Lots of people are limited by lack of space or seasonal sunlight. But it doesn’t mean you cant grow great organic vegetables and herbs on your balcony, deck or side yard. You just do it on a smaller scale. The big plus with small space gardens is that they’re easy to maintain, and because they’re closer to your kitchen, you’ll pay more attention to them and get more use from them.
I designed all my Rolling planters with the space and sun challenged in mind. And because they give you a full 18″ depth, you can grow deep rooting plants like tomatoes and root crops. One 2’x4′ Rolling Patio Planter can grow up to 20 lbs of tomatoes or 40 heads of lettuce. The Rolling Tomato tower can grow full size tomato plants. And our Rolling Balcony Box is ideal for narrow balconies such as those in Condos and Apartments.
1. KNOW YOUR LOCATION– Make sure you get 6-8 hours of sun (full sun) in some area of your patio, deck, balcony or side yard. The benefit of having casters is that you can move your planters to maximize seasonal sun. Winter sun is lower so you get more shade in places that you might get full summer sun. And when that August heatwave arrives, you can relocate to a more shaded area for a few days. Remember to keep tall vegetables and plants to the north side of your planter and shorter ones to the south, ie: tallest plants farthest away from the sun, shortest plants nearest.
2.CHOOSE THE RIGHT SOIL – Smaller container gardens require high performance soil because they don’t have access to ambient nutrients like ground plants. Start with a good rich potting mix like Edna’s Best Organic Potting Soil . This mix has more peat moss and pumice in it which gives it greater water retention properties than planting soil. Regular planting mixes dry out too fast and when they get dry, they tend to repel water.
3. FERTILIZE MORE – You will need to fertilize containers and planters more often. At least once in between growing seasons with some good compost or organic soil amendment. In addition to that, you will need to supplement your plants with a good organic fertilizer like EB Stone Tomato and Vegetable Food once or twice during the growing season. This will help improve your yield immensely.
4. SELECT THE RIGHT VARIETIES – There are great dwarf varieties for almost every vegetable out there. For example grow heirloom cherry tomatoes instead of big vining tomatoes. Cherries are easier to prune and you can train them grow over the side of your planter instead of up. This gives you more space for other plants like eggplant, peppers, even squash. Here’s my list of favorite dwarf summer vegetables ideally suited to small space gardens.
Eggplant – Japanese pickling – This gem produces lovely long eggplants from a relatively small bush.
Peppers – Red Ruffled Pimiento – An absolutely top notch pepper, this low growing prolific producer yields sweet, smoky fleshy fruits and lost of them.
Basil – Greek Basil – Perfect for small spaces, this 6-9″ umbrella-shaped beauty produces strong, sweet leaves. Perfect for your Cherry Tomato Caprese.
5. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVER WATER– Container gardens have much different watering needs than ground planting. You’ll need to keep an eye on moisture content when the days get long and hot. The sides of the containers dry out quicker than the middle, so those juicy strawberries you planted in the corners will need a little more TLC than your big centre pieces. Having said that, resist the temptation to over water your plants in hot weather. Do the finger test. If the soil is moist (like a wrung-out sponge) as deep as your index finger can go then you are doing OK. Over watering will leave your plants vulnerable to root rot and molds.
6. PLANT IN SUCCESSION – Because you’ll harvest your small space planters more often, try to grow things in succession. So when your eggplants are done in the fall, plant some lettuce. When your basil stops producing, put in some parsley or sage.
7. THREE ‘NO-NO’ PLANTS FOR PATIO PLANTERS – Do not plant mint in a container with your other vegetables. Mint, though delicious is very invasive and hard to get rid of. I always plant it in separate pots. Ditto for Potatoes, and Sunflowers, Corn and Artichokes just get way too big, blocking out the light from the other plants. Perennial Herbs like Rosemary and Sage can be planted in a patio planter but they’ll get big over time. What I like to do is just take them out after one or two growing seasons. I replant them in pots and start again with smaller plants in the patio planter.
8. HERBS ARE GREAT VALUE – Smalll space planters are perfect for easy-access Herb gardens. Lots of herbs are perennials, meaning they will keep on growing, Here’s my top 10 herbs which will all grow well in a Rolling Balcony Planter.
Basil, Sage, Lemon or English Thyme, Fennell, Parsley, Marjoram, Rosemary, Tarragon, Lemon Verbena, Cilantro.
If you are growing vegetables and herbs together, plant the herbs at the corners where they will get more sun.