Welcome to the rewarding world of growing your own produce! In just four weeks you’ll be on your way to having a thriving, bountiful garden that keeps more money in your wallet and your family eating healthy.
In addition to picking a sunny location, consider what kind of crops you’ll be growing in your container, and adjust your location as needed. This Grow Box™, for example, was placed on a bench to help accommodate the watermelon plants that will continue to grow over the side of the container.
It’s very important to have a reliable water source near your vegetable containers!
Photo Credit: Nancy Watson
Rectangular boxes fit into outdoor spaces more efficiently than round ones and can yield fantastic results.
Photo Credit: Michael Ferraro
This first lesson in the 4 Step Food Garden program is a simple concept – and one you may already be familiar with: location, location, location!
Just like in real estate, location is the most important factor when planting a garden, whether you’re growing one in a container or one in the ground. If your plants are poorly located, you’re just setting yourself – and your garden – up for failure. That said, here are the first steps you need to follow if you want to head down a successful veggie garden path:
Step 1: Find a spot that’s bathed in sunlight for at least 6 hours a day (preferably more).
Veggies are sun-loving plants that work hard to produce a crop. Without enough sun they become overly long and lanky. They may fail to flower altogether, or their small, immature fruit won’t ripen. Above all, sun-starved plants grow weak and become vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Step 2: Verify that there’s a convenient source of water nearby.
If you have to lug buckets of water over to your containers, or if the hose doesn’t quite reach them, the result is always underwatered plants. This is one of the biggest causes of first-garden failure. So after you pick a spot to grow your container veggies – and before you buy or plant anything – check to see if there’s a working outdoor faucet nearby. Then make sure you have a proper-length hose with the appropriate-sized nozzle so you can easily reach your garden and water appropriately.
Step 3: Make sure you have convenient access to the location.
If it’s a hassle or a hike to get yourself (or your gardening tools) to and from your container garden, you’ll quickly lose interest in it. Clear access to your herbs and veggies lets you quickly tiptoe out to clip a bit of cilantro or harvest a few tomatoes right before dinner, as well as easily water and maintain your plants when needed. (Convenience ensures that you actually do it!)
Step 4: Pick a container that’s manageable in size.
Size does matter, particularly with containers. To be sure your first food garden is a thriving success, keep the size of your container small enough so it’s easy to manage. Many failures are the result of overambitious gardens that are too large for a first-time gardener to maintain. (It’s easy to get pulled into the dream of “more plants means more produce,” but try to stay realistic. You may be surprised at how many tomatoes you can actually get from one plant.) Keep it small and garden with care, and you’ll be successful.
Step 5: Use efficient rectangular boxes for maximum yields in a small space.
Because most homes are built with right angles, rectangular boxes fit into outdoor spaces more efficiently. Round pots are nice, but they can result in many square feet of unused space, which small-property homes can’t afford to waste. (This makes half whiskey barrels an inefficient shape for spatially challenged gardeners.) Rectangular boxes can also be more easily moved and lend themselves to being fitted with wheels.
So after considering all five of these steps, you can now determine where your contained vegetable garden will go, if you’ll need a longer garden hose, approximately how large your container(s) should be and what shape is most efficient for your space.
Congratulations – you’ve just completed Lesson 1…as well as set the foundation for a wonderful future of healthy, organic and affordable homegrown food!
Next lesson: Planning (and sticking to) your shopping list.