Monthly Archives: April 2012

Why Americans Won’t Do Dirty Jobs

By Elizabeth Dwoskin
November 14, 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek

Skinning, gutting, and cutting up catfish is not easy or pleasant work. No one knows this better than Randy Rhodes, president of Harvest Select, which has a processing plant in impoverished Uniontown, Ala. For years, Rhodes has had trouble finding Americans willing to grab a knife and stand 10 or more hours a day in a cold, wet room for minimum wage and skimpy benefits.

Most of his employees are Guatemalan. Or they were, until Alabama enacted an immigration law in September that requires police to question people they suspect might be in the U.S. illegally and punish businesses that hire them. The law, known as HB56, is intended to scare off undocumented workers, and in that regard it’s been a success. It’s also driven away legal immigrants who feared being harassed.

Rhodes arrived at work on Sept. 29, the day the law went into effect, to discover many of his employees missing. Panicked, he drove an hour and a half north to Tuscaloosa, where many of the immigrants who worked for him lived. Rhodes, who doesn’t speak Spanish, struggled to get across how much he needed them. He urged his workers to come back. Only a handful did. “We couldn’t explain to them that some of the things they were scared of weren’t going to happen,” Rhodes says. “I wanted them to see that I was their friend, and that we were trying to do the right thing.”

His ex-employees joined an exodus of thousands of immigrant field hands, hotel housekeepers, dishwashers, chicken plant employees, and construction workers who have fled Alabama for other states. Like Rhodes, many employers who lost workers followed federal requirements—some even used the E-Verify system—and only found out their workers were illegal when they disappeared.

In their wake are thousands of vacant positions and hundreds of angry business owners staring at unpicked tomatoes, uncleaned fish, and unmade beds. “Somebody has to figure this out. The immigrants aren’t coming back to Alabama—they’re gone,” Rhodes says. “I have 158 jobs, and I need to give them to somebody.”

There’s no shortage of people he could give those jobs to. In Alabama, some 211,000 people are out of work. In rural Perry County, where Harvest Select is located, the unemployment rate is 18.2 percent, twice the national average. One of the big selling points of the immigration law was that it would free up jobs that Republican Governor Robert Bentley said immigrants had stolen from recession-battered Americans. Yet native Alabamians have not come running to fill these newly liberated positions. Many employers think the law is ludicrous and fought to stop it. Immigrants aren’t stealing anything from anyone, they say. Businesses turned to foreign labor only because they couldn’t find enough Americans to take the work they were offering.

At a moment when the country is relentless focused on unemployment, there are still jobs that often go unfilled. These are difficult, dirty, exhausting jobs that, for previous generations, were the first rickety step on the ladder to prosperity. They still are—just not for Americans.

For decades many of Alabama’s industries have benefited from a compliant foreign workforce and a state government that largely looked the other way on wages, working conditions, and immigration status. With so many foreign workers now effectively banished from the work pool and jobs sitting empty, businesses must contend with American workers who have higher expectations for themselves and their employers—even in a terrible economy where work is hard to find. “I don’t consider this a labor shortage,” says Tom Surtees, Alabama’s director of industrial relations, himself the possessor of a job few would want: calming business owners who have seen their employees vanish. “We’re transitioning from a business model. Whether an employer in agriculture used migrant workers, or whether it’s another industry that used illegal immigrants, they had a business model and that business model is going to have to change.”

On a sunny October afternoon, Juan Castro leans over the back of a pickup truck parked in the middle of a field at Ellen Jenkins’s farm in northern Alabama. He sorts tomatoes rapidly into buckets by color and ripeness. Behind him his crew—his father, his cousin, and some friends—move expertly through the rows of plants that stretch out for acres in all directions, barely looking up as they pull the last tomatoes of the season off the tangled vines and place them in baskets. Since heading into the fields at 7 a.m., they haven’t stopped for more than the few seconds it takes to swig some water. They’ll work until 6 p.m., earning $2 for each 25-pound basket they fill. The men figure they’ll take home around $60 apiece.

Castro, 34, says he crossed the border on foot illegally 19 years ago and has three American-born children. He describes the mood in the fields since the law passed as tense and fearful. Gesturing around him, Castro says that not long ago the fields were filled with Hispanic laborers. Now he and his crew are the only ones left. “Many of our friends left us or got deported,” he says. “The only reason that we can stand it is for our children.”

