Tips and Tricks for Starting Your Own Patio Produce Patch
Speaking of planting seeds, spring is the perfect time to do that not only figuratively but literally in your very own garden, too! Not everyone has the space or sunshine to grow a full garden, complete with rows of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers. But everyone has the space and time to grow something, so we are going to give some initial pointers for how to start a container garden, which can be done on a balcony or even a front stoop, with very little space required.
First, plant your garden following know the old adage “don’t bite off more than you can chew” by not planting more than you can grow! Know your space, and know your experience level. If this is your first time attempting to grow fruits and vegetables, then start with only a couple of containers with a few small plants. If you only have a small space, don’t buy 5 huge planters with dreams of starting a roadside vegetable stand!
Secondly, grow what you are excited to grow! No matter how delicious homegrown tomatoes are (and trust me, they are so much better than store bought), if no one in your house likes tomatoes, don’t plant them! Who wants to spend time and energy watering and caring for a plant only to never enjoy the literal fruits of your labor! This goes for flowers, also. A friend of mine loves the scent of jasmine and she has a large jasmine tree in a huge planter that she brings outside for spring and summer, and inside for fall and winter. It is a true labor of love, but when it blooms twice a year, it is well worth the work.
Third, know how much sunshine you get. This one is more important than novice gardeners usually realize. Many flowers and most fruits and vegetables require a lot of sun. Find a location where you can get the most sun possible if you are trying to grow anything that requires it.
Fourth, have a watering plan. Containers need more water than gardens planted directly in the ground because they only have so much soil, and the soil can dry out very quickly. At the height of summer, most containers need to be watered daily, especially in the sun. Do you travel a lot? Is there anyone around who can help you water your plants? Containers can be watered at any time of day, with morning being the best time and mid-afternoon being the worst time. Will your containers be near a hose? If not, do you have a watering can? And are you willing to make that many trips back and forth to the sink?
Once you have made all of those decisions, buy some containers and get started! I highly recommend buying the plants directly from your local farmers’ market. Most farmers sell seedlings and small plants in April and early May until they have their own produce to sell. Not only can the farmers answer any questions you have about planting, watering, and caring for your new, young plants, but they are usually much hardier and healthier because they are local to your specific area and perfect for your climate. You are also supporting your local economy, which makes it a true win all around!
You will need to buy potting soil and the actual containers at your local hardware store. When you are first starting out, plant one vegetable plant or a few smaller flower plants per container. I know that the magazines are filled with beautiful overflowing containers with several levels of plants coexisting together in harmony, but save that for your second (or third) year of container gardening. Some plants do work well together (marigolds and tomatoes, for example, as marigolds are a natural bug repellent), so if you are feeling adventurous, you can try those together. However, it is very easy to overcrowd a container and have too many plants competing for the resources in the water and the soil. Always start small and build from there!
Now, if all of this is just too much, you can also consider an indoor tower garden. While these can be a little pricey, you get fresh vegetables all year round without having to worry about sun/shade, watering, or overcrowding. Check out the excellent JuicePlus+ Tower Garden.
Don’t forget to share pictures of your gardens — tower, container, or others — at our Facebook community as you are harvesting all of your healthy plantings!