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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grow Your Own Vegetables in a Small Space!

Nothing beats fresh vegetables out of your own garden. The taste of a freshly picked tomato is pure heaven and digging your own new, red potatoes is so rewarding. But what do you do if you don't have a large yard or no yard at all? No problem! You can grow a vegetable garden in a container!

Many people think of container gardening as an easy way to grow beautiful flowers and accent patios and porches with color. But have you ever tried adding a few vegetables in with the flowers? Growing vegetables and herbs in containers is just as easy as growing flowers and you get delicious results! You can mix a cherry tomato plant in with a pot of marigolds and snapdragons. The bright red fruit is a beautiful addition to the colorful blooms. Put a couple of red potato starts in a large planter with a few flowers, the foliage of potato plants is very beautiful and you will also have a few tiny white flowers as well.

How about dedicating a few planters to just produce? Strawberries often produce more fruit when planted in a container because they don't have much room to spread. Strawberry plants spread by sending out runners that root down and start a new plant. Once the strawberries run out of room to send out shoots, they put all their energy into producing fruit. How delicious to have fresh strawberries just outside your door!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning a container garden.

Properly prepare your pot. Your pot will need good drainage so make sure it has drainage holes drilled in the bottom. If your pot does not have drainage holes, either drill holes or create a drainage area by adding a layer of gravel at the bottom. If you have a very large pot, you can create a drainage area and eliminate the need for large quantities of soil by adding a layer of Styrofoam at the bottom. This will also make the pot easier to move around. Just remember to add enough soil for the plants to have a good root system.

Don't use garden soil. The soil in your yard is generally too heavy for container use. A container gardening needs light soil that is rich in organic material for proper drainage. Mix regular potting soil with compost and peat moss to get a healthy soil that is perfect for containers. It is a good idea to mix in time release fertilizer while you are mixing the soil. Most time release fertilizers last about three months so plan to add more at that time.

When you are transplanting new plants, dig the hole about twice as large as the plants root ball. Then back fill the hole with some loose soil, this will give the tender roots soft soil to anchor in. Before you place the plant in the hole, massage the roots to break them up slightly. The plant roots have been confined to a small area while they are getting their start, however they need to break free and they need a little help from you to do that.

Give your plants a healthy start by using a root starting fertilizer as you are planting. Mix the liquid fertilizer with water and add it as you plant each new plant to your container. Root starting fertilizers contain the proper nutrients that help to prevent transplant shock.

Trim the plant after you plant it. This is a difficult thing for most gardeners to do. After all you just bought a beautiful, full plant at the store! You need to remember that the plant needs to put effort into building a strong root system. This is difficult if the plant is trying to maintain full blooms or large amounts of foliage as well. A good rule of thumb is to cut off the plant by two thirds. Don't worry, your plant will grow back fuller and healthier than before.

Combine plants with similar requirements. If a plant requires full sun, don't pair it up with a plant that does best in partial shade. Careful planning will yield the best results in container gardening.

Containers are a great way to have fresh produce all summer long. Growing your own fresh produce is rewarding and allows you to provide healthy food for your family. Give container gardening a try, you will love the results!

Piper is a freelance writer who enjoys fitness, good nutrition, and the outdoors. She loves to work in the garden with her small garden tiller. She enjoys nature, reading and fitness. Check out her new website, http://www.smallgardentiller.org to learn all about getting the best small garden tiller so you can have a beautiful garden too!



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