Home food gardens are more popular now than they have been since victory gardens during WWII. 40% of the food consumed in this country during that time was produced in home and community gardens! Though they’ve never been a bad idea, in fact I’ll talk about why they’re such a good idea in a moment, they fell out of favor with the majority of people for various reasons- the main one being inconvenience.
When a person could buy almost any type of produce they wanted, at almost any time of year, from their local supermarket- that was pretty darn convenient compared to the relative inconvenience of maintaining a vegetable garden!
Personally, it wasn’t until just two years ago that I started my own. I just assumed they were too time-consuming for me, or… too inconvenient. Ironically, what finally got me growing my own was our local Farmers Market. I simply got used to eating delicious, nutritious food and wanted more access to it!
So, now for the good reasons to grow food-
* Your food will be Healthier:
– the less time sitting around on trucks and in stores, the more nutrients it contains.
– if you garden organically there will be no chemical pesticides: some of the most pesticide-laden conventionally grown produce- like apples, strawberries, lettuce, kale & carrots- are luckily also some of the easiest to grow!
* Organically grown food that’s naturally ripened and freshly picked from plants growing in living soil Tastes so much Better than conventionally grown- …and not just tomatoes- try picking some broccoli, lettuce or kale just moments before preparing it. You won’t believe how much better it tastes!
* So, there’s the Saving Money part. That’s good too, right?
– You will save money even if you just grow a few types, like some herbs, greens and berries, and buy the rest at your local Farmers Market.
* It’s a Fun, healthful activity that can be bonding for families and can build community!
But why grow food in containers, specifically??
* Even if you have Limited Space , all you really need is a window box, a balcony, a patio or deck, a porch, or even a driveway- Almost any amount of space is enough to grow SOME food!
* You have the Flexibility to customize growing environments in containers for different plants, like blueberries or mint, that have different soil, light and moisture requirements. Also, vigorous plants like mint can be controlled.
* You’ll have better Accessibility to the plants with them up off the ground in containers, and the snails and bugs will have less accessibility! Also, you can rotate your pots to keep the in-season plants nearby.
* You can control how much time you spend by how many containers you plant
So, now that I’ve convinced you that it’s a good idea, here’s what you need to get started:
– terra cotta = attractive & inexpensive but porous (doesn’t retain water)
– glazed or stone = attractive but costly
– plastic = lightweight, non-porous,(water retaining), heat- retaining(if black), practical(re-use 5 or 15gal.nursery pots), economical, but not attractive
*Use an organic Soil mix with lots of compost- this will grow strong, healthy plants that are resistant to bugs and disease
* 6 hours daily Sun and/or against a south-facing wall or fence
* For small gardens, it’s most efficient to buy Plant starts from the nursery, but some plants are fun & easy to grow from seed, like lettuce, spinach, carrots, peas, beans & squash
* Water – Plants in containers can’t access water beyond the confines of their pots- You provide all they need- use a drip system if you can’t water regularly
Companion Planting and Planting to Attract Beneficial Insects are two important practices to use when food gardening. If you incorporate these practices in your potted food garden, you’ll have a completely self-contained mini ecosystem to nurture you, body AND soul!