This spring has hit us with a big surprise. A stay-at-home order from the Governor of Virginia. Even the County and Federal Parks are closed. Not that anyone was going anywhere with most “non-essential businesses” shut down anyway.
To save your sanity, I suggest patio container vegetable gardening. I have dug up my yard before and tilled and fertilized until mid-summer when the heat and humidity of Northern Virginia scare me back indoors. Patio gardens require less maintenance and you can always give the plants away to friends and family when you get sick of taking care of them.
Why Patio Gardening?
Before you jump into this new and exciting hobby. Let’s delve into some great reasons why you should start container gardening now.
- It will help you get out in the sunshine and fight off depression.
- It is a hobby that they will let you do. You won’t be congregating with over 10 people or meeting up unnecessarily.
- It can provide you with some fresh produce. (Let’s face it, if this shut down lasts for a few more months, we’ll all need some fresh food!)
- It is fun and exciting to see tomatoes growing on your patio or porch!
Garden Tools You Need
Before you embark on this gardening adventure, there are some tools that you’ll want to have on hand for container gardening. First and foremost, you’ll need some potting soil. I purchased some with fertilizer added to make my life easier, but you can also buy fertilizer for your veggies. You’ll want some pots and seeds.
- Potting Soil
- Watering Can
5 Vegetables Ideas for Container Gardens
Most veggies can be grown in a pot. However, some do better than others. For example, watermelons may not be the best choice because they are vining plants and require a LOT of space. They also require a lot of water. You will find that you’re constantly watering them.
The vegetables that I decided on growing this year in containers are as follows:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Green Beans
While each of these has their own space requirement, I have planted all of them in containers before and they grew beautifully. For the cucumber, since it is a vining plant, I let it grow up the side of the porch.
Basil and tomatoes tend to do well when planted together. They have different heights and their nutrient requirements are complementary.
I put some lettuce in the shade of the patio. Lettuce is a cool-weather crop, so I will be lucky if it grows in the next month before the weather becomes blistering hot.
Green beans are a favorite in my household. I purchased bush beans, so the space requirement is small. The beans tend to ripen all at once.
Green beans require warm soil, so plant them when all danger of frost has passed. You can plant in 2 week succession for continuous bush beans. The seeds should be one inch deep and 2-3 inches apart in a 2 gallon container.
Plant green beans in well-drained potting mix that is amended with some fertilizer.
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For the tomatoes, I started the seeds in a milk jug. The temperatures at night are still dropping into the 40s. This is known as “winter sowing.” The seeds are still exposed to the nighttime temperatures, but they are protected with a mini-greenhouse effect. I found this to be an effective way to start hardy tomato plants.
Tomatoes need at least a five gallon bucket with well-drained soil. You will need to water tomatoes every day. They are a very thirsty crop.
Tomatoes are a sun loving crop. Select a place on your patio that gets full sun. Tomatoes are heat-loving crops like green beans. Make sure all danger of frost has passed before planting them outside.
This herb is an easy herb to grow. You can plant it in smaller containers or right in with the tomatoes. Use a container that is at least a half-gallon if you are planting it by itself. You can start it from seed or purchase seedlings.
Plant basil in well-drained potting soil. Basil grows best in full sun. The ground temperature should be at least 70 degrees when you plant your basil.
Basil plants should be spaced out at least 12 inches. Water basil when the soil is dry to the touch.
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Lettuce is a bit different. It is a cool weather crop. I didn’t need to buy a seed packet for my lettuce. I planted the end of the Romaine lettuce that I had cut up for a salad.
Lettuce should be planted in early spring. It will turn bitter as the summer wears on. Plant it in partial shade to keep it cool and prevent it from turning bitter.
Lettuce can be planted in beds or in containers. Use well-drained soil and make sure that you fertilize it. When starting from seeds, sprinkle them 1/2 to 1 inch apart. Cover with no more than an 1/8 of an inch of soil.
To grow cucumber on your patio or porch, you’ll need a bit of extra space for it to sprawl or a trellis to allow it to grow up. I tend to let mine sprawl on my porch, but it is up to you. A vertical support can make it easier to harvest the cucumbers.
Cucumbers are heat-loving curcubits. They grow best in warmer weather. Wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting them. For the Mid-Atlantic area, that will be in April or May.
A five gallon bucket is the perfect size container to grow your cucumber plant. Use well-drained potting soil and add fertilizer to it. Amend the soil regularly and make sure that you are watering the cucumbers daily.