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Is Container Gardening for You?

balcony gardenFor many of us, having enough dirt or time to plant a garden is a pipe dream. We live in apartment buildings or rent houses that barely have enough back yard to hold a barbecue grill. We work long hours and don’t have the time to devote to that one-acre crisis garden. Are we just destined to be at the mercy of whatever the universe throws at us?

Not at all! One thing to always remember, whether you’re trying to figure out how to grow some veggies in limited space or any other issue that comes up in life—there is always a solution and a way. We have to always guard against the (very great) temptation to throw our hands up in the air and say, “It can’t be done.” Remember these words from Henry Ford: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

What is our goal? It’s to grow a little more independent. It’s to cultivate the skills we might need one day when all hell breaks loose. It’s to take those skills we’ve learned and pass them on to our children so that they, too, can be prepared. So whether you live in a one-room apartment or on a hundred-acre farm, the only thing keeping you from attaining the goal of growing your own vegetables are the roadblocks you put in front of yourself.

The first thing to remember is that you’re not trying to feed the world. You’re trying to provide for yourself and your family. While it might be nice to be able to have such a bumper crop that you can not only fill your pantry to bursting, but can give gobs away to neighbors and friends, that’s not being practical.

In this newsletter, we’re going to start with the basics. Future articles will include information on the best plants that grow in containers, the problems faced with container gardening, and the number of plants actually needed per species to provide nutritious food for your family.

First of all, any kind of object can be a container. Wooden barrels or crates, hanging baskets, flower pots, planter boxes…you are only limited by your imagination! Your vegetables need these things:

1)     A container large enough to accommodate the root capacity of the plant. If the container is made from wood, it should not have been treated with creosote, penta or any other toxic chemical that can leach into the soil and affect the plant.

2)     A container that can withstand weathering. UV rays will damage cheap, plastic pots. The container must also have adequate drainage holes.

3)     Soil that drains rapidly but holds enough moisture so that the roots don’t dry out.

4)     Sunlight! Your container garden will need at least five hours of direct sunlight a day. Different types of vegetables require more. For instance, fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes need the most sun. Leafy vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce can grow in shadier areas, although they still require a set amount of sunlight daily.

hanging garden

5)     Fertilizer and nutrients. Container gardens loose the benefits of fertilizer more rapidly, so you’ll have to supplement on a regular basis.

6)     Water. In dry, hot weather it might be necessary to water on a daily basis. You will have to monitor the moisture content of the soil more regularly with containers.

The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for container gardening is to read up on growing vegetables. What kind of vegetables does your family like? How much space will your plants require? How many plants will feed the members of your family? What kind of nutrients does each particular vegetable need, and should the soil be more alkaline or acidic for that particular vegetable?

We will cover these and other questions in future issues of the newsletter. For now, start hunting for suitable containers to use for your vegetable garden and where you plan to place them.  Remember, you’re only limited by your own imagination!

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