COLUMN: Container gardening a ‘big’ success

Container gardens offer growing solutions for small spaces.

I don’t have a yard, but that’s not stopping me from growing some vegetables.

A plot of dirt outside your front door isn’t the only way to have some fresh produce on the table. An army of garden pots can work wonders in small spaces.

I rent a condo on the second story and although I don’t have a balcony, there is a stairway leading off the back of the rental. This space has been my garden plot for the last two years.

Instead of using a lot of expensive pots, I’ve used the pails my cat’s litter comes in. I cleaned them out, painted the outside white and drilled a few drainage holes in the bottom. I chose to use whatever containers I had coming into my house because some of the pots in stores were priced higher than I wanted to pay.

And there is no need for those expensive seedling containers. People can make their own out of newspaper. Just take a small item you can shape the newspaper around and use it as a mould. Fold the paper around it leaving the top open, fill the inside with dirt and you have inexpensive seedling containers.

My small stairway space has allowed me to cultivate about five to six tomato plants each year. And I have added a dash of savory taste to my salads and stews with the chives, rosemary, basil and other spices I’ve grown.

The space ended up too confined for the squash I attempted to grow, so I am abandoning trying to raise that crop this year. And the green peppers I tried to grow only produced one pepper.

This year I am planning on expanding my container garden further by branching out to include more vegetables in the mix. I’m not sure if I have the green thumb for the job – we’ll see.

Just don’t ask me how many houseplants have failed to thrive in my home over the years.

I am planning on expanding to potted potatoes this year. I heard potatoes are quite easy to take care of. I hope that’s true. Also on the agenda are peas and a few greens.

I’m hoping this growing season turns out to be more fruitful than last year’s. The late warm weather and cloudy skies last year delayed my tomato plants from flowering and I didn’t start getting tomatoes until after cold weather set in. The crop I did end up harvesting was puny compared to the year before.

But even with the few tomatoes I grew, I was able to make some fresh pasta sauce, add some flavor to summer salads or just eat them right off the vine. Nothing seems to taste as good as the vegetables you grow with your own labour.

With more people thinking about food security and healthy eating, container gardens offer another avenue for people to grow food locally.

There are several community gardens popping up all over the city, giving people access to land to grow. Access to growing land can be a challenge for people in the city, especially in multi-family dwellings or highrise buildings.

However, container gardening is meant to take advantage of even the smallest places and make them viable locations for growing.

Community garden spaces are great, but they don’t seem to work for me. I don’t want to have to drive somewhere after work every day to ensure my plants have gotten enough water or to weed. I need something close by or I’m not going to be motivated to do the work.

My stairway garden may not be able to provide me with all my produce needs, but I believe I’m making a dent.

And during the spring and summer months I try to visit the local farmers’ markets to support other people in the community who are growing their food locally.

Nanaimo News Bulletin