Friday, November 13, 2009

My Redneck NASCAR Container Garden

Okay, so this is my first ever blog post of a gardening nature, so let me make a couple of things very clear. First, I am very new to writing and have no training beyond High School, which I barely finished a very long time ago. Second, I am a novice gardener, but I've had a lot of fun and learned a lot in the last couple of years.

Being in a rental house with very little yard space and no sun in the back yard, I was forced to do my gardening in containers, in the front yard. I started with a few pots I had lying around & repurposed my old recycling bins. I gradually added to it, but this fall I ran out of containers for fall veggies. With economy in mind I turned to Lowe's for 5-gallon buckets. Not glamorous by any means, but for $2.34 you get the cheapest large pot going and it even comes with a sturdy handle for easy moving! Drill a few drainage holes in the bottom and they work great. I mentioned to one of my gardener friends that I probably had the only garden that looked like a NASCAR race team and the idea stuck. Look for more pics when the decals arrive.

With this pic comes a confession: through my own neglect, most of my cauliflower & broccoli stayed in their tiny 6-packs way too long and these plants are clearly paying the price for it.

These few are doing a bit better because they inherited the space vacated by the overgrown daisy I ripped out to make some room.

Don't you just love how the buckets enhance my front lawn border? BTW, the white one in the middle is keeping my Ceanothus Tuxedo comfortable until a more permanent home is properly prepared.

I love these colorful lettuces in my little planter bed. I picked up two mixed 6-packs at the Master Gardener's Fall Plant Sale last month. These were just seedlings a few weeks ago, but seem to like it here.

Who says edible gardens can't be attractive. I really like the texture and curvy lines of this lettuce. I'm also looking forward to taking a couple leaves at a time for salads and enjoying this for most of fall & winter.

The last unique resident of my walkway planter is this beautiful (and tasty) Scarlet Chard. This was also from the Master Gardeners sale.

Another great chard is this Pot-O-Gold, which is more than happy in a pot on my front yard fence.

This crazy looking spinach is "Bordeaux", which I picked up at Annie's Annual's Fall Planting Party and Tweetup. It too seems to do just fine in containers (I have 2 of them).

More lettuce occupying the recycling bins where my tomatoes were not so long ago.

I am fortunate to have the resources to blend my own soils and to do this all 100% organically. The soil is a mix of sandy loam, coir, compost, worm castings, lava rock & pozzolan ( a type of diatomaceous earth). I added a small amount of calcium sulfate and feathermeal (organic N) and everyone seems to be pretty happy.

This thin-leafed Cilantro was another Annie's Annuals find. It is easier to chop and just as tasty as the flat-leafed variety. And, it does just fine in a milk jug on the front porch!

I have two of these long containers with spinach in them. I was concerned that they wouldn't be deep enough or have enough soil volume, but they are doing well and have actually improved quite a bit in the few days since this was taken. Sometimes I think the plants have enough will to live that they overcome my deficiencies.

Here you see most of my little farm, including the peppers, which are showing their season. You can see the last of the Poblanos turning red, these will be used in rellenos or other dishes soon. The green bell at the far end has three fairly young peppers and they are continuing to grow, so I guess we'll see how far they get. I've decided to keep all the peppers, so as soon as the fruit is all removed, I'll move them to my covered patio for protection from the worst of our brutal Bay Area winter.

I had to throw this one in so people wouldn't think I was only growing veggies. I've forgotten the name of this plant (maybe one of you can help me out here), but these are third generation volunteers that thrive dispite my abuse. I really like the dark foliage and the red inflorescence have been around since spring & growing larger all the time. I love that it stays compact and 18"-24" tall. It looks great and doesn't outgrow my narrow little planter strip.

And even in November, the poblano peppers are ready to start over. They really don't look that healthy. I almost gave up on them, but it doesn't look like they're ready to quit just yet.

So that's it for the tour of my redneck container garden. I'm sure some will think its silly or lame, but it is really quite surprising how much you can grow in a few pots & buckets. Thanks to several of my great Twitter friends for letting me know that I didn't need an acre of land to have a garden. It is great to have fresh, tasty, home-grown veggies. I expect the greens in these buckets to meet the needs of my family of four for most of the winter. Even if it doesn't quite do that, we still have a connection to our food supply that a lot of people don't have.

If you are curious for more information, see or click here for all kinds of articles on container gardening.


  1. Well you saw all the buckets full of plants at Annie's--no problem-o. Thanks for the tip about the cheapest 5-gallon bucket around--that's valuable information.

  2. I like your entrepreneurial spirit! If you wanted to get all high fallutin' you could paint your buckets to match your home's exterior paint scheme...

  3. Dude! You have a terrific garden going - w00t! I am seriously impressed. Also, you have something going here with the Nascar thing - I'll email you. I think that the darling plant with the plumage is a variety of Celosia argentea.

    LOVE the post - can't wait to read more like it.

  4. We have some actual gardeners in our neighborhood, and I don't care what their gardens look like because I know they're full of love and wonderful plants. They don't have to be PERFECT. I look forward to hearing more about your Nascar/rental/bucket garden. Welcome to garden blogging Matt!

  5. Wow! Thanks for all the kind words folks. As an absolute novice, your comments are very appreciated.

    Chuck, I'm not normally a big-box guy, but the buckets were just too cheap to pass up.

    Fern, you are one of the people who inspired me to do the container garden in the first place. Thank you.

    Chris, you are an inspiration to any would-be urban farmers who think they don't have room. I am humbled by your remarks. I already have more ideas on the theme ;-)

    Katie, Thanks for the comment & the welcome. The depth of your passion amazes me. I hope I can continue to deliver content you enjoy.


  6. Okay --what I want to know is WHY haven't you been telling us about your blog earlier? I've been wondering when you'd whip one up and am SO glad to stumble upon this! It doesn't matter what your garden looks like, all that matters is that you're outside, enjoying your garden, getting your hands dirty, and loving life. Bravo for you!!!

    p.s. if you want to keep with the Redneck theme - have you thought of stacking a few tires in your front yard - they're great for growing potatoes!! I'll tell you more about this on Friday when we see you...

  7. Did ya order decals yet for the buckets? I'm totally stealing your bucket idea too!

  8. I think I paid $1.98 for Homer's bucket at Home Depot!

  9. It really is true, 5 gallon buckets have endless uses :)

  10. Gardens of Casa MartinMarch 2, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Look at you all spiffy in your picture! Love the back story too! You have a new fan: ME!!! Newbie gardener too.

  11. I am starting my brand new container garden this weekend, totally from scratch and with ZERO experience.

    How many bell peppers can you get per plant? Do they only produce the peppers once a season?

    See, I basically know nothing. Haha.


  12. Hi Delia, We all start at the beginning. Be sure you have good soil & big enough containers. Bell peppers are fair producers in containers, as are pasilla, jalapeno & others. Lemon cucumbers are a big favorite & you can grow all sorts of greens & herbs. Have fun & keep trying new things.