He wipes sweat from beneath his fluorescent orange baseball cap, given to him by a timber company in Mississippi, where he works part of the year cutting pine. Castro says picking tomatoes in the Alabama heat isn’t easy, but he counts himself lucky. He has never passed out on the job, as many others have, though he does have a chronic pinched nerve in his neck from bending over for hours on end. The experiment taking place in Alabama makes no sense to him. Why try to make Americans do this work when they clearly don’t want it? “They come one day, and don’t show up the next,” Castro says.

It’s a common complaint in this part of Alabama. A few miles down the road, Chad Smith and a few other farmers sit on chairs outside J&J Farms, venting about their changed fortunes. Smith, 22, says his 85 acres of tomatoes are only partly picked because 30 of the 35 migrant workers who had been with him for years left when the law went into effect. The state’s efforts to help him and other farmers attract Americans are a joke, as far as he is concerned. “Oh, I tried to hire them,” Smith says. “I put a radio ad out—out of Birmingham. About 15 to 20 people showed up, and most of them quit. They couldn’t work fast enough to make the money they thought they could make, so they just quit.”

Joey Bearden, who owns a 30-acre farm nearby, waits for his turn to speak. “The governor stepped in and started this bill because he wants to put people back to work—they’re not coming!” says Bearden. “I’ve been farming 25 years, and I can count on my hand the number of Americans that stuck.”

It’s a hard-to-resist syllogism: Dirty jobs are available; Americans won’t fill them; thus, Americans are too soft for dirty jobs. Why else would so many unemployed people turn down the opportunity to work during a recession? Of course, there’s an equally compelling obverse. Why should farmers and plant owners expect people to take a back-breaking seasonal job with low pay and no benefits just because they happen to be offering it? If no one wants an available job—especially in extreme times—maybe the fault doesn’t rest entirely with the people turning it down. Maybe the market is inefficient.

Tom Surtees is tired of hearing employers grouse about their lazy countrymen. “Don’t tell me an Alabamian can’t work out in the field picking produce because it’s hot and labor intensive,” he says. “Go into a steel mill. Go into a foundry. Go into numerous other occupations and tell them Alabamians don’t like this work because it’s hot and it requires manual labor.” The difference being, jobs in Alabama’s foundries and steel mills pay better wages—with benefits. “If you’re trying to justify paying someone below whatever an appropriate wage level is so you can bring your product, I don’t think that’s a valid argument,” Surtees says.

In the weeks since the immigration law took hold, several hundred Americans have answered farmers’ ads for tomato pickers. A field over from where Juan Castro and his friends muse about the sorry state of the U.S. workforce, 34-year-old Jesse Durr stands among the vines. An aspiring rapper from inner-city Birmingham, he wears big jeans and a do-rag to shield his head from the sun. He had lost his job prepping food at Applebee’s, and after spending a few months looking for work a friend told him about a Facebook posting for farm labor.

The money isn’t good—$2 per basket, plus $600 to clear the three acres when the vines were picked clean—but he figures it’s better than sitting around. Plus, the transportation is free, provided by Jerry Spencer, who runs a community-supported agriculture program in Birmingham. That helps, because the farm is an hour north of Birmingham and the gas money adds up.

Durr thinks of himself as fit—he’s all chiseled muscle—but he is surprised at how hard the work is. “Not everyone is used to this. I ain’t used to it,” he says while taking a break in front of his truck. “But I’m getting used to it.”

Yet after three weeks in the fields, he is frustrated. His crew of seven has dropped down to two. “A lot of people look at this as slave work. I say, you do what you have to do,” Durr says. “My mission is to finish these acres. As long as I’m here, I’m striving for something.” In a neighboring field, Cedric Rayford is working a row. The 28-year-old came up with two friends from Gadsden, Ala., after hearing on the radio that farmers were hiring. The work is halfway complete when one member of their crew decides to quit. Rayford and crewmate Marvin Turner try to persuade their friend to stay and finish the job. Otherwise, no one will get paid. Turner even offers $20 out of his own pocket as a sweetener to no effect. “When a man’s mind is made up, there’s about nothing you can do,” he says.

