Barefoot Gardener: Temporary Measures

January 13, 2020, 10:04 AM HST (Updated September 8, 2020, 10:50 AM)
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Potted sugar pea vines exploring their new home. Photo: J.M. Buck

If you have to move, it can be heartbreaking to leave behind a garden that you worked so hard to build. Not only that, you may feel that you are faced with the prospect of no fresh-picked garden vegetables until you can get something growing at your new place, and that might take months.

If you have been following this column, you may recall all the photos of my home garden. I was definitely attached to it. When I was forced to relocate, I must admit that my first thought was, “All that work, and now I have to leave it behind.” So I came up with a creative way to bring my garden with me and still have continuous supply of fresh produce (though not in great quantities). If you have a few weeks to relocate, start your garden moving process now.

The first thing to do is dig up any plants that are not yet flowering and put them into pots. I make a mixture of 50% organic potting soil, 35% peat moss and 15% chicken manure for the transplanting process. When digging up the plant, make sure to dig up as much of the root ball and mother soil as possible. Transplant in the same fashion as you would any potted plant. If plants are already flowering, don’t bother trying to move them. Most vegetable plants are very sensitive to relocation, and the flowers, if not the whole plant, will usually wither and die. The reason for this is that when a plant is relocated it will send its energy into the roots in an attempt to stay alive instead of concentrating energy on foliar growth and vegetable production. Oftentimes, the shock is too much for the plant. You can certainly try to move them, though usually it’s a waste of time. You could spend that time filling out your change of address form instead.

Once the plants are in their containers, put them in a semi-shady location and do not let the soil dry out. The soil must stay damp, but not soggy. I find an initial watering with Rootone or a vitamin B1 “booster” helps the plants adjust quickly to their new situation.

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While you are out begging store owners for cardboard boxes, pick up some planter boxes so you can get a container garden going. The long plastic kind are inexpensive, look half-decent and suit this purpose perfectly. Sow seeds or starts for two or three of the same kind of plant in each planter box. Being that the plants are going to be remaining in the planter boxes, space the seeds or starts using the spacing requirements for mature plants; i.e., space lettuce seeds 12 to 18 inches apart, and so on. This will eliminate the need for thinning or re-planting as the plants mature. You can leave them growing as they are. By the time moving day comes around, you should have some young plants happily growing.

When transporting your container garden to its new home, one of the biggest considerations is wind. If you are using a pickup truck to move, try putting as many tender-leaved plants in the cab as you can. Plants can be put in the front of the truck bed right behind the cab and see only minimal wind damage. If you have a car, then throw down some old sheets and go for it. Just don’t roll the windows all the way down. At your new home, put the plants in a semi-shaded location for three to five days then move them into full sun. The initial shade covering helps minimize the shock of being transported and thrust into a new environment. Again, keep the soil slightly damp until the plants have acclimated to their new surroundings.

So, that’s it. While taking the time required to settle into your new digs, you can still grow a thriving, productive garden in containers even easier than you can grow one in the ground. There’s certainly less weeding!

Happy gardening!

J.M. Buck
J.M. Buck has been a Hawai‘i news writer and columnist since 2003. She has extensive writing experience and has served the media industry in a variety of capacities, including news editor, investigative reporter, online publisher, columnist, web content writer, graphic designer and photographer. She has lived in the Hawaiian Islands for most of her life and is a graduate of University of Hawai‘i.

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