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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Container Gardening

Almost every edible crop that is grown in a traditional garden plot can be successfully raised in a container. Even if you have limited space, or room for just one or two pots on your balcony, you can harvest fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers.

Here is a sampling of the things I have grown in containers in western Massachusetts for the last 19 years:

Green Beans
Snap peas
Swiss chard

Even though many people, including myself, have a “regular” garden, there are many advantages to container growing. There is virtually no weeding, and soil in containers is resistant to soil-borne diseases and pests such as slugs. Pots can be easily moved around or brought indoors at the threat of frost. Perennial plants such as dwarf fruit trees can be brought inside for the winter. The same pot can be used for succession planting throughout the growing season- snap peas or Asian greens such as bok choy in the spring, tomatoes in the summer, and kale in the fall.

Some of the things to consider for container gardening- you must be vigilant about watering, especially when the plant root systems get bigger and the weather is hot. This can mean daily watering. There are water-holding crystals such as Soil-Moist that can be mixed into the soil, and then absorb water and gradually release it as needed. You must also be careful of over-fertilizing. Crops that produce large sprawling vines, such as pumpkins and watermelons, are not generally suitable for containers, although some smaller varieties might be available. Many seed companies offer seed varieties specifically bred for smaller spaces such as container growing.

To get started, evaluate the space you currently have, and approximately how much sun that spot will get during the summer growing season. As a general rule, plants such as peppers or tomatoes will require 6 hours of sunlight. Decide what you and your family want to eat, and grow what you like. It is fun to experiment with different varieties, and it is very easy to try 3 or 4 types of tomatoes in individual pots to see which ones you like best.

Below are a couple of websites with more information, and also a great book on growing vegetables in containers.


The Bountiful Container (book)


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