The men lean against the car, smoking cigarettes and trying to figure out how to finish the job before day’s end. “They gotta come up with a better pay system,” says Rayford. “This ain’t no easy work. If you need somebody to do this type of work, you gotta be payin’. If they was paying by the hour, motherf—–s would work overtime, so you’d know what you’re working for.” He starts to pace around the car. “I could just work at McDonald’s (MCD),” he says.

Turner, who usually works as a landscaper, agrees the pay is too low. At $75 in gas for the three days, he figures he won’t even break even. The men finish their cigarettes. Turner glances up the hill at Castro’s work crew. “Look,” he says. “You got immigrants doing more than what blacks or whites will. Look at them, they just work and work all day. They don’t look at it like it’s a hard job. They don’t take breaks!”

The notion of jobs in fields and food plants as “immigrant work” is relatively new. As late as the 1940s, most farm labor in Alabama and elsewhere was done by Americans. During World War II the U.S. signed an agreement with Mexico to import temporary workers to ease labor shortages. Four and a half million Mexican guest workers crossed the border. At first most went to farms and orchards in California; by the program’s completion in 1964 they were working in almost every state. Many braceros—the term translates to “strong-arm,” as in someone who works with his arms—were granted green cards, became permanent residents, and continued to work in agriculture. Native-born Americans never returned to the fields. “Agricultural labor is basically 100 percent an immigrant job category,” says Princeton University sociologist Doug Massey, who studies population migration. “Once an occupational category becomes dominated by immigrants, it becomes very difficult to erase the stigma.”

Massey says Americans didn’t turn away from the work merely because it was hard or because of the pay but because they had come to think of it as beneath them. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the job itself,” he says. In other countries, citizens refuse to take jobs that Americans compete for. In Europe, Massey says, “auto manufacturing is an immigrant job category. Whereas in the States, it’s a native category.”

In Alabama, the transition to immigrant labor happened slowly. Although migrant workers have picked fruit and processed food in Alabama for four decades, in 1990 only 1.1 percent of the state’s total population was foreign-born. That year the U.S. Census put the combined Latin American and North American foreign-born population at 8,072 people. By 2000 there were 75,830 Hispanics recorded on the Census; by 2010 that number had more than doubled, and Hispanics are now nearly 4 percent of the population.

That first rush of Hispanic immigrants was initiated by the state’s $2.4 billion poultry and egg industry. Alabama’s largest agricultural export commodity went through a major expansion in the mid-’90s, thanks in part to new markets in the former Soviet Union. Companies such as Tyson Foods (TSN) found the state’s climate, plentiful water supply, light regulation, and anti-union policies to be ideal. At the time, better-educated American workers in cities such as Decatur and Athens were either moving into the state’s burgeoning aerospace and service industries or following the trend of leaving Alabama and heading north or west, where they found office jobs or work in manufacturing with set hours, higher pay, and safer conditions—things most Americans take for granted. In just over a decade, school districts in once-white towns such as Albertville, in the northeastern corner of the state, became 34 percent Hispanic. By the 2000s, Hispanic immigrants had moved across the state, following the construction boom in the cities, in the growing plant nurseries in the south, and on the catfish farms west of Montgomery. It wasn’t until anti-immigration sentiment spread across the country, as the recession took hold and didn’t let go, that the Republican legislators who run Alabama began to regard the immigrants they once courted as the enemy.

A large white banner hangs on the chain-link fence outside the Harvest Select plant: “Now Hiring: Filleters/Trimmers. Stop Here To Apply.” Randy Rhodes unfurled it the day after the law took effect. “We’re getting applications, but you have to weed through those three and four times,” says Amy Hart, the company’s human resources manager. A job fair she held attracted 50 people, and Hart offered positions to 13 of them. Two failed the drug test. One applicant asked her out on a date during the interview. “People reapply who have been terminated for stealing, for fighting, for drugs,” she says. “Nope, not that desperate yet!”

Rhodes says he understands why Americans aren’t jumping at the chance to slice up catfish for minimum wage. He just doesn’t know what he can do about it. “I’m sorry, but I can’t pay those kids $13 an hour,” he says. Although the Uniontown plant, which processes about 850,000 pounds of fish a week, is the largest in Alabama and sells to big supermarket chains including Food Lion, Harris Teeter, and Sam’s Club (WMT), Rhodes says overseas competitors, which pay employees even lower wages, are squeezing the industry.

