Tricounty News

You can grow vegetables without a garden

Would you like to grow some fresh vegetables? Don't have room for a garden? Don't give up! Consider raising fresh, nutritious vegetables in containers. A windowsill, patio, balcony, or doorstep can provide sufficient space for a productive garden. Almost any vegetable that will grow in a backyard garden will also do well as a container-grown plant. Tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, green onions, lettuce, radishes and many herbs are a few of the vegetables that are suited to container culture. If you have sufficient space, try pole beans, cucumbers and melons. These vining crops can be grown on a trellis to conserve space. The important thing is to select varieties of these vegetables that are developed for container culture. When you are at your garden center, ask for seeds or plants that are labeled "bush type", "compact", or "container plant". Just about anything can become a container for growing vegetables, as long as it has drainage holes, can hold soil, and won't disintegrate during the course of the growing season. Try using bushel baskets, whiskey barrels, gallon cans, wash tubs or wooden boxes. Some of the new foam plastic pots are quite inexpensive and very attractive. Remember that hanging baskets and window boxes are containers, too. Pots from 6 to 10 inches in diameter work well for green onions, lettuce and herbs. A 5-gallon container is the most suitable for vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, cucumbers and summer squash. Be sure that whatever pot or container you choose has a drainage hole in the bottom or can have one or more holes drilled. A pot or container that does not drain well is a death trap for your plants. There are two types of potting mixtures available for your container garden, soil-based and soilless. A soil-based medium will include garden loam, organic matter and sand as the primary ingredients. Soilless mixtures are readily available at garden centers and are usually composed of peat moss, vermiculite, ground bark and perlite. These soilless mixtures are well suited to container gardening because they are sterile and weed free. They are also lightweight and hold moisture while draining well. However, they contain little or no nutrients and require the use of a slow release fertilizer or the frequent application of a water-soluble fertilizer. If you choose to use a soil-based mixture, mix two parts sterile garden loam, two parts peat moss or compost and one part builders sand. Watering is the biggest chore after your containers have been planted. Containers dry out quickly, and in hot, sunny spots you will probably need to water daily. Check the soil moisture frequently by pushing your index finger into the soil up to the second joint. If it feels dry, its time to water. It is important to soak the soil deeply, so add water until it flows out the drainage holes. Water in the morning so that the foliage of the plants has a chance to dry before evening to help discourage fungus diseases. If you are using a soilless potting mixture, fertilize them once per week with a water-soluble fertilizer. Nearly all vegetable plants will grow better in full sunlight than in shade. Leafy crops such as lettuce, cabbage, spinach and parsley can tolerate more shade than root crops such as radishes, beets, turnips and onions. Those crops that bear fruit like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, squash and melons require at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day. A great advantage of growing vegetables in containers is that the containers can be moved to areas where they receive the best possible light. The same insects and diseases that are common to any vegetable garden attack vegetables grown in containers. Daily grooming and inspection will allow you to detect any insect pests that may be present and you can remove them by hand-picking, washing with a stream of water or using insecticidal soap. Most fungus diseases can be avoided by placing your containers so they receive good air movement. If insects or fungus diseases persist, you may use an appropriate pesticide. Remember that you are going to eat these plants, so be sure your vegetable is listed on the label! Yes, you can grow vegetables! With creative use of containers, you can grow fresh vegetables in very small areas. Combine your vegetables with a few containers of flowers and you will have a productive and attractive container garden.