Petite Farming: Family-Sized Crops from Your Patio

For the past several years, growing your own fruits and vegetable has become a popular alternative to frequenting your local produce aisle.

Some grow their own food for reasons of taste – nothing is as mouth-watering as tomatoes, lettuce or peppers from your own garden. Others prefer to grow their own food because it’s “clean” eating; there’s no risk of GMO’s and none of the preservatives that are typically needed to keep veggies fresh from the field to your grocery store.

But you don’t have to have huge garden beds to make sure your family has its fill of homegrown summer squash, peas, onions, green beans, eggplants and more.

Much like their flowery cousins, vegetable and tomato plants can be successfully grown in small batches in containers.

Ready to plant your own “petite farm?” Here are some steps to get you started.

Your Container:

Your veggies and tomatoes really aren’t going to care what your container looks like, but you’ll need to make sure that it’s large enough to give your plant room to grow.

So large flowerpots, half barrels, plastic-lined baskets, even the 5-gallon bucket you can get from the local hardware store will work. Just make sure they have holes for good drainage.

You’ll also want to think about weight, particularly if you are planting on a balcony. Remember, you’ll have the weight of the pot, the soil, the plant and water to contend with, so you might want to think about lighter weight plastic planters. If you love ceramic pots, however, another alternative is a pot caddy with wheels. They can hold a lot of weight and when we get hail, it’s easy to roll your plants out of the storm.

Your gardening experts at Warner’s can help you choose the right planter for your petite farm based on what your growing.

Which plants?

Which raises the question – what should you grow in containers?

Well first off – and this may seem super obvious but let’s make sure we say it – grow plants your family will actually eat. Yes, leeks look beautiful all wavy and pretty when you plant them, but if no one likes the taste it’s a waste of your limited space.

There’s a huge array of tasty “container crops” you can grow for your family – beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, radishes, squash (summer & winter), swiss chard, and, of course, tomatoes.

You might want to consider things a little more exotic than what’s typically in the store. The folks at Whole Foods noted that one of the big trends this year is the purple versions of veggies that we typically think of as being white, green or orange – such as purple cauliflower or carrots.

And for flavor, don’t forget to plant your herb garden as well. Just think of the pasta sauce you could make with homegrown tomatoes seasoned with fresh basil and oregano – yum!

Different plants will have different requirements in terms of accessories – items that need to climb (think tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and zucchini) might need trellises or cages to support them.

Soil, sun, and water.

The rest of what you need comes down to good soil, good sun, and proper watering.

  • Good soil – Because you will be creating your plants’ environment, you need to use good, healthy potting soil (not general garden soil). You’ll also want to provide fertilizer to replenish nutrients.
  • Good sun – Most veggies want warmth and a lot of sun, so figure out where they are likely to get about 6 hours a day to keep them strong and healthy.
  • Watering – Make sure you know the conditions that your foods prefer and water accordingly. Typically “moist, not wet” is a good rule of thumb, but remember that containers are going to dry out faster than a traditional garden bed.

Following these steps, you should be able to enjoy lovely, tasty tomatoes and veggies and enjoy the freshest, healthiest eats on the planet.

Remember, you can always ask our experts at Warner’s for tips and hints on container gardening or any of your gardening needs. We’d love to see you at the nursery.