Small Spaces - A Blessing or a Curse?

2/2/2015 - 2:35:52 PM
This post was originally published on October 30, 2014.

Many people ask me about gardening in small city lots or town home lots.  They always ask about compact varieties of this or that, which is good, but that’s just the beginning.  Successful small-scale gardening relies on one thing – soil.  It needs to be in good shape with regards to texture, drainage, fertility and organic matter.  There also needs to be enough of it!

Many city gardeners (for lack of a better term) rely on container gardens.  This might be due to rules within a community that do not allow for planting in common areas or because of poor or non-existent soil on small city properties.  Containers can be very productive if done properly.

The first thing – get the biggest container you can.  Forgot the little 6″ pot for this and another little 6″ pot for that.  Plants grown in container situations benefit from the greatest soil mass possible.  This helps to eliminate girdling roots and extremely dry soil which is common in small pots without an irrigation system.

Pots do not have to be fancy.  Nurseries commonly have leftover tree pots they are going to trash.  Many of these can be 2-3′ in diameter, and while they are just plain black pots – they are cheap and do the job!  Other options include constructing containers with reclaimed materials, which can evolve into a beautiful piece of art in itself!

IMG_0028Did you know that one lettuce plant can send roots 15″ deep or more?  Can you see why we are not successful when we put them in small pots?

Soil is the next issue.  Potting mixes are great but many times are better if combined with local compost or topsoil.  Potting mixes are typically promoted as weed free – do you know how it gets that way?  Sterilization.  When potting soil is sterilized any microbial action that was there, is not gone.  These microbes are necessary for successful plantings.  This is something that is beginning to be studied in greater depth, but researchers and farmers alike tend to agree – WE NEED MICROBES!

Next spring take baby steps with your veggies in containers.  Start with a large container and make a great soil mix.  You will be pleasantly surprised with the results.  In seasons to come you can then experiment with adding soil minerals, mycorrhizae, varying types of composted materials and even biochar!  I say in seasons to come because 1) you most likely are not a full-time farmer and time is of a premium (right?), 2) you don’t have a bottomless checking account to splurge on this project, and 3) gardening is a process that takes a lifetime to master.  I am of the mindset that gardening should not be about instant gratification – it is a living process, some years it does well, some years it doesn’t.  Don’t be discouraged and see what works best for you!

