Patio Farmer: The World of Container Gardening

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In tight urban areas, planting a full-size garden is often impossible. Add to that the time required to keep up a garden, and for many people living their busy lives it looks impossible. Container gardening is a way around that, and a way to enjoy the benefits of keeping your own small garden.

Container gardening is the practice of gardening in small containers rather than the ground. These containers can range in size from typical flower pot all the way up to large rectangular boxes as long as the space available. Patios and decks are typical locations for these pint-sized gardens. When selecting a container for a food garden, ensure that it is not sealed or painted with anything toxic.

Producing even a small amount of food for your own consumption carries with it many rewards and benefits. Any food that you grow, doesn’t have to be shipped in from somewhere else. There is less risk of soil-borne disease, you virtually eliminate weed problems, and if your planters are on wheels, you have more control over moisture, sunlight & temperature. If you grow it organically, it saves the pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers that would have been used. Since the food is picked when it is actually ripe, it has the greatest concentration of nutrients, and the best flavour, that is possibly can have. And finally, caring for a garden, even a little one, can bring you a little closer to the earth, to a connection with green and growing things.

Some plants that are suitable for use in container gardening are:

Plant Minimum Container Size Number of Plants Cultivars
Broccoli 2 gallons 1 Packman, Bonanza, others
Carrot 1 gallon (use pots 5 cm deeper than carrot length) 2-3 Scarlet Nantes, Gold Nugget, Little Finger, Baby Spike, Thumbelina
Cucumber 1 gallon 1 Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty
Eggplant 5 gallons 1 Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom
Green Bean 2 gallons minimum Place plants 7 cm apart Topcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder
Green Onion 1 gallon 3-5 Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching
Leaf Lettuce 1 gallon 2 Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb
Parsley 1 gallon 3 Evergreen, Moss Curled
Pepper 5 gallons 1-2 Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, Red Cherry (Hot), Jalapeno
Radish 1 gallon 3 Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, (White) Icicle
Spinach 1 gallon 2 Any cultivar
Squash 5 gallons 1 Dixie, Gold Neck, Early Prolific Straightneck, Zucco (Green), Diplomat, Senator
Tomato 5 gallons 1 Patio, Pixie, Tiny Tim, Saladette, Toy Boy, Spring Giant, Tumbling Tom, Small Fry

container gardening

When planting a container garden, use a good mix of high-compost soil and something like mushroom manure for fertilizer. Try to avoid artificial fertilizers if possible. The soil in a container needs to be kept moist, but not too wet, and should be checked every day.

If all the work of tending a container garden is too much, then there is another option. Google uses it to grow fresh vegetables for their staff, and the United Nations makes use of it for their program called the Growing Connection. The EarthBox is a self-contained garden, with a built-in irrigation and fertilizing system. The fertilizer provided is organic, and the whole thing needs very little care. While it is more costly than a conventional planter, it is much more convenient, and advertises that it gives much higher yields. It has all of the advantages of conventional container gardening, with less hassle.

Container gardening is way to grow at least some of your food, at your convenience, and keep yourself in touch with the earth. And who doesn’t prefer a tomato fresh off the vine, or baby carrots picked fresh, washed, and eaten raw?

  • Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn was born and raised in Northern Alberta. Growing up in the boreal forest gave him an appreciation for nature, an appreciation that was enhanced by the works of his artist mother, Svala Dunn, who captured the landscapes and wildlife of the north in her oils and watercolors. He holds a Degree in Geography from the University of Alberta, with a concentration in Urban Studies. He has since found career in information technology, but still pursues his first interests in geography and the environment. He lives and works in southern Vancouver Island, with his wife and three children.

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