Not everyone has access to a big back yard or even a community garden, but that doesn't mean you can't be a green thumb and grow some of your own fresh food. There are a growing number of people that are starting to grow their own vegetables and fruits in pots, hanging baskets, and planter boxes on their patios, balconies, or porches in cities across the country. If you are interested in having fresh tomatoes, beans, and more to add to your meals, check out the tips and links after the jump.
Here are five tips that will help you get a container "garden" growing in your small space:
1. Know how much light you have available. Most all garden crops will manage full sunlight, but some things such as lettuce, cabbage, and other greens will handle the shade a little bit better. If you really want to tackle something like tomatoes, cucumbers, or peppers you will need to make sure you have more sunlight available.
2. Choose your containers wisely. For some smaller things like herbs, green onions, or parsley you can get away with small containers that are 10" in diameter or less. As you get into the bigger vegetables it is a good idea to have something around the five gallon size or larger (buckets, tubs, planters, etc.). Another option for those of you with some decent sun but limited space is hanging baskets.
3. Make sure you have good dirt. If you are just going to have a few containers around to provide some fresh vegetables, I would suggest just going to the garden center and buying some "synthetic" soil or potting soil. These soils will be mixes of sawdust, woodchips, peat moss, and more. If you are feeling adventurous you can make your own potting soil.
4. Your new plants will need water. Watering will vary by climate, weather, and pot size. But, a good rule of thumb is to water once-a-day and to make sure your containers have proper drainage. If you are using some sort of solid bucket or basket it would be a good idea to fill the bottom inch with gravel and drill holes around the outside about 1/2 inch from the bottom.
5. Pick vegetables that fit your climate and your tastes. My best piece of advice would be to consult someone at a trusted garden center or a friend with a garden to see what varieties grow best in your area. Here are a few suggestions, however, to get you going: Tumbling Tom (hanging baskets) and Spring Giant Tomatoes, Buttercrunch and Romain Lettuce, Liberty Cucumbers, Bell Boy Peppers, and Kentucky Wonder Beans.
Of course, it may be a little late in your area for some crops (unless you can find some plants at a farmer's market), but you could still plan on planting some beans, peas, or leafy greens for a fall harvest. If you are interested in learning more about container gardening check out this link from GardenGuides.com.
Ethan Book grew up in a small Iowa town and attended the University of Northern Iowa . Along with his wife and two young children, Ethan oversees a growing herd of registered Dexter cattle and a flock of laying hens, and is expanding his operation on a small family farm in Southern Iowa. Ethan's blog, The Beginning Farmer, helps promote small-scale farming and sustainable agriculture. Ethan is also a youth pastor and a member of the American Dexter Cattle Association and Practical Farmers of Iowa.
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