Leave a Comment

summer  garden planning  seeds  vegetable garden  sweet corn  spring  carrot  tomato  pumpkin  radish  sweet corn  vegetable garden  spinach  cucumber  sunflower  seeds  squash  garden techniques  vegetable garden  vegetable garden  leek  vegetables  kohlrabi  produce  veggies    Rohrer Seeds  grow your own food  small space garden  pollinators  flowers  Rohrer Seeds  peppers  Harrisburg PA  vegetables  veggies  produce  Lancaster PA  York PA  Rohrer Seeds  trials  vegetable garden  carrots  vegetables  produce  heirloom  Lancaster PA  vegetable garden  Harrisburg PA  Rohrer Seeds  trials  York PA  produce  spring  Lancaster PA  seeds  York PA  Harrisburg PA  veggies  vegetable garden  garden techniques  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  York PA  flowers  insects  pollinators  Lancaster PA  Rohrer Seeds  Harrisburg PA  vegetables  Harrisburg PA  Lancaster PA  grow your own food  determinate tomato  tomato  vegetable garden  produce  indeterminate tomato  Rohrer Seeds  York PA  sprouts  sprouting  sunflower sprouts  Rohrer Seeds  Harrisburg PA  alfalfa sprouts  seeds  York PA  spring  kale sprouts  Lancaster PA  grow your own food  Rohrer Seeds  Lancaster PA  mailorder seeds  seeds  vegetables  Lancaster PA  princess gardens  produce  popcorn  seeds  vegetable garden  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  Harrisburg PA  pink popcorn  York PA  planting  vegetable garden  neighborhood gardens  community gardens  planting  garden planning  vegetables  York PA  Lancaster PA  Harrisburg PA  seeds  garden co-op  Rohrer Seeds  shared gardens  small space garden  vegetable garden  Lancaster PA  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  garden techniques  veggies  grow your own food  seeds  York PA  planting  Harrisburg PA  seeds  Lancaster PA  flowers  York PA  small space garden  grow your own food  Rohrer Seeds  vegetable garden  Harrisburg PA  vegetables  planting  garden techniques  gardening supplies  garden planning  veggies  seeds  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  planting  garden techniques  Harrisburg PA  York PA  garden planning  vegetable garden  tomato  produce  Lancaster PA  sauce  Lancaster PA  seeds  red beets  trials  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  vegetable garden  planting  Harrisburg PA  York PA  garden techniques  beets  produce  veggies  resilience  produce  garden planning  Harrisburg PA  seeds  spring  Lancaster PA  veggies  gardening supplies  flowers  planting  vegetable garden  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  bloom  garden techniques  York PA  York PA  planting  Rohrer Seeds  produce  garden techniques  flowers  vegetable garden  ginger  Harrisburg PA  garden planning  Lancaster PA  gardening supplies  planting  Harrisburg PA  vegetable garden  garden soil  soil  garden planning  Lancaster PA  seeds  garden mulch  organic matter  soil structure  compost  York PA  garden techniques  Rohrer Seeds  gardening supplies  garden techniques  Lancaster PA  York PA  vegetable garden  hybrid  heirloom  Rohrer Seeds  chemical free   vegetables  Harrisburg PA  garden planning  seeds  open pollinated  organic  certified organic  veggies  garden techniques  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  vegetable garden  York PA  chemical free   planting  seeds  Lancaster PA  produce  Harrisburg PA  gardening supplies  veggies  organic  insects  gardening for chickens  garden techniques  produce  planting  Rohrer Seeds  Harrisburg PA  seeds  Lancaster PA  chicken food  York PA  chickens  planting  vegetable garden  garden planning  garden techniques  seeds  Harrisburg PA  Lancaster PA  York PA  Rohrer Seeds  produce  veggies  vegetables  Lancaster PA  flowers  foraging  wild edibles  York PA    Harrisburg PA  Rohrer Seeds  Harrisburg PA  wild edibles  York PA  foraging  Lancaster PA  Rohrer Seeds  produce  garden techniques  Harrisburg PA  greenhouse  vegetable garden  veggies  Rohrer Seeds  gardening under plastic  bloom  spring  gardening supplies  York PA  vegetables  Lancaster PA  cold tolerant vegetables  seeds  planting  seeds  Lancaster PA  Rohrer Seeds  flowers  gardening supplies  produce  greenhouse  veggies  vegetable garden  gardening under plastic  vegetables  spring  planting  vegetable garden  compost  seeds  Lancaster PA  garden techniques  Rohrer Seeds  gardening supplies  vegetables  Lancaster PA  planting  spring  bloom  York PA  flowers  Rohrer Seeds  perennials  vegetable garden  vegetable garden  Lancaster PA  York PA  gardening supplies  garden techniques  vegetables  seeds  flowers  planting  raised beds  veggies  spring  produce  Rohrer Seeds  gardening supplies  genetically modified organism  flowers  produce  seeds  organic  GMO  hybrid  bloom  insects  heirloom  Lancaster PA  vegetables  spring  vegetable garden  Rohrer Seeds  planting  galanthus  produce  planting  vegetables  bloom  vegetable garden  hellebore  garlic  insects  gardening supplies  spring  seeds  pussy willow  Rohrer Seeds  flowers  wildlife  Lancaster PA  flowers  gardening supplies  wildlife  insects  Rohrer Seeds  vegetables  vegetable garden  produce  Lancaster PA  planting  seeds    spring