The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

Plant Seeds in Containers, Seeds of Hope for Laudato Si Week and Seed Wisdom of Hildegard of Bingen

By by Vicki Lopez-Kaley and The Spruce on Monday, May 13th 2024

Gardening on any scale is part of a sustainable food system.  The garden gurus at The Spruce offer the simple container garden "recipe" for beginners described below. Check them out for more details about planting seeds or seedlings in containers!  For specifics on leafy greens in containers as pictured above, visit Stephanie Rose at Garden Therapy.

1)    Select an appropriate container that is the right size, has good drainage, and is made of food safe material. For example:  shallow-rooted leafy greens don’t need a deep planter like root veggies:  carrots, potatoes.  Most herbs and radishes will grow nicely in a 1 gallon container or less. Beets, carrots, lettuce, and green onions can be planted in 3-gallon containers, and a 5-gallon bucket is best for tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, cukes, cabbage and beans.  A deeper container is required for veggies and need support like tomatoes or squash.
2)    Create good drainage. There should be 1 large hole or several smaller holes at the base of the container to let excess water out of the bottom, so plants won't sit in overly soggy soil.  Line the bottom of the container with broken bits of terra cotta pots, coffee filters, or permeable landscape cloth.
3)    Use good potting soil  for vegetables. Many brands come with fertilizer.  Don't use soil from your garden, because it will compact in the containers and won't drain water properly.
4)    Provide the right light and temperature for your plants.  Full sun means at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.  Assess how much sun is average where you want to put your container garden.  White containers keep roots cool and too much sun can be stressful.  
5)    Water correctly for the needs of your plants, keeping soil evenly moist but not soaking wet.  Put your finger into the soil about 1 inch. If it feels dry, add water; if you're not sure, wait and check later in the day. At the height of summer, you may need to water once or sometimes twice a day. 
6)    Feed your plants with appropriate fertilizer, adding compost or other fertilizer if your potting mix does not already contain the nutrients (fertilizer) your plants need to grow and thrive.
7)    Choose your seeds or buy seedlings.  Make sure you acclimate small plants to outdoor conditions gradually, which is called “hardening off”. 

You can grow just about any vegetable or herb in a container.  The Spruce describes vegetables that do well in containers:
•    Peas: Put tall supports in the container when planting seedlings. Water frequently; keep them fertilized.
•    Potatoes: Some potatoes need a 120-day growing season.  Look for varieties that mature early.
•    Tomatoes: Tomatoes need a support like a rod or tomato cage to keep plants upright.
•    Carrots: Use a container that's double the depth your variety will grow.
•    Radishes: The container doesn't have to be that large and you can grow them indoors in spring or fall!
•    Eggplant: Many eggplants are sensitive to cool temperatures (lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit), so choose for your climate.
•    Summer or zucchini squash and cucumbers: Choose bush varieties rather than sprawling vine varieties. One plant can fill a 24-inch pot quickly, so don't crowd seeds or seedlings. A trellis in the pot will supply support for the fruit and allow air to flow around the plant.
•    Leafy greens: Spinach and leaf lettuce are among the many greens that you can snip to eat one day and then snip again a few days later.  They tolerate partial shade and grow well in the cool of spring or fall, like radishes.
•    Peppers: Try traditional bell peppers, or spice it up with hot peppers for salsa.

It is close to Mother’s Day.  Growers on all scales “itch” to put seeds and spring plants in Mother Earth.  Deep hope is required to plant seeds, to parent, to nurturer and help the earth.  Pope Francis and Francis of Assisi call us to hope and act to care for mother Earth that so desperately needs healing from our greed and disregard.

The theme of this year’s Laudato Si Week (May 19-26) is "Seeds of Hope".  Enjoy the Laudato Si Week Celebration Guide to focus on Conversion, Transportation, Food, Energy, Waste, Water, Sharing Integral Ecology and Commitment.  

Finally, a taste of mystic Hildegard of Bingen.  "Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen" by Sister Gabrielle Uhlein, OSF currently of The Christine Center guides us to meditate on some of Hildegard’s mystic moment “seeds”.  Here are a few Hildegard quotes:

“The soul is the greening life force of the flesh, for the body grows and prospers through her,  just as the earth becomes fruitful when it is moistened.”
"Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly.  The earth is at the same time mother.  She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human.  She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all."
“The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.”
“Fire of the Holy Spirit, life of the life of every creature, holy are you in giving life to forms.  Rivers spring forth from the waters; earth wears her green vigor.”

For more about this German mystic, click here for an article by author, mother and kitchen gardener Mary DeJong of The Other Journal entitled:  “A Holy High: How Hildegard Found Her Inspiration Grounded in the Garden”

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