Big Crops from Small Gardens
There is nothing like the feeling of growing and eating your own produce grown in your own garden. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, as well as knowing your food is totally organic and comes from a sustainable source. For many people this can be a pipe dream, as they lack the green space to plant any sizable crop. A lack of a garden does not mean that you can’t grow crops at all; it just means you have to grow crops on a much smaller scale. Small scale organic gardens can be fun to raise, a lot less work and though they won’t provide all the groceries you need, will go a long way to stretching your budget and helping the environment.
Commercial containers are readily available for patios and window boxes but you don’t need to go to that expense. Well washed out gallon jugs that have the narrow neck carefully removed can be used as a plant pot to put on your window sill to grow fresh organic herbs for cooking. These need very little care and outside of water and light, can be left out to grow all year, every year. If your area is prone to snow and frost, you can bring them indoors to keep them from freezing and continue to enjoy your crops during the winter.
Small container gardening can be used for most crops and not just herbs. Sustainable crops that grow well in containers include cucumbers, squash, potatoes and tomatoes. Climbing plants need some trellis or sticks to grow around, but also thrive well in a container. Look at the size and yield of a crop to decide how big your container needs to be and some natural crops like carrots and peppers can be grown in clean, trimmed gallon jugs.
Preparing the containers for planting a crop is easy and the same method is used for small and large containers. Choose containers that are repurposed and made of recycled material and drill holes for drainage in the bottom. Wash them out thoroughly with soapy water and let them dry. Vegetables need clean, healthy, well-drained soil to thrive and this is the best way to achieve that. Fill the tubs three quarters full of potting soil from a hardware store and plant your seeds according to directions. Place in direct sunlight, unless the plant requires otherwise, and water well. If the water does not run out the bottom of your container freely place on wood or plant pot feet to aid drainage.
Six to eight hours of sunlight a day is usually the right amount of sun for most plants but summer fruits and vegetables usually need all day. Being in the sun dries them out so make sure all plants are watered daily until the water comes out of the bottom of the container until the crop is harvested. Try and use an organic fertilizer like compost if you can. If not, use half the recommended amount of water soluble or pellet fertilizer. Water soluble ones are more effective, but pellet fertilizer needs to be added less often. Make sure they have the highest amount of organic ingredients you can find, as it will be better for the crop and the environment.
When you have harvested your crop, you can use the containers to make natural compost for next year’s planting. Fill the containers a third full, then add leaves and small plant debris, ending with another layer of soil. Water very well, and keep moist for a few weeks. After a few weeks empty the container into another to aerate the mixture, and then water again. Keep the soil in the containers as natural compost ready to accept new seeds the following year.
Producing a good crop takes some time and practice, but you will soon learn to grow many different varieties of fruit and vegetables with success, and enjoy the feeling of eating your own, organic groceries with very little effort.