The Kitchen Garden: Container Gardening Part One
An abundance of produce can be grown in containers. So don’t despair if you have no garden. A courtyard, balcony or roof terrace is just as perfect. Often these smaller spaces create a micro-climate which has many benefits. Such as shelter from cold winds or frost making it ideal for tender crops. Shelter, boundary walls or enclosed spaces can create warmer micro-climates and may even be a sun trap allowing earlier sowings and warm climate fruit to be grown. Growing in containers can raise the temperature of the soil, open ground can often be colder due to being more open to the elements. Gardeners also often learn to be very resourceful and inventive with space, these are important skills to develop to increase efficiency and productivity. Whereas when one has lots of space or more than one needs, we can tend to be less focused and organized on exactly how we use the space. These skills as a gardener will come with time and experimentation.
With creativity and passion you can transform almost any space into an abundant growing garden. Not only can these smaller spaces be productive they can be beautiful too. So if you have a drab paved courtyard or empty balcony just think how it would look full of plants. Of course you need enough light for the plants to grow yet with the right nurturing and attention many crops will thrive in containers.
There are of few basic guide lines for success, these are essential.
1. Produce grown in containers will be completely dependent upon you …. Just as babies are which with care will grow and develop healthfully.
2. Quality compost or soil and compost mixtures are essential for the nutrient factor.
3. Regular watering and feeding is also a must, obviously not over watering or over feeding, a regular check for moisture and a regular once a week feed will contribute to success. Feeding needs to be specific to each crop.
4. The pot has to be large enough to allow the chosen vegetable, fruit, herb or flower to grow and thrive allowing for root development.
In a nutshell the plants you choose to grow will be much more dependent upon you as they are restricted within the container, if planted in the open ground they would have more space, soil, nutrient availability, root space and potential to draw moisture from the ground. In containers the roots are more limited and will use the available nutrients and moisture much sooner. This is why a feed once a week for hungry produce, once a fortnight or month for the lesser hungry produce is important. As well as checking moisture on a regular basis, maybe everyday depending upon the aspect and weather.
So what crops are ideal?
All salad leaf ; lettuce of all kind, oriental leaf, spinach, swiss chard, winter and summer purslane, leaf beet, mizuna, chinese cabbage, rocket, pak choi, mustard greens, komatsuna, corn salad for winter and spring, mixed salad leaf and cut and come again leaf, wintercress, watercress.
Young brassica leaf; cabbage, kale green, purple and black, spring greens. This being as individual plants stated here on maturity require a lot of space, although it is quite possible to use the younger tender leaf when they are smaller.
Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, chili peppers, aubergines; ideal for those hot, sheltered spots.
Carrot and beetroot.
Peas, climbing french, runner beans, borlotto beans. All require support to climb upon.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes.
Climbing squash and cucumber. All require support to climb upon.
Courgette, squash, pumpkin and melon. The later with plenty of heat and water.
Fruit can also be grown as long as the container is ample enough for the specific fruit bush, plant or tree. Check with the nursery on individual variety requirements.
Strawberry, raspberry and other berries on cane supports, ballerina apple, pear and dwarf root stock fruit such as cherry, apricot etc.
Blueberry & Strawberry, both suitable for containers
Herbs such as basil, parsley, coriander, dill, fennel, mint, thyme, sage, rosemary, celery leaf etc.
The list could continue so think about what you love and do a little research.What you choose to grow will be affected by how and what you eat. This is what is so fun about growing your own produce; you can choose to grow what you love to eat or add to salads or even infuse in herbal teas.
Be creative with choosing containers, pots, and planters. There are lots of containers one would not normally think of which you could grow produce in. There is also a huge variety of attractive and fashionable containers in most garden centers and DIY stores. Even in your home you may discover something which has potential to be transformed from something unused into a gardening planter or container. Think creatively. As long as there is drainage to allow excess water to drain away whatever you find could well be suitable. If you are a handy man or woman you could even make planters with timber. How fabulous would this feel to achieve a new skill in this way.
To get you started choose multi-purpose peat free quality compost. Certain crops are hungry so in such a case the compost can be made richer with the addition of well rooted manure. Runner beans, courgette and squash are typically such crops. Where fruit is being grown a loam based compost or soil mixed can be combined with quality multi-purpose compost. This will help to hold nutrients for longer as fruit will be a longer term plant compared to annual crops. Mulches will also add nutrients and aid retention of valuable moisture. Certain fruit such as Blueberries require acid soil and compost mix so always check at the nursery the specifics.
Leaf beet, Spinach, Chard Children love growing vegetables
Once the containers have been prepared for planting you are ready. Plant your chosen dwarf fruit and seedlings purchased, sow seeds finely dressing with a fine layer of compost mix over the top. Depending upon your containers seeds can be evenly broadcast over the entire container. Or if you have large square and rectangular planters you could sow in lines. Experiment and have fun and as you do this you will learn what works best. It is all about growing not just produce to eat, yet about the gardener growing and learning as a person and connecting with your food and nature.
Happy Kitchen Gardening….
Enjoy your adventures and do connect on Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design Facebook page for more on gardening & nature.
All Photographs © Laara Copley-Smith at Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design. All rights reserved.
Laara Copley-Smith is a professional Garden Designer based in the UK with a passion for Kitchen Gardens and growing organically. Laara has been a vegan for over ten years, is a raw foodist and is a keen photographer. Laara offers an extensive range of bespoke design services and creative consultancy and can be contacted here.
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