You don’t need a permanent address or a garden plot to grow some of your own food.
Any large container that will hold soil and drain well (drill your own holes if there are none!) can be home to one or a few of your favorite edibles. You probably won’t be growing enough to save much money on produce but you’ll have the pleasure and satisfaction of growing healthy stuff and eating it when it’s ultra-fresh. And if you choose high-value crops like salad greens and herbs you use frequently (or just can’t stand to buy a bunch when all you need is a sprig or two) you might feel some financial satisfaction, too.
Reality check: Pots need frequent watering, probably daily when weather is hot and root systems are well-developed. Containers that are impervious to water will need less water than porous clay pots. If you have to buy them, containers can be very expensive. And whatever the container, there’s also the cost of good quality potting soil and a good liquid fertilizer, which I recommend. Garden soil won’t do!
Potting soil can be reused a few times as long as your previous crops were disease free, but it will need to be replenished yearly with a little compost and a balanced fertilizer containing some lime.
When it comes to seed selection you have many options, including some great local growers. But the collection of new and heirloom, open-pollinated and certified organic varieties offered in pretty packets by Renee’s Garden includes compact options, especially recommended for container growing, in almost every category of popular vegetables. Moreover, the extensive website (reneesgarden.com) isn’t just a catalog. If you have time to spend negotiating this slightly complex site you will find a lot of practical information about container gardening.
As for seed quality, I’ve had good luck with Renee’s Garden seeds. I asked proprietor Renee Shepherd where she finds the varieties that are flagged as good for containers. Here is her reply:
“We work with many seed production companies all over the world, but a lot of our varieties come from European sources where there is such a large and enthusiastic home garden market. Lately, many of our most popular container selections have come from French companies.
“The seed companies let us know what they have that is new. If I’m interested they send us a sample to grow out in our own trial gardens in pots. So when we write the growing information for the packet-back we know from our own personal experience how big a container to suggest as well as the right spacing for a container. We test our varieties in both warm winter and cold winter climates to be sure that they will grow all over.
“Our container varieties are bred for pot culture. To sell a packet specifically identified for containers, the main thing we look for is fast-growing, significantly more compact plants, with excellent quality and high yields that are easy to harvest. The companies that produce seed have always done their own extensive trials for some years before introducing a variety to the trade, but I don’t sell anything without my personal growing experience in our trial gardens for at least several seasons. Renee’s Garden selection is curated and well trialed!”
Rachel Foster lives and gardens in Eugene. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org