Trending: Growing more food in less space, container creativity – By Lynette L. Walther – Republican Journal

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By Lynette L. Walther | Feb 03, 2021Notably because gardening itself has become so fashionable and a part of many lives this past year, there is a slew of gardening trends that are showing up.
In recent weeks, we’ve been examining and expanding upon those trends. So from National Garden Bureau research, here are two more: Growing food in all kinds of spaces and getting creative with containers.
Home cooking has come into its own with many more people housebound and self-isolating. Add to that a growing concern about food scarcity and a growing demand for clean, organically-grown foods. That means more and more are planning and starting their own kitchen gardens. People are discovering that it does not require a dedicated vegetable garden or elaborate raised beds to grow some of their own foods.
Here are some home vegetable/herb garden ideas that maximize space to consider:

Make use of a small space by growing food in containers or vertically on a trellis or tuteur.
Create aesthetic edible gardens — mix edibles into existing ornamental beds and borders.
Grow plants that provide big yields in small spaces such as tomatoes, herbs, peas, cucumbers and more.

Now is the time to plan what you will grow and where to grow it. Now is the time to decide if you expect to purchase vegetable and herb bedding plants or start your own from seed.
If the latter is your plan, expect to check out mail order seed sites now and place your orders soon. Last year saw many sources dry up as the unexpected demand led to shortages. Seed suppliers are more prepared this year, but to ensure that you get what you want and the varieties you prefer, order soon. Online seed sources include: Renee’s Garden Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and FEDCO. Some sites also offer bedding plants.
In the coming weeks you will be able to start seeds indoors, and can then jumpstart the growing season by planting your own vegetable and herb seedlings when the temperatures moderate and the ground warms up. Those using raised beds or containers can plant earlier because those both will contain soils that warms up sooner than the ground around them.
Creative container gardening:
Nothing new, container gardening has been around for quite a while, but even so it continues to rise in popularity — probably because anyone can do it, no matter the size of space. Increasingly, people are growing vegetables and herbs as well as ornamentals in smaller spaces like balconies and patios. People are getting creative — container gardening isn’t just for annuals. There’s been an increased demand for perennial plants and even flowering or colorful and compact new shrub varieties.
Here are some examples:

Tropicals like caladiums, canna, elephant ears and crotons
Dwarf hybrids or small trees such as crape myrtles, Japanese maples, and olives
Dwarf fruit and citrus trees
Small shrubs that are perfectly sized for containers

Whenever considering a container combo, start first with the proper growing medium. First rule of any successful gardener is to realize that your plants are only as good as the soil in which they are growing. Use a good-quality commercial container mix, which will allow for moisture retention and provide good drainage. A good rule of thumb when selecting a container soil mix — the lighter the bag the better.
Never use garden soil when filling a container. It will be too heavy and will not provide the proper drainage necessary to keep plants healthy. It could also contain disease, weed seeds and/or insect pests or their eggs.
If the vessel is a large one, and you want to keep weight down and do not need the entire inside volume to support the plants, use plastic jugs (with lids on) to fill the lower portion. I like to place one of those large mesh vegetable bags over the top of the filler material to keep the potting soil from running down and around the fillers.
There are also plastic pot inserts to divide off lower portions of plants, most have drainage holes to prevent pots from becoming water-logged. Container watering tip: If you’re worried you’ll forget to water your pots, install automatic drip irrigation that can be set on a schedule, or try these beautiful self-watering planters.
Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm and the National Garden Bureau. Her gardens are in Camden.
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