Spring! We made it — survived another winter! And now it’s time to start thinking about green grass, trees blossoming, and fresh veggies in abundance at the farmer’s market. Or… you could grow your own vegetable garden — right on your patio or balcony!
Ready to get your hands dirty? Here’s a few tips to get you started:
Decide what veggies you want to grow
Start small with an herb garden. Basil, thyme, and chives all do exceptionally well in containers and are super easy to grow. In fact, you’ll probably end up with so many chives (they multiply like rabbits) that you’ll have enough to divide, replant in a cute container, and give as a gift to a neighbor.
Want to grow your own salad? Plant lettuce from seed two weeks apart in various containers. That way you will always have a fresh supply throughout the growing season. Unless you start seedlings inside, just buy tomato plants, as well as cukes and peppers already started as plants. This will give you a jump on the days to harvest and thus you will be enjoying your salad that much sooner. Onions do well from seed or bulbs. Carrots and parsnips don’t mind the cold so you can start earlier and they are content to keeping growing well into fall. In fact, some gardeners leave parsnips in the ground all winter and harvest in the spring; they are much sweeter that way!
Choose the right container
You’ve got lots of options to choose from. If you are really limited on space, consider using window box containers (make sure there are drainage holes), hanging planters, or vertical planters. Whichever you decide upon, there is one crucial consideration: The smaller the planter the less soil. More soil means greater moisture and the plants have room to grow (especially those with large roots). Keep in mind that light-colored containers will keep the soil cooler versus a dark container. If you have space on your patio or balcony, mix up different types and sizes of containers — it adds another layer of interest to your garden.
Sunlight and water
Your growing plants will need two essential elements to be healthy: Sunlight and water. Plants crave sunlight like a Maine girl craves a Hawaiian vacation in January. Water, specifically enough to keep the soil moist, is critical as well. This may mean you have to set a daily reminder to water the plants. Skip a few days, especially in summer, and you may end up with a plant needing life support. If you find your containers are prone to drying out, you may have to water twice a day.
Feeding and weeding
Plants like snacks too. Fertilizer improves the plant’s health, contributes to pest and disease-resistance, and fruit production. Liquid fertilizer is easy to use and you should treat your container plants twice a week. Organic earthworm castings, compost, and organic granular fertilizer will all provide a slow release of essential nutrients to the soil and feed your plants. Weeding, if needed at all, will be minimal. Containers and small garden boxes on a balcony are simple to keep up with weeds as there is usually no grass or weeds sharing the same soil. In fact, the only “weeding” you may need to do is actually thinning out the plants as they begin to grow (e.g., carrots, parsnips, onions). Always follow the directions on the back of the seed packet for ideal spacing.
Reap the rewards
Now watch your little garden grow! Nothing beats picking a ripe tomato off the vine and cutting fresh lettuce to make yourself a summer salad. You’ve put the time and effort into your container garden and now it’s time to savor the rewards of your hard work!