When the immigration law passed in late September, John McMillan’s phone lines were deluged. People wanted McMillan, the state’s agriculture commissioner, to tell them whether they’d be in business next year. “Like, what are we going to do? Do we need to be ordering strawberry plants for next season? Do we need to be ordering fertilizer?” McMillan recalls. “And of course, we don’t have the answers, either.”

His buddy Tom Surtees, the industrial relations director, faces the same problem on a larger scale. Where McMillan only has to worry about agriculture, other industries, from construction to hospitality, are reporting worker shortages. His ultimate responsibility is to generate the results that Governor Bentley has claimed the legislation will produce—lots of jobs for Alabamians. That means he cannot allow for the possibility that the law will fail.

“If those Alabamians on unemployment continue to not apply for jobs in construction and poultry, then [Republican politicians] are going to have to help us continue to find immigrant workers,” says Jay Reed, who heads the Alabama Associated Builders & Contractors. “And those immigrant workers are gone.”

Business owners are furious not only that they have lost so many workers but that everyone in the state seemed to see it coming except Bentley, who failed to heed warnings from leaders in neighboring Georgia who said they had experienced a similar flight of immigrants after passing their own immigration law. Bentley declined to be interviewed for this story.

McMillan and Surtees spend their days playing matchmaker with anxious employers, urging them to post job openings on the state’s employment website so they can hook up with unemployed Alabamians. McMillan is asking Baptist ministers to tell their flocks that jobs are available. He wants businesses to rethink the way they run their operations to make them more attractive. On a road trip through the state, he met an apple farmer who told him he had started paying workers by the hour instead of by how much they picked. The apples get bruised and damaged when people are picking for speed. “Our farmers are very innovative and are used to dealing with challenges,” McMillan says. “You know, they can come up with all kinds of things. Something I’ve thought about is, maybe we should go to four-hour shifts instead of eight-hour shifts. Or maybe two six-hour shifts.”

McMillan acknowledges that even if some of these efforts are successful, they are unlikely to fill the labor void left by the immigrants’ disappearance. Some growers, he says, might have to go back to traditional mechanized row crops such as corn and soybeans. The smaller farmers might have to decrease volumes to the point where they are no longer commercially viable. “I don’t know,” says McMillan. “I just don’t know, but we’ve got to try to think of everything we possibly can.”

Since late September, McMillan’s staff has been attending meetings with farmers throughout the state. They are supposed to be Q&A sessions about how to comply with the new law. Some have devolved into shouting matches about how much they hate the statute. A few weeks ago, Smith, the tomato farmer whose workers fled Alabama, confronted state Senator Scott Beason, the Republican who introduced the immigration law. Beason had come out to talk to farmers, and Smith shoved an empty tomato bucket into his chest. “You pick!” he told him. “He didn’t even put his hands on the bucket,” Smith recalls. “He didn’t even try.” Says Beason: “My picking tomatoes would not change or prove anything.”

While the politicians and business owners argue, others see opportunity. Michael Maldonado, 19, wakes up at 4:30 each morning in a trailer in Tuscaloosa, about an hour from Harvest Select, where he works as a fish processor. Maldonado, who grew up in an earthen-floor shack in Guatemala, says he likes working at the plant. “One hundred dollars here is 700 quetzals,” he says. “The managers say I am a good worker.” After three years, though, the long hours and scant pay are starting to wear on him. With the business in desperate need of every available hand, it’s not a bad time to test just how much the bosses value his labor. Next week he plans to ask his supervisor for a raise. “I will say to them, ‘If you pay me a little more—just a little more—I will stay working here,’ ” he says. “Otherwise, I will leave. I will go to work in another state.”

Dwoskin is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington.

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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in People


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Container Gardening With Vegetables and Herbs

If you don’t have a good garden spot in your yard, why not grow some vegetables and herbs using container gardening?

By Barbara Pleasant
April/May 2012, Mother Earth News

The most personal way to forge a connection with delicious food crops — from arugula to tomatoes — is to grow them up close in containers. Special methods are needed to produce high-quality food crops in containers, because most vegetables and herbs grow best when planted in the ground. Stable soil temperatures and constant access to water, nutrients and microscopic soil allies give in-ground crops a clear advantage.

But if growing edibles in the ground is not an option due to a lack of backyard space, destructive pets or homeowner association rules, then growing some crops in containers on your porch, patio or fire escape may be the solution. Also, if you have problems with your site or soil that prevent in-ground gardening, then container gardening may allow you to avoid some of these problems:

Shade from buildings and trees can be minimized by moving container-grown vegetables to your sunniest spots, which change with the seasons.

