The National Gardening Association reported that there were 7 million more households with home gardens last year than the previous year. The benefits include:

  • Provides a ready supply of fresh veggies
  • It saves money
  • And, of course, the esthetic benefit of being outdoors

For those yet to enjoy home gardening, now is the time to start. Even if you live in an apartment or condo there are now wonderful options.  Creating a garden is a lot easier than you think. With a little careful planning you can enjoy an easy-care garden that provides you with armloads of delicious homegrown vegetables from spring till fall - regardless of your space. Below are three different options: raised bed garden, container garden, and vertical garden.

RAISED BED GARDEN
One of the easiest methods to achieve a productive vegetable garden is to use the wildly successful "4 foot method." This means that crops are grown in 4x4 foot framed squares above ground with their own soil. There is no need to dig up turf, no worries about weeds, and the creation and maintenance is a breeze. If your best sunny location is rocky, or has poor drainage, raised beds are best.  Raised beds can extend the growing season since the soil is able to warm up sooner, they offer better drainage, and are easier to care for since they are protected from the encroaching grass and weeds. Click here for a step-by-step guide to Creating a Raised Garden Bed.

CONTAINER GARDENS
A container garden, as the name implies, is simply a garden in a container.  This type of gardening offers many benefits:  versatility, mobility, and accessibility.

Things to consider when choosing a container:

  • Size - keep in mind what plant you want to grow.  The size and shape of a plant's root system and how rapidly it grows will determine how large and deep the container must be.  Root bound plants dry out rapidly and will not grow well.  Hanging baskets can be particuarly prone to this. Larger planters will hold more soil and stay moist longer and are less subject to rapid temp fluctuations.
  • Drainage - all container gardens MUST have drainage.  Holes need not be large but must be big enough to allow excess water to drain out.  Without drainage, soil will become waterlogged and plants may die. 
  • Material choice:  wood, resin. metal

Resin planters are made of lightweight material that is easy to move. They come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes such as urns, rectangular low planters, tall and low dish shapes. Three of any type grouped together in a sunny spot on a deck or in the yard would be eye-catching and an efficient way to achieve a small vegetable garden.

Another easy to care for, movable and elegant option are hayrack planters and baskets lined with coco fiber liners. Hayrack planters come in free-standing varieties in several sizes and shapes. A cradle hayrack planter near a back door planted with 4-5 varieties of lettuce could produce enough lettuce for the entire season. There are other varieties, such as our "window hayrack" that are meant to be secured to a deck, fence or attached to the house, perhaps under a window. An apartment or condo patio railing would be most eye-catching with several round hayrack baskets all planted with with a variety of mints and herbs.

A cascading tiered planter  with varying types of vegetables and herbs would be lovely on a deck or in a focal point in your yard. Imagine one filled with red  and green lettuce, herbs and spinach set near your front door. This would be both a yummy and convenient garden option.

If you have the space, consider our larger rectangular planters such as the Ellis resin planter or Cedar Planter Boxes.

Planting Ideas:

  • Pizza Garden: Tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, oregano, thyme, and basil -
  • French Herb Garden: basil, sage, parsley, sorrel, coriander, thyme, summer savory, and marjoram
  • Tea Garden:  lemon balm, chamomile, cinnamon, mint and anise hyssop

Preparation:

When preparing your container for vegetables, remember that garden soil is too dense for container plantings.  For containers up to 1 gallon, use a houseplant soil mix.   For larger containers, use a relatively coarse soiless planting mixture to maintain the needed water and air balance.  This can be purchased or you can make your own using equal parts of compost or sphagnum peat, pulverized pine or fir bark and perlite or vermiculite.  For each cubic foot of mix add 4 oz. dolmitic limestone, 1 lb. rock phosphate or colloidal phosphate, 4 oz. greensand, 1 lbs granite dust and 2 oz. blood meal.

VERTICAL GARDENS
Vertical gardening is a concept that has gained momentum by bringing gardening to virtually anyone who wants to grow vining crops, but does not have the space. The benefits of this method include the ability to grow vegetables in a relatively small space, the ability to grow more in less space and the ability to conserve water.  A few types are listed below.

The Skyscraper Garden 
Derek Fell, a horticulturist from Pipersville, Pa., is co-creator of a backyard device he calls the "Skyscraper Garden." The patent pending design of The Skyscraper Garden is an easy-to-assemble kit that allows vining plants to climb either against the wall, or on a free standing unit. A 4' x 6' panel hanging from the side of a building and taking up almost no horizontal space will produce more edible plants and beautiful flowers than a plot taking up 24 square feet. Perfect for any urban gardener, it is also well suited for any school or other public space looking to add some foliage.

The Skyscraper Garden is expected to promote a greener lifestyle, as it makes it possible for a much wider demographic to grow their own food. Also, says Fell, it greatly reduces the amount of water needed to tend the plants, and the entire kit can be used season after season and year after year. It is a sustainable product that provides a more sustainable lifestyle. Climbing plants like spinach or pole snap beans will bear all summer, giving you up to 10 times the yields of similar bush varieties.
 

Other vertical options include a bean and pea hoop and the garden trellis. A bean and pea hoop would be a natural way to hide a heat pump or air conditioner out of direct view, or any unsightly portion of the yard (as long as it is in full sun). Perhaps filled with alternating flowering sweet peas and pole beans, the bean and pea frame would do double duty offering both flowers and vegetables throughout the summer.

A sturdy trellis is an easy and effective way to utilize your vertical space effectively by planting them with vegetables like cucumbers, squash, peas and beans, and even tomatoes. Trellises can be either free-standing or erected against a wall, but must be strong enough to bear the weight of the vegetables. Trellises such as the lattice wall trellis will hold any of the vining vegetables listed above.  The sturdy free-standing trellis could be planted with cucumbers, squash, tomatoes or pole beans; and two placed side by side would make a lovely 'growing privacy fence.'  By trellising vegetables up, rather than along the ground you protect them from pests and diseases.  

Whether you choose to plant in a raised bed, container or on a trellis, start planning now and make this the year you start growing at least some of your vegetables. Margie Grace, the 2009 International Landscape Designer of the Year, awarded by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers says, "Take that food-producing garden from the back 40 and put it wherever we want. Reunite the ornamental with the edible - roses beside tomatoes, beds edged with herbs, and veggies used as annuals."