Taking part in the grow-your-own-food movement is not only a satisfying way to commune with Mother Nature but can also save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. Fresh-from-the-vine produce also tends to be tastier and better for your bod, especially when compared to supermarket picks that travel an average of 1,500 miles before arriving on your dinner table.
But if you live in an apartment, don’t have a yard or are otherwise limited by space constraints, growing your own food can seem next to impossible. Have no fear, aspiring locavore! Container gardening opens up a whole new world for the yardless gardener, where fruits and veggies flourish in everything from recycled coffee cans and milk containers to hanging baskets and window boxes. Check out Earth911′s quick and easy guide to container gardening, and enjoy a bountiful harvest no matter how little space you have.
1. Pick your produce
Virtually anything that can be grown in a garden can also be grown in a container. But most beginners underestimate the space needed to support fully-grown plants. So, be conscious of the space you have available when selecting your crops, and make sure to select a crop variety that is suited for containers.
If you live in a home or apartment with a small yard or patio, you can grow just about anything your heart desires, including large plants like tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli and squash. But be careful how many plants and seeds you buy. Each large plant will require its own container, at least 12-inches in diameter, to grow properly. Our advice: Purchase the containers first, and organize them on your yard or patio to give yourself an idea of how your “garden” will look. Ditch any extra containers that make the space too crowded.
Apartment-dwellers with a small balcony or fire escape can grow a veritable cornucopia of crops in medium-sized containers, including beets, carrots, onions and Swiss chard.
If you don’t have any outdoor areas at all, stick to plants that can be grown in hanging baskets, such as cucumbers, peas and cherry tomatoes, and set up a few small containers along interior window sills and table tops. Spinach and lettuce both thrive in small pots, along with herbs like basil, chives, dill and thyme.
No matter how much space you have available, window boxes can provide a perfect supplement for your container garden. Both attractive and functional, window boxes make perfect homes for plants that require little to moderate root space. Units that hold 1 gallon of soil work best for cucumber (one plant), carrots (up to three plants) and green onion (up to five plants), while 2-gallon window planters can yield green beans, broccoli and turnips, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
For more tips on choosing the right crops for your container garden, check out these container gardening guides from the gardening gurus at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Cornell Cooperative Extension.