Soil pH barriers can be overcome by using custom soil mixes to grow plants that need more or less acidic soil conditions than are common in your area. For example, containers are a good way to grow acid-loving strawberries or potatoes if your soil is naturally neutral or alkaline.

Protection from soilborne pests, from nematodes to voles, and greatly reduced weed problems are natural benefits of container gardening. Where soilborne diseases such as tomato Fusarium are common, containers are an easy way to grow lovely ‘Yellow Pear’ tomatoes and other susceptible varieties.

Contaminated soil from toxic lead in old paint, termite pesticides applied to your home’s foundation, chemicals that have leached from treated wood, and other hazards, should not be a problem as long as you use good quality soil mix. (These concerns are especially relevant on urban and reclaimed lots.)

Then there’s the convenience factor. Although my vegetable garden is right in my backyard, I want containers of sweet peppers, parsley, cherry tomatoes and basil within steps of my kitchen door. If you live in an apartment or condo with no yard, you can still have a summer’s worth of veggies right at your fingertips.

One big difference between in-ground and container-grown vegetables is root temperature. In summer, warm daytime temperatures will cause plant roots in containers to warm up by 15 degrees Fahrenheit or more (this never happens 4 inches below ground). And dark containers accumulate solar heat, which intensifies this effect. Warm roots can be your enemy or your friend, depending on the season and the crop. Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and okra love warm roots, while onions and celery (a surprisingly successful container plant) need cooler feet. You can’t control the weather, but you can minimize soil temperature swings by using the largest containers possible and choosing light-colored containers when appropriate.

The plants discussed here are easy to grow in containers in most climates, but many other vegetables make challenging container crops. If you’re a new gardener, stick with the container-grown vegetables listed below at first to build on your skills. Remember, plants grown in containers will be totally dependent on you for water, feeding and adequate accommodations for their roots. By midsummer, herbs and vegetables in containers may need water twice a day and liquid fertilizer twice a week. Think of container gardening as an intensive form of the food gardener’s art.

Double Buckets and Other Self-Watering Containers

Any pot or planter with a drainage hole in the bottom can be used to grow vegetables. Bigger is better, because large containers will hold more soil, roots and water, which will help the plants produce a larger and healthier crop. Your containers need not be fancy. Two of the most popular pots for vegetables are plastic buckets and storage bins, refashioned into self-watering containers. Note that though they’re commonly called “self-watering” containers, you still have to provide the water. However, thanks to a water reservoir area under the soil, these planters can hold a lot more water than regular planters. The plants’ roots grow down and tap the reservoir as needed.

One of the simplest self-watering containers, the double bucket, consists of one bucket or 5-gallon pail nested inside another. The bottom bucket is watertight except for a drainage hole drilled in its side at just below the bottom of the top bucket, when they are nested together. Several roomy drainage holes are made in the bottom of the top bucket, which serves as the planter. Roots eventually grow through these holes and into the reservoir in the bottom bucket. The reservoir will reduce watering chores by about half and give your plants an important safety margin on hot, dry days.

You can turn a single plastic storage bin into a roomy self-watering container by trimming the lid until it fits down inside the bin, about 2 inches from the bottom. Use lightweight spacers, such as empty soup cans, to keep this floor (with drainage holes poked in it) from collapsing when the bin becomes heavy with soil and roots. Add a side hole so you can check the water level in the reservoir and fill as needed. Resourceful gardeners will find endless container possibilities for growing veggies, from leaky washtubs to retired wheelbarrows. Even old bushelbaskets can be useful for potatoes, which like a bit of air around their roots.

The depth of the container should be matched to the crop you want to grow. Wooden drawers with drainage holes drilled in the bottom are fine for growing shallow-rooted lettuce, bok choy and other leafy greens. In spring and fall, some gardeners put up “salad tables” — shallow, wooden planting boxes set on sawhorses that can be moved around as needed to dodge changes in the weather. Plants with deeper roots, such as tomatoes and celery, need roomier accommodations in self-watering 5-gallon pails or storage bins. A container that’s too small will restrict root growth so much that the plant will dwarf itself in an attempt to survive.

