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No Backyard? You Can Still Grow A Productive Summer Garden [TIPS]

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Sarah Tezak is a seasoned gardener, forager, mushroom-hunter and botanic-experimenter. She lives at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2016 9:35 am

Updated: 10:36 am, Sat May 28, 2016.

No Backyard? You Can Still Grow A Productive Summer Garden [TIPS]

by Sarah Tezak

Spring is in full swing, sputtering hints of summer between cool rainy days.  Our Missouri climate tends towards the mood swings and consistency of a hormonal teenager!  This week, I would like to share some thoughts on container gardening for those who cannot plant in open ground.  Pots aren’t just for petunias!

Why grow a container garden? Considering our climate in conjunction with the rocky and heavy soil of many yards (and steep hills), planting a vegetable garden can seem daunting if not impossible.  Aside from supplying yourself with delicious veggies, who doesn’t like live plants in their space? A less mentioned benefit of container gardening is the lower pressure from insects and other garden problems of an unpredictable climate.  Using a balanced soil mix will provide a season of simple tending, and tasty treats for you and yours.  An added benefit, you can grow what YOU want, not just what is available in the produce aisle.

What can you grow? Almost anything given enough space and light!  With as little as four hours of light, easily found on all but the northern edges of a home, you can grow greens for your plate. Fruiting plants require a minimum of 8 hours of light, while root vegetables and most herbs require a minimum of six hours. Southeast exposure is ideal for containers, exposed to morning through afternoon sun, with protection from the long hot evening. Direct south, or southwest will give the next greatest amount of light, but also more heat.  Eastern and western facing can grow excellent herbs, roots and greens; though it will be difficult for fruiting plants to gain the energy they need to produce a healthy crop.

What container? Options in this realm are limitless, from pretty and pricy, to home rigged economical:

  • My personal favorite for tomatoes: storage totes that are past their prime.
  • Pole beans and cucumbers can be planted into large hanging baskets and climb porch rails for a beautiful and delicious option.
  • A five gallon bucket can give you squash all summer long. 

Considerations to keep in mind are exposure, location and how often you will tend your garden.  An unglazed ceramic pot will dry out very quickly, whereas glazed ceramic or plastic containers will retain moisture longer. Avoid black or other dark colors if you are unable to tend frequently, as they absorb more heat from the sun and may cook your plant.  A tip: add some mulch to the top of your container to retain that valuable moisture, especially in the heat of summer.

Part-timer? No problem. For those who are only occasionally at their lake homes (or anyone needing a more hands-off approach), a self-watering container with a reservoir system can allow less frequent tending and more even moisture.  Utilizing companion planting methods can help maximize productivity and aesthetics of your container garden. Next week, we will talk about some simple companion planting possibilities. 

Imagine popping that first sun ripened cherry tomato in your mouth, and get that garden growing!

Got an idea for a gardening column or questions about growing in the Ozarks? Email!

© 2016 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016 9:35 am.

Updated: 10:36 am.

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