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Talkin' Dirt - March 2017


by Ellen Caywood

No Space for a Veggie Garden. No Problem.


I love fresh tomatoes and fresh picked lettuce in the summer. The only place I have enough sun for veggies in my yard is on the old driveway in front of the converted garage. It doesn’t get full sun so I am limited in what I can grow. I use large plastic pots and plastic porch boxes and plant away. The larger the pots the better.  Over the years I have learned a lot.  I couldn’t survive out of my garden but I do get a nice variety of fresh veggies. And with careful planning I get veggies for several months of the year.


To grow tomatoes that actually ripen, I place 4-foot wire cages aound the pots.  I start my own tomatoes in February and keep under my grow lights. When I plant out the tomatoes out in the April, I wrap the cages with plastic, pull it up at the top and fasten with clothes pins. I put milk jugs of water with green food coloring in each pot. The dark colored water absorbs heat during the day and I have not lost a plant even if temps get to freezing.  The plastic stays on until the days and nights are warm enough.  Favorite varieties are Sun Gold, Sweet Million, Stupice and Early Girl.


Lettuce is very successful for me.  Recently I have been getting pelletized seed.  Makes planting so much easier.  I use Remay, with metal hoops and clothes pins, to cover the pots mainly to keep the birds and squirrels from getting the seedlings.  I add Sluggo in the pot.  I plant successive crops of lettuce.  When it is really hot I move the pots in more shade.  Lettuce started in late August/September can be wintered over some years.  When it gets cold in the fall I have a small greenhouse cover and plastic domes.  Favorite varieties are Red Sails, New Red Fire, Merlot and Ed Hume’s Red Romaine.


Pok choi, Joy choi and Chinese Cabbage are also easy to grow in pots.  They make great early spring greens.  Plants later in summer provide another harvest.  Some also winter over in pots with the plastic domes.


Sugar Snap Peas make a great container crop for spring.  After they are finished I plant Kentucky Blue Pole Beans.  I have tried a fall crop of peas but they have not done well for me. 


I have ventured into squash (Delta Crockneck, Superpick yellow), zucchini (Astia) and cucumbers (Bush Crop). Walla walla onion seedlings do well as small onions. They don’t reach large size in my pots.


I have a map of my containers and a planting plan each year so I can rotate my crops. In the fall I add a cover crop.  It grows all winter, actually making the pots look better than just dirt.  In February I turn in the cover crop so it decomposes before planting time. Over the years it has really improved soil.


Growing in pots is also easier on the back.  I use my garden stool to plant, harvest and turn under cover crop.  Watering does have to be done by hand and often when it is hot. 


So just because you don’t have a large plot of land, full sun, or the ability to dig in the soil, try container veggie gardening.  There is nothing like picking your own food and eating it right out of the “garden.”

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