Potting Soil for Container-Grown Vegetables

Any container is only as good as what you put into it. Vegetables grown in the ground live in soil made up of at least 50 percent mineral particles, but container culture calls for a much lighter mix that will hold moisture well. Two inert substances made from expanded rock — vermiculite and perlite — help give container mixes a light texture and greatly enhance the way the mixture handles water. The first time you fill your planting containers, use a packaged potting soil that contains an abundance of either material or some of both. This is a one-time investment.

At the end of the season, you can recover much of the potting mix by dumping your containers onto a tarp or into a wheelbarrow, pulling out clumps of roots, and returning the used soil to a garbage can where it can be stored until spring. Before using it for replanting, mix in about 1 part cured compost to 3 parts used potting soil and add a dose of starter fertilizer (keep reading), and you will be ready to go for another season.

You can make excellent potting soil without perlite or vermiculite, but you will need a quantity of composted sawdust or chipped bark instead. If rotted until black, either material makes a wonderful growing medium with excellent structure. Two parts rotted sawdust or chipped bark to 1 part compost usually makes a good container mix. If you’re committed to growing container veggies, set aside a spot for these materials to decay so you can start making your own potting soil in the future.

Container Garden Fertilizer Two Ways

Container-grown vegetables are best fed by mixing compost and a balanced organic fertilizer into the potting mix each time you replant, followed by a liquid fertilizer regimen when roots have begun to fill the container. Most name-brand potting soils already contain starter fertilizer, and organic potting soils have nutrients from the compost used to make them, so you don’t usually need to mix in dry fertilizer the first year. Thereafter, you can buy organic fertilizer or make your own (see A Better Way to Fertilize Your Garden: Homemade Organic Fertilizer). In terms of how much to use, a half-filled medium-sized wheelbarrow contains about 40 quarts of soil, which is a suitable amount for 1 cup of most blended organic fertilizers. In his book The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible, Edward Smith recommends the following organic fertilizer mix:

1/3 cup blood meal (for nitrogen)
1/3 cup colloidal phosphate (for phosphorus)
1/3 cup greensand (for potassium and trace elements)

ven if you use the greatest potting soil in the world, amended with excellent fertilizer, after a month or so you should start feeding your plants with liquid fertilizers. Fish emulsion/kelp mixtures are popular among organic gardeners, or you can make your own liquid fertilizers (see Free, Homemade Liquid Fertilizers). Whenever a container-grown vegetable looks unhappy, drenching it with a diluted liquid fertilizer is the first remedy to try. From midsummer on, I usually feed my container vegetables every other time I water.

Container-Scaping With Edible Plants

In summer, the edible container garden becomes a fabulous outdoor room. Vigorous pole beans can form vibrant “walls,” while snake gourds rambling over a pergola can create a green ceiling. Vines in general, from snow peas to asparagus beans, are often simple to grow in containers because their needs are easy to understand. Every vine wants “head in the sun, feet in the shade,” so you can please them by simply finding the perfect spot. In the book McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container, authors Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey point out that using broad stakes for twining vines will encourage them to make more lateral growth because they must grow farther to make each lap around the stake. With pole beans, Malabar spinach and other twiners, this little tweak will result in leafier, more productive plants.

Make the most of color by growing plenty of chard and red-tinted varieties of bok choy and basil. The soldierly, upright posture of onions makes them good design plants for container gardens. Be careful when locating plants that bees love — such as borage or scarlet runner beans — close to entryways. Also look for compact varieties, which are an easy way to avoid unnecessary wars with wind. Varieties of snow, snap and shell peas that grow to only about 30 inches tall are much easier to keep trellised in a pot compared with varieties that grow twice as tall.

Watch Your Back When Container Gardening

Over the years, I have heard of more injuries from moving heavy containers than from any other gardening task. Always enlist help when moving plants that are too heavy or bulky to move by yourself, and invest in a light-duty hand truck for moving plants and heavy bags of soil. Outfitted with a wagon for small pots and a hand truck for big ones, you’re ready to keep yourself and your “patio nursery” in good order.

There is an educational aspect to container gardening — plants are seen up close, where few details go unnoticed. Whether you’re watching bees buzz around pepper blossoms or following the spiraling growth of pole beans, every container garden is an inspiring learning lab as well as a source of delicious, super-fresh food.

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Posted by on April 21, 2012 in Gardening


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