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:

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PlantMinimum Container SizeNumber of PlantsCultivars
Broccoli2 gallons1Packman, Bonanza, others
Carrot1 gallon (use pots 5 cm deeper than carrot length)2-3Scarlet Nantes, Gold Nugget, Little Finger, Baby Spike, Thumbelina
Cucumber1 gallon1Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty
Eggplant5 gallons1Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom
Green Bean2 gallons minimumPlace plants 7 cm apartTopcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder
Green Onion1 gallon3-5Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching
Leaf Lettuce1 gallon2Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb
Parsley1 gallon3Evergreen, Moss Curled
Pepper5 gallons1-2Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, Red Cherry (Hot), Jalapeno
Radish1 gallon3Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, (White) Icicle
Spinach1 gallon2Any cultivar
Squash5 gallons1Dixie, Gold Neck, Early Prolific Straightneck, Zucco (Green), Diplomat, Senator
Tomato5 gallons1Patio, 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.

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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?

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