After gardening virtually all of my life, and later teaching gardening classes through West High School’s Community Education Program, I have concluded that almost anyone can grow a garden.
The only real requirement is about six hours of direct sunlight for any location. It could be a small corner of your yard, a patio, or even an outside deck on the east side of a high-rise apartment complex. You could even grow a 25-pound watermelon eight stories up on a south-facing apartment deck simply by training the vines to grow where you want them.
Many renters either do not have access to garden space or the owner will not allow them to garden in the yard. However, almost all renters are allowed to grow potted plants, and folks can usually find places to put containers on a back patio or even in soil-less front yards. Thus, the trick is to grow more things in containers, regardless of whether one has access to a garden area on the ground.
There are almost limitless choices for containers. Over the years I have used everything from plastic pots to old racing tires — anything that can hold a soil mix. For a growing mix, I recommend using mostly real soil mixed with some perlite to help drainage, and compost to add more organic matter for improved fertility.
Watering seems to be one of the biggest challenges for most. Many people simply over-water their plants, thereby stressing them. I recommend letting the plants tell you when to water by waiting for their leaves to droop. To avoid spoiling them, that usually means only watering once about every day or two. I prefer to water in the evening to allow plants to recover overnight.
Lining the bottom of containers with gravel and/or perlite assists draining excess water, however, you might also need a container (tray) below them to catch water draining through to prevent water from running somewhere you don’t want it.
Another technique to growing in smaller spaces is to grow vertically. Use a trellis to support plants such as tomatoes. Allow cucumbers to climb a wall, or even use handrails as opportunities to train them to increase productivity.
Growing in suspended pots allows increased exposure to sunlight for plants such as strawberries that naturally do better hanging down.
This year I plan to grow melons in black polyethylene pots and tomatoes in car tires filled with a mix and resting on top of soil in the garden. I also plan on growing snack peppers in a large ceramic pot on the patio for more convenient snacking. We are already eating lettuce and arugula in our salads that I started weeks ago in pots that were easily carried inside when outside temperatures dropped too low.
I’m certainly not talking about farming with polluting rototillers or using fancy irrigation systems. Having occasional fresh veggies or even pet plants to talk to every day is what I am talking about.
Subscribe to Utah Stories weekly newsletter and get our stories directly to your inbox