- Seed starting mix or potting soil
- Repurposed egg crate or food grade container like yogurt cup
- Plastic baggy
These are the basics for starting an herb and vegetable garden using containers in a very small space such as a patio or balcony.
1. SUNLIGHT: Assess how much direct sunlight your site gets as this will dictate WHAT you can grow. The larger the crop, (large, beefy tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkins), the more direct sunlight you will need.
- Up to 6 hours direct sunlight- You can grow most any herb and vegetable.
- Between 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight- You can grow larger crops.
2. BUY SEEDS OR HERB AND VEGETABLE PLANTS?
Starting herbs and vegetables from seed is more economical and there are more varieties to choose from, but they take longer to grow versus a container plant. When you use container grown plants, you will be able to harvest your first crop 6 weeks earlier than if you had planted from seed.
If you live in a cold climate area, you can still enjoy the benefits of using seeds if you start your seeds indoors at least 6 weeks before the last expected frost date. When warm weather arrives, plant your indoor-grown herbs and vegetables in a larger container and place outdoors.
HERB GROWING TIP: Some herbs are “slow growers” while others are “fast growers.” As a beginner, I suggest buying slow growing herbs in plant form so you can enjoy immediate gratification!
Plant “fast” growing herbs from seed. You can actually plant seeds every few weeks throughout the growing season for a continuous supply of herbs!
Example of slow growing herbs to buy as plants:
- Oregano, mints, thyme, sage
Example of fast-growing herbs to plant from seed:
- Basil, chamomile, cilantro, parsley
3. HOW TO START HERBS FROM SEED
Fill your container with seed starting mix, or potting soil and spray with water to slightly moisten.
Plant 2 seeds at depth indicated on the seed packet in each container, or egg carton cell
Cover with plastic baggy to keep soil humid but not soaking wet!
Place your container on a warm surface out of direct sunlight until the seeds sprout.
When the seeds have two sets of leaves, remove baggie and place in bright sunlight and continue growing.
Water when the soil starts to feel just a little dry.
Replant in a larger container as needed
4. VEGETABLE PLANTS - SEEDS OR PLANTS?
Vegetable plants also have fast and slow growers. If it is late in the season- Mid April and beyond, buy vegetable plants for slow growers such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and cucumbers.
Fast growing vegetables that you can plant from seeds include; beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes. As a matter of fact, you can sow seeds for these crops every few weeks for a continuous supply throughout the growing season.
5. WHAT TYPES OF CONTAINERS AND SOIL SHOULD I USE?
Herbs and vegetables grow well in terra cotta, plastic pots, or wood. The most important factor when growing food in a small space is to use containers that are taller than they are wide. Make use of vertical space, rather than filling up your patio floor with wall to wall containers. The exception to this is if you are planting a few different herbs or crops together.
Get creative with your small space! Place potted plants at different heights using old stools, tables, benches, you can even use bricks!
Use potting soil for both herbs and vegetables!
DIY a vertical garden structure like Shirley’s that you see in the video using a tomato trellis as a support cage to hang wire baskets filled with herbs and greens!
Look for “rail planters” that are designed to straddle and sit on block walls and railings!
You can do it! I’m here to help you.
For more from Shirley, visit her blog at FoodieGardener.com