5 TIPS TO GROWING A CONTAINER GARDEN
tiny yard, or simply don’t want to dedicate a large plot of land to gardening, you can still enjoy a bumper crop of homegrown goodness.
Container gardening is an easy and rewarding way to grow food. I’ve got a couple of small raised garden beds in my postage-stamp yard in the city’s southeast, so containers have been a great way to boost my bounty. I’ve planted tomatoes, herbs, arugula and lettuce in containers, but there are many other plants that thrive in pots and planters.
Here are some tips to get you growing vegetables in containers this season.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Containers do best with at least six hours of full sunlight a day, especially tomatoes and peppers. Give them an extra boost by placing them against a south-facing wall or fence, which helps maintain a warm microclimate in which many veggies thrive.
CONSIDER CALGARY’S SEASON: Calgary is in gardening Zone 4a. We were previously Zone 3b, but climate change has seen that shift, and we were re-designated a few years back. The new category means a larger variety of plants will grow in our region during a growing season of about 113 days.
Many Calgarians follow the “May long weekend” rule of planting seeds in the ground or transferring plants begun indoors or bought as bedding-out selections at garden centres, around when the last frost is likely to occur, and often harvested by Oct. 1, when the first frost is likely to raise its chilly, plant-killing finger.
WHAT TO GROW: Choose plants quick to germinate and mature over the course of Calgary’s season and those that can handle earlier planting because they can handle the cold. Quick plants to mature include beets, zucchini, beans, lettuce, radishes, kale, spinach, arugula, many herbs, potatoes, peas, cabbage and chard.
Cold-hardy plants include asparagus, potatoes, carrots, spinach, turnips, leeks, beets, Swiss Chard and broccoli.
Plants that require longer growing seasons can also do well here. But unless you’ve begun seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost, it’s best to buy these plants as bedding-outs that have had a number of weeks to establish before they go into your containers. These include tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers.
WHAT CONTAINER? Plastic, ceramic and terra-cotta pots work best. Only use wood containers if you know they are food safe. Some are treated with chemicals that may be fine for flowers, but not for food. Ensure containers are large enough to hold the plant when it’s mature. Large pots are generally the best. They hold a lot of soil, and thus, moisture, meaning they won’t dry out as frequently as smaller pots.
Containers that are a foot deep and about 10 inches wide are good for a number of plants, but tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and vining plants need bigger pots. Ensure pots have drainage holes so excess water can escape. Too much moisture with nowhere to go can cause rot. Taller and vining plants will need supports, such as tomato cages, trellises and stakes.
DIRT AND WATER: Look for organic potting soil mixes made for container gardening. They have the right blend of nutrients. Since water can wash away nutrients more quickly than if plants were in the ground, you can maintain plant health and boost produc-