When I met Teresa O'Connor, I was instantly drawn to her great laugh and her broad and gentle smile. Over time, we have become good friends and I often go to her for recommendations and with questions on all manner of gardening lore and for information. Co-author if the book Grocery Gardening,
Teresa also runs the fabulous and widely respected website, Seasonal Wisdom
. She answered these questions via email.
All the photographs are hers and can be enlarged by clicking on them.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and where you garden?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed gardening. Today, I’m an author and speaker about gardening and local foods. I was also trained as a master gardener in California and Idaho. Although I have gardened in New England and coastal California, I now garden near the scenic foothills of Boise, Idaho.
2. What climate challenges do you have and how do you deal with them?
My garden is USDA Zone 6B, so we enjoy the four-seasons but our weather is still rather mild. We are located in the Intermountain West region of the United States, which has arid growing conditions. Our beautiful spring also tends to be short. This makes growing cool-season peas and lettuces a bit of a challenge, as our hot summers tend to arrive early with a bang. But the region’s low humidity and very long summer days (daylight until 10:30 pm in June), allow us to grow huge and healthy roses, tomatoes, eggplants and pepper plants.
3. Do you have favorite varieties of edibles that you like to grow in containers?
I love to grow edibles in containers, especially tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, as well as salad greens and herbs. Many of these edibles are as attractive as any ornamental plant. Since I only have a normal-sized suburban garden, planting edibles in containers gives me more space to practice crop rotation and grow the foods I love. With crop rotation,
I avoid growing vegetables from the same family in the same garden spot more than once every three years. Rotating crops has allowed me to greatly reduce pests and diseases with my edible plants.
I particularly enjoy unusual heirloom vegetables, such as ‘Blue Jade’ corn, which grows delicious sweet blue corn in containers. Another favorite is the French heirloom ‘‘Paris Market’ carrot (aka ‘Tonda di Parigi’), which grows well in containers and heavy clay soil.
4. Do you grow your container plants from seed or buy seedlings?
I typically sow seeds of lettuces, peas, carrots and radishes directly in the garden, as they tend to grow best that way. But I’ll cheat a bit and grow tomatoes, eggplants and peppers from transplants. We’re lucky here to have a wide variety of heirloom vegetables available to purchase from local independent garden centers and family farmers. In fact, Peaceful Belly
farm sells hundreds of heirloom tomato and pepper plants at their annual sale in May.
5. How would you characterize your container gardening style and or philosophy?
In my garden, I like an informal, cottage garden style, such as this planter with Hort Couture annuals including Coleus ‘Black Jack;’ cheerful yellow Argyranthemum ‘Primrose Path;’ and blue Scaevola ‘Top Model.’
6. Do you have any design tips?
Living in a four-season climate, I often design my containers for year-round interest. For example, this Stipa ‘Sirocco’ looks as good in winter, as it does in summer planted with Proven Winner’s colorful Superbells®, ageratum and dichondra.
7. Do you have suggestions for beginning gardeners?
Start small and keep it easy. Grow plants with similar growing needs together for best results. Always check the mature sizes of your plants to avoid overcrowding containers, and use potting soil instead of ordinary gardening soil for better drainage. As long as you have good potting soil and proper drainage, you can grow flowers and food in a wide range of different types of containers. Remember that container plants are more fragile than plants in the ground, and should be hardy to two USDA growing zones under your normal zone. So, in Zone 6, plants in containers should be hardy to Zone 4.
8. Would you tell us about Grocery Gardening?
was the industry’s first crowd-sourced book on growing food. I was among four co-authors – including Jean Ann Van Krevelen, Amanda Thomsen and Robin Ripley – as well as dozens of contributors from around the world, who shared gardening secrets, family recipes and home photos for this book. Since growing food is really about enjoying homegrown foods, about 40 percent of this book is actually devoted to food recipes and preparation and preservation tips. Just this one book will teach you a lot about growing and enjoying fresh foods from the garden.
At SeasonalWisdom.com, readers will find a wide variety of articles about gardening, local foods, seasonal living and folklore. There are also guest posts with Feng Shui garden tips, delicious recipes, garden design advice and other seasonal topics. Our goal is to reconnect readers with nature, and encourage them to live well all four seasons.
Thanks so much for allowing me to share a bit of my garden with your readers. I’m a big fan of your site, and love to reference containergardening.about.com in my garden talks.