiped on the affected leaves with a paper towel, or dipped on a Q-tip. Adequate light for any type of plant is always important.