March 25, 2012

Maine Gardener: If gardening space is tight, why not try growing up?

By TOM ATWELL

(Continued from page 1)

We have started double-planting a lot of ground crops. A prime example is broadcasting carrot and radish seed in the same area. You harvest the radishes before the carrots really get any size to them. Green onions and chives mix with parsley and cilantro. You can do a whole mix of greens, cutting them and then letting them grow back.

Growing vegetables in containers is getting a lot more common. Cozy Acres Greenhouses in North Yarmouth had an outstanding exhibit at the Portland Flower Show showing different ways to grow fruits and vegetables.

Last year, we planted two bags of potatoes and grew them on our patio. I let them get shaded out by some grasses that surround the patio, but they still worked quite well.

And if you plant the seed potatoes close to the outside edge of the bag, you should be able to reach in some holes built in the lower part of the bag and grab some early new potatoes.

We have been growing tomatoes and Swiss chard in pots for the past couple of years. They have done OK. The tomatoes have not been quite as effective as the ones planted in the garden, but the Swiss chard did fine.

But if you add a trellis, you could easily do peas or beans -- lots of them. And you could do carrots and radishes, just like we do in our regular garden.

We use the large pots that nurseries use for potted shrubs for our vegetable containers. The black color retains heat, and black pots sort of fade into the background. And they are free -- as long as you save them after planting shrubs. 

This year, we bought a lower and wider bag made by the same company that made the potato bags, and we intend to expand our patio vegetable growing -- probably with peppers, but we haven't carved that in stone.

We use garden soil enriched with compost in our pots. We find that the commercial potting medium is too light, and sometimes the pots get blown over if we have a trellis with them. If you don't have garden soil available, make sure to add quite a bit of compost to any commercial soil. It will need it.

Vegetables grown in pots will need a lot more watering than the vegetables in the garden. Being above ground, they just dry out faster. We have our rain barrels on the patio close to our container plants, and we water them every two days if we don't have rain -- and every day if it is hot, dry and windy.  

So start planning your vegetable garden soon. And if the weather trend continues, I might even gamble on putting in some it-won't-hurt-much-if-they-die seeds such as spinach, peas, lettuce and radishes as early as today.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer who gardens in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com

 

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