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Skaggs: Feeling contained? Embrace the space

POSTED: March 6, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Spring is fast approaching, and, for many, spring means planting a vegetable garden. I have fond memories of planting a large family garden; the "family" included my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and of course, my immediate family.

Our gardens included all the summertime favorites - tomatoes, green beans, squash, okra, peppers, cucumbers, peas, corn, watermelons and cantaloupe. My grandfather loved to grow things, and his love of everything agricultural rubbed off on all of us. I'll never forget those summer days I spent working in the garden with my family.

Today, I live in a subdivision and simply do not have enough space to garden on the scale that we did when I was growing up. However, I am still very much a gardener at heart and would be very disappointed if I couldn't at least grow a few veggies.

Fortunately, many herbs and vegetables can be grown successfully in containers. Living in an apartment or subdivision doesn't mean you can't grow your own food. If you have a sunny area outdoors, you can grow tasty herbs like basil and parsley or vegetables like green beans, tomatoes and radishes.

Vegetables that mature small are best for growing in containers. Peppers, spinach, radishes, green beans and carrots are smaller veggies that grow well in pots. Larger vegetables like tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and squash need larger containers but can also grow well in pots.

Herbs like basil, parsley, oregano and chilis can also be grown in containers. An herb like basil can be started indoors by a sunny window and then be moved outside.

The first thing to do is pick a sunny spot. Vegetables like a lot of sun, and many vegetables can be planted in a 1 gallon pot. Larger vegetables may need to be planted in a 2 gallon pot.

To best determine the size pot needed for a vegetable to grow properly, it is important to know how large the mature plant is going to be.

Eggplants, for example, should be planted in a 2-gallon pot with only one plant per pot. They need more root space, and their end product is larger. Peppers only need a 1 gallon pot, while radishes are small enough that more than one can be planted in a pot.

After choosing a pot, buy or mix your own soil. When filling containers with soil, do not pack the soil tightly, but rather let the soil settle. This allows space for water to thoroughly saturate the soil and roots.

If you plant a seedling, make sure to thoroughly wet the roots before putting it in the soil, and set them shallowly rather than deeply. If starting out with seeds, don't bury them deeply. Instead, place seeds close to the top and cover them with a little bit of soil.

Vegetables need a soluble fertilizer once a week. Look for fertilizers that show a 20-20-20 or 15-30-15 mixture on the label. Remember, vegetables dry out very quickly. When plants grow larger, they need watering every day.

If you maintain good water and fertilization and keep plants healthy, container-grown veggies are just as tasty as ones grown in the ground.

Thanks to Allie Byrd and Bodie Pennisi.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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