Gardening in August can be exhausting. The summer heat is intense and the garden requires a variety of
tasks that can lead to gardener burnout. On top of it all, it’s about time to start seeding those fall crops. Approaching seed starting in a different way can add a spark of excitement and a boost of endurance to enjoy the remaining growing season.
Repurposing household items into the garden enlists our creativity adding a level of enjoyment to sometimes mundane tasks. Hanging shoe organizers can be a perfect addition to the garden, particularly for seed starting. An added bonus is that it is mobile allowing you to move the plants to provide more or less sun as needed as well as protection from heavy rains.
Begin with a new or used hanging shoe organizer. These are the kind that are meant to hang over a closet rod with many individual pockets, intended for shoes. Organizers with mesh pockets work well for seed starting because they allow for drainage. However, plastic pockets can work too if you poke holes at the base.
Select your fall seeds. Varieties that will grow well in the pocket planter are those that remain small at maturity. Many leafy greens can grow well in the pockets as they have shallow root systems. Root vegetables may not perform as well in the pocket planter since the soil space is limited. Though seeds can be started in the pocket planter and later transplanted into larger containers or into the ground, it is typically not advisable to transplant root vegetables.
Ensure the pockets have holes for adequate drainage when watered. Select a location to hang the planter. It is best to have a wall or fence behind the planter to prevent it from blowing in the wind and to provide support. You may choose to secure the top corners of the planter to the wall to keep the edges from drooping as the weight of water is added.
Fill each pocket with moist potting soil and then follow the instructions for planting the seeds. The soil should be monitored daily to ensure it does not dry out. The soil in mesh pockets will dry more quickly because it is exposed to air. Be careful not to overwater the soil if you have a planter with plastic pockets. The plastic will hold in water more efficiently and can cause the seeds to rot.
As your plants grow you can decide if they need to be transplanted into a larger container or if you can enjoy them in the pocket planter. Annual flowers can also grow well in the pockets and will make a colorful vertical garden to adorn the fence.
The low maintenance and ease of monitoring a pocket garden makes it a fun family project. Experiment with different plant varieties and make a note of the results. Encourage your children to explore their questions with this trial and error approach. It is a memorable way to learn and grow in the garden.
Cynthia Domenghini is an instructor and coordinator for K-State’s horticultural therapy online certificate program.