Space may be gardening’s final frontier.
The solution to most people’s space constraints is to grow veggies in containers. Everything from small pots to larger, deeper box beds, and even more creative receptacles such as wheelbarrows and plastic tubs can successfully be used to grow everything from cilantro to sweet corn. Some can even be placed on casters so they can be wheeled indoors to protect plants from an early frost.
Two of the most basic considerations are planting in deeper containers to allow for more root space, and using a vertical trellis to maximize the plant’s exposure to light and air and reduce the amount of above ground space the plant requires, especially on smaller patios and decks. Soil to fill containers can be dirt dug from the yard, or you can purchase more expensive products at your local garden center.
Most people fail at container gardening because they struggle to properly water their plants. Vegetable plants do best with less but consistent watering. What works best to solve the problem is an inexpensive hose-end programmable watering timer with a flow reducer that supplies water to a drip irrigation system running to each container. A system with ¼-inch poly tubing and an emitter running to each container from the timer can turn the water on for a short time every day to provide exactly what each plant needs. This approach eliminates the need to “remember” to water, and allows you to take vacations without the fear of returning to a dead garden.
Feeding plants is easy and can be done every couple of weeks with a soluble fertilizer, or there also are slow-release types available.
Interpreting what space you have available and getting creative with container ideas not only is an exercise in imagination, but also harvesting your homegrown small garden produce is a healthy reward for your efforts.
Dan Potts is a gardening instructor through West High School’s Community Education program, which offers an intensive gardening class that focuses on growing the most food in the smallest space with the least amount of effort.
Some of Dan’s Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Containers
Salad – Bush Crop medium, crisp, tender, compact plant
Burpless – Armenian very large, crisp, climbing
Pickling – Bush Pickle medium, productive, compact plants
Smaller – Fairy Tale small, ornamental, purple-striped, good flavor, compact plant, productive
Larger – Hansel medium, long, productive
Loose Leaf – Black-Seeded Simpson light green, tender, juicy, easy to grow
Romaine – Little Gem small, crisp, easy to grow
Small – Lambkin small, green flesh, sweet, slips vine when ripe
Sweet – Fooled You small, jalapeno-like, good flavor
Frying – Jimmy Nardello’s medium-small, tapered, red, good flavor
Ornamental – Sweet Pickle small, upright, green, yellow, red and purple, multipurpose
Hot – Mucho Nacho medium-small, jalapeno, green and red, productive
Winter – Sweet Lightning small, orange-striped, stores well, good flavor, compact
Summer – Gold Rush yellow zucchini, easy to harvest, compact
Bicolor – On Deck 62 days, 4 ½ feet, super sweet
(determinants are shorter, indeterminants can grow to 10 feet!)
Slicing – Bella Rosa disease resistant, determinant, heirloom
Multipurpose – Celebrity All American Winner, semi-determinant
Paste – Roma VFA very common, determinant, productive
Cherry – Sungold orange, indeterminant, good flavor (especially if split open!)
Early & Late – 4th of July, small, ready by 4th of July, but also an excellent keeper!