Gardening in Limited Space Using Container Gardens, Part 1

Uploaded by TheUniversityofMaine on 07.04.2010

Barbara Murphy, Extension Educator: "For most of us, when we think of vegetable gardening,
we think of a square in a sunny part of our yard. However, some people don't have those
conditions. For those of you whose yard is primarily shady, or you might live in an apartment
where access to land isn't possible, container gardening is an option.
"The first thing we have to consider is what type of container to use. Remember that container
gardening requires more management, and the larger the container you use, the easier the
management is. For example, in these smaller pots it's easy to seed maybe one herb plant
in here, but remember, that's not much volume of soil, and it will require frequent watering.
Also, as they dry out, they may tend to blow away. More appropriate for most of what we'll
grow in a container vegetable garden tends to be on the larger side. Maybe a gallon container,
or larger five gallon or a window box. So for today's talk, we're going to talk about
the larger ones and what we can put in it.
"But first, two things you need to remember when you use container gardens. They need
to have drainage holes. The water needs to be able to escape the container freely. If
you have a container that doesn't have holes in it, all you need to do is just drill some.
Some pre-made containers have trays on the bottom. If you choose to use those to water
through, make certain that the water evaporates relatively rapidly. We don't want our vegetable
plant to stand in water for hours on end. In a container of about this size, you can
probably grow a bean plant or a few herbs, and possibly something like a bush cucumber
or zuchinni. This size container is more appropriate for tomatoes, peppers, and larger vegetable
plants. If you're growing herbs, any of these sizes would be fine. There are some vegetable
plants that don't grow well in containers, like corn, which needs a large block of plants,
or things that are large and runfreely, like winter squash and melons.
"Once you've chosen the containers that are appropriate for the crop you want to use,
the next thing to think about is, what are you going to put in the container--what soil
medium are you going to use? There are quite a few options around. You can use pasturized
soil that you buy in a bag at a garden center, and add to it perlite, vermiculite and possibly
some compost if you choose to do so. Just remember that when you add compost or garden
soil, fresh from your garden, you may be bringing in disease and/or weed seed. For most of us,
for ease and for better insurance on success, we use a pre-made, bagged, soilless mix. It's
a combination of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. These are readily available in many different
types at most of our gardening centers.
"So, this is what a typical soilless mix would look like. The white particles are perlite
and the black background is finely ground svagnum, or peat moss. The mixture holds water
well and, most importantly, drains well--two things we look for in our container gardening
options. If you choose to use a container that's tall and deep, you don't need to fill
the entire container with your potting soil. What we're looking for is very good drainage,
and we want to save money. So what you can do is, to ensure good drainage, place some
larger stones at the bottom--a few inches up would be fine. That's going to give you
macro drainage, large drainage. To slow some of that water down, in addition we'll want
to put some smaller stones in. So, we'll take some of these smaller stones and place those
inside. What we're doing is we're going to fill in around those larger stones so the
water slows down and stays in our rooting medium for an additional length of time. You
can fill up to a quarter of your pot using just stones. From there, we're ready to put
our potting soil in. It's important that you wet the potting soil first. Use a nice hose,
wet it thoroughly--your goal is to have the potting soil feel like a wrung-out sponge,
so when you put your hand in there, it feels nice and moist, but water's not dripping out
of it. That's pretty important to the mix."