part one

MIKE SKIPPER MSU COUNTY EXTENSION COORDINATOR

Container gardening has become one of the most versatile and creative forms of garden design. Many of us have used containers in various aspects to add color, texture, and art throughout our landscaped areas. However, one of the fastest forms of gardening in regards to containers is using them for growing vegetables.

Growing vegetables is great fun, good exercise, and is a sure proven way to a more nutritious eating lifestyle. For many of us, planting a garden may not be feasible due to space, time, money or energy. However, container gardening is a simple, easy and fun way to grow edible crops in just about any situation.

There are tremendous advantages to container gardening: • It’s perfect for everyone – youth, individuals with physical limitations, college students, renters, novice gardeners, or any gardener that is wanting to cut back, downsize and save time. • There’s no digging or tilling taking place. Just imagine being able to garden in the rain without getting your shoes muddy! • Container gardening is virtually weed-free. • It’s pretty inexpensive to get started. There are few, if any, tools needed. • Temporary or permanent containers can be fitted to any location, such as your deck, stoop, concrete pad areas, patio, or just about any spot in your yard. • You can locate containers where they are most convenient for you and where they will grow the best. • Containers allow you to get a quicker start in the spring and grow further into the fall. • Container gardens are easier to protect plants from weather extremes, insect pests, and pesky varmints. • Allows for better control over our growing conditions (water, sunlight, nutrients) that can lead to higher yields with less labor than a conventional garden.

Truly there are a few simple ingredients for success – a little bit of room, sunlight, containers, growing media, water, and nutrients (fertilizer). Probably the most important component will be you since your plants will depend entirely on you meeting all their needs. Make sure when planning your plantings to plant the things that you and your family like and then keep those containers full of edible plants through spring, summer, and fall.

As you look to incorporate containers into the outdoor living space, you need to keep a few things in mind. Be flexible and creative, placing containers in areas that will enhance your existing landscape. They may be placed on any level surface such as your deck, patio, driveway, outdoor kitchen, balconies, sidewalks, bare ground, and yes, even in your existing mulched landscaped areas. Edibles can easily be grown in hanging baskets and window boxes. Stop and think about the fact that southern and western exposures will be the sunniest and warmest, while northern and eastern exposures will be shadier and cooler.

Warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant need 6-8 hours of direct sun whereas cool season crops such as turnips, lettuce and cabbage will do great with 3-5 hours of direct sun. As with any crop, easy access to water is crucial. Some container plantings will need to be watered every day.

Just one word of caution in placing containers on concrete or wood decking is that water and nutrients that drain out of the container can cause stains. Place plastic saucers under your containers to prevent this from happening.

Stay in touch, as next time we will address the issue of container selection as well as the various choices in potting media. If you have questions, feel free to give me a call at 773-3091.