What fun it is to walk out into your own backyard and pick some basil for that night’s pasta dinner, fresh greens and veggies for a great salad, or some just-ripened strawberries. It’s convenient, it’s healthy, and it’s something the whole family can enjoy and do together.
If you don’t have the space to give over to furrowed rows of produce, or if you want to start small and see how it goes, you can do it all in a very small yard or even just in containers on your patio. It’s a wonderful way to grow tomatoes, zucchini and other summer squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, and many other kinds of vegetables as well as lemons, strawberries, and other fruit for a summer bounty.
Of course, while you’re growing your prize-winning produce, you don’t want to neglect your lawn. So do it right by calling a Georgia lawn care company to take care of it for you with experts who will keep it green and trouble-free and leave you time to do the fun stuff.
Select Spots in the Sun
The sunniest places you can find are what fruit and vegetables will need in order to grow and ripen. They need a minimum of six and preferably eight hours of direct sunlight every day. You may think you know what spots those are, but watch those areas periodically for a day or two to make sure trees, patio covers, or house eaves aren’t going to cast their shadows over the plants. One of the benefits of growing in containers is that as the sun changes its height and angle over the course of the coming months, you can move the pots to take advantage of it.
If you’ve got the space, you can keep all of the edible plants in one area, but there’s no reason why you can’t scatter them about in different areas of your yard. Be mindful that it is more convenient, though, to keep plants of one variety near each other so you’re sure to give them the same amount of water and food, and so insects are controlled properly and critters that like one kind of plant don’t have an easy route to another kind. (There are actually plants and flowers that do very well planted in proximity, and plants that don’t like each other at all. It’s more of an issue when you’re planting them directly in the garden, but something to consider when you’re planting in containers as well.)
Choose the Containers
Containers don’t have to be huge to accommodate vegetables, and herbs in particular will grow very well in small pots. Choose something standard or something quirky, because almost anything you like will suit the purpose as long as it already has drainage holes or you can drill them. It’s important that a container has sufficient drainage so excess water doesn’t accumulate and drown roots.
When making your selection, do be aware that dark-colored and metal pots absorb and retain heat and may make the soil too warm for some plants, particularly under the hot summer sun.
Here are size guidelines for containers:
- Tomatoes: one plant per five-gallon container, with room for staking or caging the growing plant and its fruit. The container depth should be no less than 24 inches.
- Zucchini and other summer squash: two plants per five-gallon container, with room for a trellis or cage to support the vines.
- Cucumbers: two plants per five-gallon container. No need for a support if you’re growing the bush rather than vining variety.
- Peppers: two plants per five-gallon container.
- Peas and green beans: you can sow seeds directly into a window-box style container that’s just nine inches deep. Pole beans will need a trellis, while bush beans won’t.
- Lettuces and spinach: any container that’s a minimum of six inches deep.
- Strawberries: just about any container will do because the plant has very shallow roots, but best is the vertical pot with pockets that is especially made for growing them and keeping the delicate fruit from laying on the soil.
- Dwarf lemon and other citrus trees: a five-gallon, 10- to 14-inch diameter container is fine for starting out a two-year old tree you buy at a nursery. You’ll want to transplant the tree when it gets larger, but beginning with a container that’s too big will make the moisture level hard to control.
Feed, Water, and Start Eating
Start using a water-soluble fertilizer about a month after planting. Weeds should be minimal in containers, but pull them as soon as you see them. Because container growing medium is clean, disease shouldn’t be much of a issue, either, but inspect regularly for insect damage and treat it promptly with an eco-friendly product made for edibles.