You donít need much space to have a successful organic vegetable garden. Almost any vegetable or herb can be grown organically in a container. Some of my favorites are lettuce, spinach, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, parsley, dill and basil. This year Iím going to try to plant all of these plants in a single container, in an effort to prove you can have fresh organic vegetables and herbs all summer, even if you have very limited space.
Garden containers are made of a number of different materials, and come in many shapes, sizes & colors. For this project Iím looking to achieve maximum production for minimum investment. In many container gardens, the containers are the most expensive part of the equation. In this case the container is almost free.
Iím not a big fan of plastic, but I do believe in recycling. This blue storage container fits the bill for my vegetable garden. It was in my basement, the top was missing and it was full of stuff I didnít need. I donated the stuff to a local thrift shop. Instead of breaking up the box and discarding it, Iím going to turn it into a container garden. Hopefully, Iíll get a few years of use out of it.
You will need something to make holes in the plastic container. You will also need some small rocks and enough potting mix to fill the container. Pick a sunny spot near the kitchen if possible. Plan to fill the container where it is going to stay. It will be heavy when itís full of soil.
First Iím going to drill six holes in the bottom of the container. Iíve used a Ĺ inch bit, but you can use whatever you have. The main idea is to allow the container to drain.
Next, Iím going to put a layer of stones in the bottom of the container. This will also help the container to drain well and will keep the holes from getting clogged with dirt.
Now Iím ready to add the soil. This is the most important step. The better the soil is the better your chance of having a successful container garden.
Rich, organic compost is the lifeblood of the organic garden. I try to recycle all the organic matter I can find in order to have enough to replenish my gardens every year. For this container garden Iíve mixed my compost with vermiculite and peat moss. If the compost is not fully broken down it may be slightly acidic and lime can be added. If it has a good earthy scent I donít worry too much. There were tomatoes growing out of the compost pile last year, so I think Iím safe.
Now the container garden is ready to plant. Iím going to put a nasturtium in each corner. They produce edible flowers and repel insects. I put some radishes in a single row around the outside so they will be easier to harvest than if they were mixed in with the Lettuce and spinach. For lettuce I bought a spring mix blend and sowed it generously with the spinach throughout the rest of the container. One package of lettuce is more than enough to keep you in salad for a couple of months. The lettuce and spinach can be trimmed down to an inch or so after it gets four or five inches tall, and it will keep producing until it gets too hot. When the radishes are ready they can be replaced with parsley, dill, basil and scallions. As the season progresses, I will thin out the lettuce and transplant a bush type tomato and a jalapeno pepper plant. This will give me herbs for the summer and salsa in the fall.
Wish me luck. Iíll post
pictures as the organic container garden progresses. Try one
yourself. Plant whatever makes you happy - enjoy the fruits
of your effort!
Chip Phelan, a contributing editor for Organic Gardening Review, is an organic gardener living in Rhode Island. He has been gardening organically for 30 years while working as a sculptor and photo imager. He has recently created a research garden to experiment with organic and small scale sustainable gardening techniques.
Organic Gardening Review is a resource center for organic gardening enthusiasts and features his efforts and interests in all aspects of organic gardening.
Find us on the web:
Looking for a place to share organic gardening info? Visit our
Organic Gardening Discussion Forum at: