Elisa Shackelton: No space for a garden in your yard?

Try container vegetable gardening on your patio, balcony or doorstep


— Not everyone has a big backyard with soil suited for growing vegetables, however, even the smallest patio, back porch, balcony or doorstep can provide enough room for a beautiful and productive container garden.

Don't let a small yard keep you from growing some fresh veggies, herbs or flowers this year.

Almost any type of container can be used to grow things if it provides good drainage, and if you can provide adequate sunshine, water, and fertilizer plus a well-drained growing medium. Growing in pots also allows you to have a portable garden that can be moved into shelter if the weather turns cold, too.

Remember in Northwest Colorado that the average "frost-free" date is June 15.

Whether you buy a container designed for plants or use something you have lying around the house, be sure it has drain holes that are functional.

Some people use containers such as livestock watering troughs, toy tubs, trash cans, or even wagons for gardening in.

If any of these need holes added, drill four or more 1/4-inch holes evenly spaced around the container bottom. To further help drainage, put about 12 inch of coarse gravel, small stones or pieces of a broken clay pot in the bottom.

Most vegetables that grow in a backyard garden will do well as container-grown plants. Those with compact growth habits will do best since they don't tend to spread out a lot and will grow mostly upright in the pot.

Nearly all vegetables grow and produce best when grown in full sunlight. Plants that bear fruit, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, require the most sun. Leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, greens, spinach, and parsley) tolerate more shade than root crops (radishes, beets, and onions). Containers should be placed where they will receive at least 6 to 10 hours of sunlight per day.

Plants grown in containers require frequent watering because they dry out quickly from sun and wind.

Some plants may require daily watering. Apply enough water to reach the bottom of the container and allow the excess to drain through the drainage holes.

Never allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings; this may cause the plants to drop their fruits and flowers. However, over-watering also will slowly kill plants because the roots will not receive enough oxygen. When watering, avoid wetting the leaves, especially if watering late in the day. Wet leaves encourage the development of plant diseases.

Container-grown plants require fertilization more frequently than field-grown vegetables because they have less soil from which to obtain nutrients. A soluble fertilizer (15-30-15 or 20-20-20) applied once every week or two is recommended. This can be applied while watering.

For more information on container gardening, visit the Iowa State University Extension site at www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM870B.pdf .Publication PM870B "Container Vegetable Gardening" has useful tables that show pot size and soil capacity, as well as the necessary container size for a variety of vegetables, or contact Elisa Shackelton at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.


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