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Container Gardening: Its Kinda like Being a ‘Closet’ Farmer

May 2, 2011

As soon as dawn breaks, like any good farmer, I am hard at work with my plants. Container gardening is a lot easier than real farming, I know, but it still takes dedication and a keen ear to hear what your plants are needing.

My set up isn’t very technical. There’s no  hydroponic lighting but there is a space heater and a window with good light. Unlike many April/Mays in southern Ontario, where I am currently located, it is still cold and a touch rainy. As for sunlight its minimal.

On warm days my friendly plants, like pets, are able to go outside. The UV rays received on those days help their leaves lift and after a good, sunny day these plants are usually a 10th of an inch bigger than before.

I have several varieties of tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant & pepper. These plants do well in warmer temperatures and inside of my well heated/well ventilated laundry room they seem to be doing quite well. The greens, rainbow chard and a selection of herbs, which do well in a cooler temperature, seem to be growing a little slower — but still it is amazing how resilient these seedlings are.

All of the above plants were started as seeds in egg cartons. With a little dirt (a mix of grocery store bought top soil & potting mix) & some kelp meal, these seeds grew faster than I thought they would. Once they were more than an inch high I transplanted them into cups, yogurt containers and/or plastic containers (that originally were boxes for grocery store mixed greens).

Once these plants become 1/2′ high and have good root systems I will finally plant them. The ideas are endless as for container gardening. I’ve been able to find great books to inspire ideas. Check out “Organic Crops in Pots” by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell or “Growing Stuff: An Alternative Guide to Gardening” by Black Dog Publishing. Both of these titles are available on, a website run through where you can, you guessed it, swap paperbacks.

Another container project is a Beet/Carrot Box, which is a box about the same size as a recycling bin, filled with the top-soil/potting mix & some kelp meal. I’ve drilled about 8 holes in the bottom of the box for drainage. The carrots seem to be doing great. Their tops are about 2″ high just after 2 weeks. Tips that I’ve learned from this project are: 1) To germinate beets. They need to be soaked in water for about 1 hr as their seed-shell is quite tough. 2) Dirt becomes quite dense within a plastic box . To ensure good drainage it is a good idea to place stones at the bottom of the container.

Another good food-growing system is a living food box — which will be explained in another post.  But for now, happy spring & make sure to take advantage of these easy ideas for food-security.  There’s an abundance of options — just buy some seeds & soil then rummage your recycling bin to find the rest.

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