Gas prices are up and food prices are rising - what a great time to start growing your own vegetables, herbs and fruits. Fresh produce has always been the most nutritious but perhaps now it will be the most inexpensive. Grow your own vegetables and you can not only reduce grocery costs but you can also rediscover the succulent tastes of fresh grown tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and so many other garden goodies!
During the war years of World War I and World War II, Americans were encouraged to grow their own fruits and vegetables to help lower the cost of produce needed to feed the troops. As a result of this national effort, 20 million home gardeners were able to produce 40 percent of the vegetables needed to feed the American public. Homeowners gardened in their yards, apartment dwellers used their rooftops, and even public parks set aside special areas for produce growing. Victory gardens helped feed the country and ensured that the men and women serving in the military were fed as well.
Victory gardens were a great success then and, no matter how much space or time you have, could be a great help now. If your gardening space is limited, try growing fresh produce in containers. They work very well and can generate a nice harvest of goodies. Do you have a porch, a deck, a balcony or even a bright window? Then you have plenty of room to garden.
Vegetables can be successfully grown in bushel baskets, garbage cans, steel drums, tubs, wooden boxes, flower pots, window boxes and almost any imaginable container. The main requirements are that the container is the right size to accommodate what you are growing, and that it has adequate drainage. For larger vegetable plants you’ll need at least a five-gallon container while small vegetables like radishes or green onions can be grown in a cake pan.
Container gardens have certain requirements for their soil, watering, light needs and fertilization. To mix your own garden soil, use equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil and peat moss or you can purchase a “synthetic soil” mix at your garden center. These mixes will often contain peat moss, saw dust, perlite, vermiculite and wood chips. They are pH adjusted and sterile.
Once planted, your containers need to be watered at least once a day but check them during hot, dry weather and water as needed. Use a good complete fertilizer or a slow release type when you first plant. Once again, check your crop as the season progresses for any special fertilizing needs. Finally, plan to situate the garden containers in a bright, sunny location. Leafy vegetables can tolerate somewhat shady conditions, root crops like radishes, carrots, and onions need more sun. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers need plenty of light in order to do well.
With the different needs of the plants, container gardening works well because you can move your pots to sunnier or shadier locations as needed. Although most common vegetables can do well in containers, there are special varieties that have been developed for growing in pots. Some of these include:
Green beans: Kentucky Wonder, Greencrop, Top Crop, Contender, Tenderpick.
Radishes: Scarlet Globe, Icicle, Cherry Bell.
Lettuce: Romaine, Ruby, Bibb, Buttercrunch, Salad Green.
Peppers: Red Cherry, Canape, Blushing Beauty,Yolo Wonder.
Cucumbers: Early Pik, Crispy, Salty, Burpless, Liberty, Salad Bush, Spacemaster.
Tomatoes: Spring Giant, Toy Boy, Tiny Tim, Patio, Pixie, Saladette, Super Sweet 100, Sungold Cherry.
Green Onions: Crystal Wax, Betsville Bunching, Evergrren Bunching.
Squash: Gold Neck, Senator, Dixie, Zucco, Diplomat.
Eggplant: Black Beauty, Long Tom, Florida Market, Bambino, Fairy Tale.
Carrots: Parmex Baby Ball, Adelaide Baby, Thumbelina, Little Finger, Short N’ Sweet.
Beets: Red Heart Hybrid, Chioggia, Kestral.
Most any Junebearing or Everbearing strawberry can be grown in a container and they do well in hanging baskets. “Tophat” blueberry was developed to be grown in containers.
Herbs are very adaptable and some home gardeners enjoy growing them in window boxes as well as most any other type of container.
If you want to cut food costs, love the taste of fresh produce, and have limited outdoor space - container gardening could be for you!