You may want to grow in containers for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you live in an apartment with only a small balcony or you have a huge yard with bad soil. It’s a great starting place for new food gardeners since you can move your pots around during the season. You don’t have to commit to an exact placement for each thing you want to grow.
Why Grow Food?
Because you can! It is a wonderful way to show your kids and neighbors where food really comes from. It’s surprising how many people don’t recognize food in its natural growing state. Your whole family will gain a new respect for farmers and the work they do just to put food on our family’s table.
Don’t expect to save a ton of money this year, as there are start up expenses. Even if you get dirt, seeds, and pots for free from friends or off of your local freecycle group, you may not harvest as much as you expect the first year.
You will need a few simple things to get started on your container gardening career. First, you need something to plant things in. This can be a planter bought from the store or you can reuse something you already have like a bowl or galvanized bucket. If you are reusing, make sure to drill a few drain holes in the bottom for drainage. I like to use old wooden salad bowls to plant lettuce greens. It’s adorable as well as functional.
Make sure any container you use is food grade or you may find yourself with food you don’t want to eat. Avoid landscape timbers and other chemically processed materials that could leech into your plants.
The soil you use is extremely important. It is how the plants get nutrients to grow. The easiest thing to do is buy bags of potting soil. Do not buy topsoil or fill dirt. You can make your own potting mix using the square foot garden soil mix. Soil that drains well will insure your plants don’t get water logged and die.
Make sure you are near a water supply if at all possible. Your little ones will get thirsty. It’s as important to not overwater as it is to underwater.
Of course you need seeds, seedlings, or small plants to put in your nifty container. Renee’s seeds has a selection of flowers and veggies especially for continers. Some seeds need to be started early like tomatoes, but you can buy young plants if you didn’t start any soon enough. If you are lucky enough to have seedlings at your farmers market, you can probably find some heirloom varieties. You can save seeds from heirlooms and plant them next year. Many heirlooms don’t travel well, so you can only buy them from a local farmer or grow them yourself.
Rules of Thumb
Make sure to grow what you like to eat. No one will be happy with yellow squash day after day if you hate it. If you harvest more than you can use, try giving some to friends and neighbors and even your local food bank. Try some exotic and/or new to you varieties. Even though the seeds may be more expensive than the commom seed, the product may be cheaper than buying it in the store. This is also true for those delicate tender baby vegetables. Instead of paying twice as much, you can just harvest some summer squash or carrots while they are still young.
Make sure to look at the recommended planting date for your area when you pick up a seed packet. It will also recommend if it should be planted in the ground as a seed or seedling. Some things can only be planted in the cool weather of spring or fall, while others can only thrive if planted once the ground is plenty warm.