Posted on 21 April 2008 by

Container Gardening – Size Matters!

Container GardeningBy Michael Nolan

I’ve been offering advice on home gardening for quite a few years now, and the most common excuse I hear from people who don’t have a garden is that they lack the space they need.

Nothing sets me off like the word can’t, and most often these people get a full scale lesson in gardening for small spaces whether they like it or not. Just about anyone, anywhere can handle a bit of container gardening.

Did you know that in the 1940s here in America nearly half of all fresh produce in this country was grown at home in Victory Gardens? Over the years it seems as though we as a society become so spoiled that we forgot how to take care of ourselves. But I digress. Let’s discuss how you — regardless of your available space — can grow at least some of your own vegetables and herbs at home.

If you have an empty 5-gallon bucket and a sunny spot on your porch, you can grow a tomato plant that will produce pound after luscious pound of tasty treats for next to nothing. When you compare that to an average price of over $2.00 per pound at the supermarket, it makes sense for your taste buds and your wallet.

I calculated the weight of the tomatoes produced from a single one of my 12 tomato plants last year and using the average price at the time I realized that I had grown nearly $100 worth of tomatoes on that one plant.

The only real learning curve involved in vegetable container gardening is to choose the right size container for whatever you decide to grow. Tomatoes, for example, have deep-running roots that require a container with more depth, which is why I use 5-gallon buckets. You can even hang them upside down from a sturdy plant hook on your porch!

Radishes, spring onions and almost every variety of herbs will flourish in a window box which in my opinion is one of the most practical examples of container gardening for those will little or no available space for such endeavors. If that option isn’t available, use the window sill in your kitchen as the perfect location for a small indoor herb container garden.

Be sure to do a little research before you start your container garden to ensure that you’re using an appropriately sized container for the plants you are growing. You can ask for advice at your local garden center or you can feel free to ask one of us here at Urban Garden Casual. We love reader questions!

4 Responses to “Container Gardening – Size Matters!”

  1. our friend Ben Says:

    Right you are, Michael! I decided to grow more edibles as part of the Hawk’s Haven blowout deck display this year, just so I could set an example and talk about them when people wondered what they were. I always have my figs and many tender herbs on display out there, but this year I added Swiss chard (so ornamental!) and various lettuces to the deck planters. I’m tempted to get some of those columnar apples and other container fruit trees to add to the array just to make a point, but am afraid they actually produce dreadful-tasting fruit. (No proof, though–please prove me wrong!) As you say, giving those roots plenty of room (and adding lots of organic matter and being good about watering) is key to great results. Everyone–and I mean everyone–can grow at least some of their own food!

  2. Michael Nolan Says:

    It is really timely that your comment came when it did. I’ve honestly been sitting at my desk in tears for the past few minutes after a report on CNN gave a rather bleak picture of food production worldwide.

    It is absolutely unfathomable for me to realize that in 2008 – despite the technological advances the world has made – we are reaching a point once again where famine is just waiting in the wings and in countries like Egypt, regular citizens are resorting to raiding warehouses in search of food.

    Sorry, I know I’m getting off topic and becoming a bit of a downer, but…

    Now back to your though on container-friendly fruit trees –
    Think dwarf! Dwarf apples and even peaches may do well, though I have to admit that I am not sure where you live these days. If you go the apple route, I have heard some glowing reviews about the “William’s Pride”, though just about anything in the M27 root stock should work well.

    Just bear in mind that container fruit needs a lot of extra care (and PLENTY of drainage), and you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

  3. our friend Ben Says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Michael! I’ll check into ‘William’s Pride’. As for the food issue, I’m with you on that. Between global warming and increasing desertification, I fear that we’re going to start seeing wars fought not for greed and power but for food and water. Hopefully a more equitable solution will be arrived at before it comes to that! Meanwhile, in the words of Rousseau, we must cultivate our gardens. Less lawn, more food, say I!

  4. Minni Says:

    Michael, you say that everyone can grow a garden. But you don’t realize how utterly impossible my situation is. In fact, urban people have it better than me, despite that I’m “supposedly” in the suburbs. This area has become worse than a city with maybe 40 schoolbuses roaring past my house per day in what used to be a quiet area in the suburbs. The local township (those evil jerks) could care less when I complain that when I was a child, I used to have to wait at the corner in all sorts of weather, so why is every whim of today’s kids catered to?

    Back to the topic:
    The aforesaid vehicle traffic is on the south side of the house where the sun is. So, as you see, the sunny side is ultra-polluted from the endless traffic (not just buses) which roar past every minute. Wouldn’t that pollute growing plants?

    And evem aside from the pollution, there’s barely sun, because back in the 1950’s my dad had planted maple trees all along the east, south & west of the house, whose roots are undermining the foundation & which shroud the house with shade so that there’s barely any sunny spot. The east side has a three story house built next door which blocks the sun, and even without that, one of my dad’s maple trees would block the sun anyway.

    Also on the east side is a crumbling patio, with rusting wrought iron railing. I wouldn’t even know where to hang a topsy-turvy planter, and I’m extremely weak due to toxicity and years of exposure to LCD radiation.

    The only place where I might plant a topsy turvey (suspended from the wrought iron railing at the corner) would cause the plants to flow downward exactly where the garbage men pick up the garbage. Elsewhere around the patio is both too shady, and not high enough.

    Trust me, my situation is such, that you wouldn’t believe it unless you’d see it. You can’t imagine how much I’ve longed for a garden all my life, but I never did attain it, because I was always too busy trying to get my health back in impossibly overwhelming, negative, circumstances.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments