One of the best things that you can do for the environment is to grow your own vegetables and herbs. Food grown organically at home doesn’t require the transportation that contributes to global warming, and it’s free of pesticides, fresher, and usually tastier as well.
Many people believe that growing their own produce is not an option because they don’t have yards, but plenty of food plants grow well in containers of various sizes on decks, porches front walks, and driveways. Some produce plants don’t even require very large containers, others can tolerate partial shade, and a few can even be grown on sunny windowsills indoors year-round.
Food plants that grow well in containers include lettuces, spinach varieties, chard, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), all herbs, cucumbers, beets, carrots, eggplant, radishes, onions, garlic, peas, beans, berries, squash, and dwarf fruit trees.
Some plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash, require 6 or more hours of sunlight per day for optimum growth. Others, including leafy green vegetables, peas, and beans, can manage with just a few hours of direct sun per day.
Plants that grow well in small pots (root depth of 4-6 inches and space requirement of 1-3 gallons) include salad greens, radishes, garlic, green onions, and many herbs (i.e., thyme, cilantro, basil, marjoram, mint, etc.). You can grow dwarf tomato plants, peppers, and full-sized onions in a 1-3 gallon container, but the container should be at least 8 inches deep (and preferably 12). I’ve successfully grown various salad greens, herbs, radishes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and green onions in small containers.
If you have very limited space and need to use really small, shallow containers or grow indoors only, you can grow microgreens, which are tasty baby greens which include a mix of plants such as lettuces, spinach, mustard greens, kale, pea greens, and many others. Lots of herbs will also grow happily on a windowsill, and some people even have luck growing peppers and tomatoes indoors.
Containers usually dry out more quickly than garden soil, so be sure to water them regularly.
- Franks, E., & Richardson, J., Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens, Gibbs Smith, 2009.
- Maryland Cooperative Extension, University of Maryland, Container Vegetable Gardening: Healthy Harvests from Small Spaces, n.d.
- University of Illinois Extension, “Making Herb and Vegetable Containers,” Successful Container Gardens, 2012.
Image Source: Jennifer Copley, http://www.flickr.com/photos/29638108@N06/4165051008/
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