I do not remember a time when I haven't gardened. Even as a 20-something living in an apartment with a small balcony, I gardened. I suppose I'm a defining example of "If there is a will, there is a way." With some creativity (most gardeners' middle name) and some specially selected varieties, my containers became absolutely beautiful, productive, and, as a thrifty 20-something, I was able to do it on a tight budget.
These are the essentials:
- At least 4 hours of sun
- Containers with drainage. (Think outside the box! You can use 5-gallon pickle buckets from the local sandwich shop as long as you drill holes in the bottom.)
- Potting soil
- Liquid fertilizer
- Most importantly, if your space is really limited, narrow down your list by choosing only the plants you love to eat, and flowers that that bloom for a long time.
With only 4 hours of sun you can grow leafy crops like lettuce, Swiss chard, mustards, and herbs. Leafy crops are beautiful; with so many textures and colors, they can be ornamental as well as edible. Leafy greens and herbs will be happy even in short or smaller pots; however, the smaller the pot, the more often you may need to water. I recommend pots that are 8″ deep or greater.
With 6 or more hours of sun, the possibilities with fruiting crops like tomatoes, peppers, melon, eggplant, beans, and cucumbers are nearly endless! In the case of tomatoes, determinate types stay shorter, but if you have a trellis that can support a 6′ indeterminate tomato, go for it! Tomatoes, in particular, need a good amount of root space; I recommend a minimum 5-gallon container. Peppers and eggplant do well in a 3-gallon pot. Beans (pole or bush) cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, summer squash, and winter squash need at least 1.5' wide pot or so. Left untrellised, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and winter squash will appreciate about a 2′ wide pot to support plants.
Typically, cucumbers, squashes, melons, tomatoes and pumpkins are generally thought of as space hogs, so we intentionally carry some real space-efficient choices. 'Spacemaster' is an excellent bushy, rather than vining cucumber especially for small spaces. The same is true of 'Honeynut' winter squash. 'Emerald Delight' gives and gives dark green, tasty zucchini all summer from productive, compact plants that are resistant to powdery mildew and other diseases. 'Minnesota Midget' is also a space saver and produces the most delectable, 4", sweet melons in no time! 'Jack Be Little' is the cutest little pumpkin you have ever seen, and the flavor is actually amazing. These diminutive pumpkins make perfect bowls for pumpkin soup, or beautiful, long-lasting fall décor.
Here's another great trick I learned: Growing vertically gives you more room! Use wall planters, hanging baskets, or trellises. A piece of lattice, cattle panel, or remesh (the less expensive option found near concrete at the hardware store) is sturdy enough to hold up tomatoes, small winter squash, and cucumbers. Create your own vertical planters using pallets, gutters, or sticks and strings to help you bring your garden to new "heights". If you build it, plants will climb it.
Remember, no matter the space, the miracle is in the seed. Seeds are programmed to grow, they just need you to give them that little bit of soil, sun, water, and love.
We love to hear what and how you are growing! Please share your patio garden tips with us in the comments below.