Monday, February 22, 2021

Container Gardening

With spring fast approaching, I thought I’d get back to the topic of growing our own food. In a previous post I mentioned raised bedgardens, which are great if you have a yard, but not so helpful for urban or close in suburban dwellers. This is where container gardening can come to the rescue.

Container gardening is exactly what is sounds like: a garden grown in various size containers. At the very basic level is the window sill herb garden, going all the way up to pots of vegetables so large they have to be moved on dollies or rollers.

There are some pros and cons, of course. On the one hand, indoor plants need just as much sunlight as their outdoor cousins, and if your house or apartment has limited window space, it will likely reduce your yield; on the other hand, indoor plants are much more insulated from weather, allowing us to grow fresh produce year round. On the gripping hand, house pets, especially cats, can spell doom to any attempt at having an indoor vegetable garden. Sorry kitties.

The author's cat Arya.

For the beginner container gardener, I recommend starting with basic herbs. Parsley, oregano, and dill are all good choices, assuming you like them. These generally don’t grow too large, and it’s easy to snip a few leaves or stems for a specific dish, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing.

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As with all the plants in this article, these can be grown from seed or young plants can be purchased locally in early spring.

If that works out well, or you’re already beyond that level, a good next step is onions. In fact, you can grow onions from onions. If you cut off the root end of an onion and leave about an inch of body, you can get the onion cutting to take root simply by suspending the cutting, roots down, in a container of water. I’ve done this with toothpicks and an empty cat food can; keep an eye on the water level (just enough to cover the roots is all that’s needed) and top it off as required. After a few days, you should start seeing some sprouts. Once the roots and sprouts have established themselves, they can be transferred to a garden soil-filled container.

Onions can be perpetuated indefinitely with some care and luck. Simply remember to save the cuttings from the onions you grow and continue the cycle.

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The next step up the indoor home garden ladder is vegetables that require a bit more space. I can’t recommend zucchini or cucumbers, as they have a habit of taking over, but tomatoes, peppers, or lettuce are generally well-behaved in that regard.

As with most plants, one of the most important things is to make sure they have enough root space: if they become root-bound, the plants will not flourish and may die. Obviously, water and sunlight are also essential, but different plants will have different requirements.

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Whether you’re just starting out as an indoor gardener or you’ve kept houseplants and would like to expand into edibles, there are many resources available. One of the best online sources of information for all things plant is this Cornell University Home Gardening Extension.

For print references, I’ve heard good things about Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard and Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening by Peter Burke. 

No matter how big or small your living environment, there are options available to supplement your food budget by growing your own herbs, spices, and vegetables. 

Good luck and happy gardening!

1 comment:

  1. My wife has been using Aero Garden for years with fabulous results. I wish I could post some pictures of our current garden.


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