Nothing beats the flavor of a fresh-from-the-garden tomato; warmed by the sun, plucked right from the plant and eaten in the garden. And the good news, you don’t need much space. Many gardeners have and more will continue to grow food in containers or mixed in with their flowers, shrubs, and other ornamental plantings.
Save the sunniest spots in your landscape for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and other vegetables where you eat the flowers or fruit. They produce their best and have the fewest disease problems when grown in eight to twelve hours of sunlight. Root crops such as beets, radishes, and carrots can get by with about a half of a day of direct sun and leafy crops like lettuce and spinach can still produce in a shady location with only 4 hours of sunlight.
Get your garden off to a good start. Use a quality potting mix when growing in containers. It should have good drainage and retain moisture. In the garden, prepare the soil before planting. Add several inches of compost, peat moss or other organic matter to the top 6 to 12 inches of soil. This improves drainage in heavy soils and increases water holding capacity for sandy or rocky soils.
Add a slow release fertilizer like Milorganite to the soil or potting mix. This goof proof organic source of nitrogen meets the EPA Exceptional Quality standards and will help encourage growth without interfering with flowering and fruiting.
Jump start the season with the help of floating row covers. These polypropylene fabrics let air, light, and water through, while trapping the heat near the plants. The best part, you won’t need a hammer, nail, or other tools. Simply lay the fabric over your planting, leaving enough slack for the plants to grow and anchor the edges to the ground with stones, boards or other items.
Increase your harvest with intensive planting techniques. Succession planting, several plantings of short season crops in the same space, can double or triple your harvest. Interplant quick-to-mature crops like radishes and lettuce, in between longer maturing plantings of cabbage, tomatoes or eggplant. The short season vegetables will be ready to harvest just about the time the bigger plants are crowding them out.
Consider planting vegetables closer together in wider rows. You’ll waste less space for pathways, putting more room in plantings. Make sure each plant has enough space to grow and that you can reach all planted areas to weed and harvest
Provide proper care and get ready to harvest and enjoy a bountiful harvest from your own garden.
[About the author: Gardening expert, TV host and author Melinda Myers has 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments which air on TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. She is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine, hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for over 20 years as well as Great Lakes Gardener on PBS. Melinda has a master’s degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist and was a horticulture instructor with tenure. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com]