Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Self Sustained Living-Container Growing

Container growing is a great way for people living in small spaces to have fresh fruits and vegetables when ever they want them. My all time favorite tool is a book called "Bountiful Container" written by McGee and Stuckey and when last checked, it was still available from Amazon.com. The book is a step by step guide to container growing including edible flowers. I love it and it is what I used before I got my farm. I still grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in my south facing kitchen windows every winter.

There are at least a dozen different plants that grow well in containers. The packet will say "space saver" or "container" on it letting the consumer know that the plant will do well in containers. I have also used regular garden varieties in containers but you must take into consideration the growing patterns of the plant and the root needs as well. A regular tomato plant needs at least a 5 gallon bucket worth of root space so even tho it will grow indoors, the size of it's container makes it a bit awkward for container growing. The space saver tomato varieties work so much better. Also, garden variety cucumbers tend to vine all over your growing space so the bushy type cucumbers work better for container growing.

Another thing to keep in mind... most of us don't have insects flying around in our homes all winter so when each of your container plants flowers, you must hand pollenate them to produce. It's not difficult or complicated, I simply use a q-tip and go from flower to flower on each plant using a new q-tip when changing from peppers to tomatoes, etc. Just rub the q-tip lightly around the flower, then to the next one and when you finish, go back to the flower you started with. Fruits every time with that method.

Patio fruit trees are an excellent project for small spaces. There are several varieties available mail order. I prefer mail order to nursery purchases, I like Starks Brothers and Miller Nurseries, never had one plant from them not grow. Peaches, apples, cherries, oranges, lemons, limes and olives are available for container growing. They do of course, need their dormant time thru the winter like all fruiting trees. Just put them in a garage if you have one or bank them with some sort of insulating material like straw bales to prevent root freeze, keep the soil lightly moist like the outside soil and let them be dormant. In the spring as temps rise and the rays of the sun change, the tree will bud out and prepare to flower and you're on the way to fresh home grown fruits again.

My personal opinion on those growing bags that you hang, upside down buckets for tomatoes, etc... waste of time. The bags burn up and I think genetics work against you hanging the tomato upside down! People seem to make simple errors and get discouraged and go off to try the latest weird trick to get the reward. Soil nutrient and root space and proper moisture is all you need. You can do this!

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