Utah Stories

Fresh Produce Grown in Small Spaces

Don’t Let Small Spaces Thwart Your Green Thumb


Living in an apartment but craving fresh home-grown tomatoes and vegetable? There is a solution.


Dan Potts is the man to go to for answers. Dan started gardening when he was 8 years old with some popcorn from his mom’s pantry and some radish seeds. He started small on a plot by the side of his house that was too shady. He had a little success, but his life-long love of gardening bloomed when his family moved to Rose Park and he could plan a backyard garden with plenty of sun and great success.


Over the years he developed a method of what he calls, “intensive gardening.” He says that means growing the most food in the least amount of space with the least amount of effort.


Growing an apartment or patio garden,  is dependent on the light. If your space faces north there is probably not enough light to grow, but a south facing patio is ideal.


The first step is to get some containers. Dan suggests light colored plastic pots – dark ones hold too much heat and will cook the roots. He also says that a box made of redwood and secured with deck screws and plastic lined works even better. His suggestion when buying soil is that the heavier the bag the better, other than that one brand is not any better than another. The only other requirement for the containers is that they have good drainage.


As to what to plant Dan suggests looking for dwarf varieties of your favorite plants. They grow well in containers and can handle more heat. Good crops for Utah are eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, squashes, and all kinds of peppers.


Container plants need to be water routinely and Dan suggests watering in the later afternoon and when you notice that the plants have started to droop a little. Waiting until they droop forces the plants to grow roots deeper in the soil and produces a heartier plant. When you water he said to keep watering until it starts to drain out the bottom.


Not all planting experiments work out. Some things work one year and not the next. The key is to keep trying and see which factors affect your plants until you have success. “There is not magic,” Dan says, “Just keep stepping up to the plate.”


If you are interested in learning more Dan Potts teaches gardening class at Wasatch Community Gardens and for West High School’s Community Education program. Dan loves to share his knowledge and was a teacher at West for 33 years as well as the head wrestling coach.

Dan Potts – Master Gardener Photo By Dung Hoang

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