Year-round gardening made simple

May 4, 2009 4:10:24 PM PDT
You don't need lots of time or space to exercise your green thumb.

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Surprisingly rich gardens can grow both indoors and outdoors in containers.

The first step to grow fruits and vegetables this way is determining which plants do well in small spaces. Tomato plants are good in containers, but some varieties need lots of room for their roots to grow. Other vegetables are not as picky, and can even grow in window boxes.

"In something (relatively small) like this you could grow some herbs, lettuce, something that doesn't need a whole lot of root room," said Denise Hebert, garden expert at The Home Depot in South Philadelphia.

Hebert says you can't go wrong by selecting the largest container that will fit in your outdoor space. Plants tend to soak up lots of water in the hot summer sun.

"As the summer goes on," said Home Depot manager Duane Bell, "you might have to water twice a day. But in a bigger pot, you only water once a day." Bell said a 12-inch pot is as small as you can go with vegetables.

Once you have a container and your plants, it's time to select a potting soil. Most options have fertilizer built right in. Experts say it is important to use potting soil in container gardens because it drains more efficiently than topsoil and it has all the nutrition your plants need.

By this time of year, the danger of frost is now almost gone in most of the region. Tiny seedlings can survive outside, and some vegetables grow very well from store-bought seed packets.

"Some things you could start from seed now are spinach, lettuce and peas," said Hebert.

She said protecting seedlings from a late frost is easier in containers. "You can just put an inverted box or an inverted grocery bag on top of them," she said.

With the right sun, soil, and watering, container-grown fruits and vegetables will be ready for the kitchen table this summer.

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