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Contain Your Veggies

How can a gardener with too much shade and not enough space grow solar-seeking, sun-loving vegetables? In containers.

Garden designer Bud Stuckey grows vegetables in containers when there's too much shade. "Gardening in containers is just natural for me. I like gardening in the ground, but I just don't have that many sunny locations."

Containers can solve soil and shade problems. Not only that, but you can plant bushels of vegetables in planters. Bud outlines a good approach to this style of gardening.

Laying the foundation

  • First, choose a container with plenty of room and a hole or two in the bottom.

  • Fabric mulch is a good idea to put in your container to hold in the soil and cut down on drainage, but it comes in 50-foot rolls. A cheaper alternative? Newspaper (figure A).

  • On top of the lining, Bud lays organic potting mix with great ingredients like humus and worm castings (figure B). "You'll find perlite [in this mix], you'll find woodchips, even rocks." Bud customizes the mix by blending in products that provide different benefits. For adequate drainage, he adds a variety with a bit more compost. The top dressing has loads of nutritious stuff, including chicken manure and bat guano.

    "This will act like a timed-release organic fertlizer," Bud says about that top mix. "As we water, all those good nutrients leach their way down."

    The soil level should be just a couple of inches below the top of your container, and it'll settle a little bit after it's been watered.

    Planting the container

    Some plants to consider including in your planter are kale, red leaf lettuce, and stevia, a sweet herb (figure C). Also think about alyssum, which attracts beneficial insects (which in turn take care of the bad insects).

    Tip: Buy your plants small to get more for your buck. Then don't break up the root balls. At their early stage, they don't need anything more than to be planted right into your container. Plant seeds at a depth that is 1-1/2 times their diameter.

    And be careful where you place that container. If it sits directly on a hardscaped surface, it may absorb too much heat. Invest in a plant stand (figure D), pot feet or saucers.

    Care and maintenance

    As always, make sure to water your containers regularly, and ideally when the temperature is going up (so be armed with your bucket first thing in the morning).

    Products

    raised bed: Knox Garden Box
    water bubbler: Ace Hardware

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