5 TIPS TO GROW­ING A CON­TAINER GAR­DEN

StarMetro Calgary - - SPECIAL FEATURE: NEW HOMES -

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-

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