When I hear people say "I don't have room to garden," I think of my dad's two tomato plants on a balcony 3 feet by 5 feet. Even though he only grew two plants in pots, he enjoyed his "garden." He tended his plants every day, checking out the blooms, keeping the hornworms away and picking his fruit as it ripened. If you grow one African violet successfully and enjoy doing so, you are a gardener in my book.
Even with a small space, you can garden successfully. Whether your yard is tiny, you only have a balcony or windowsill, growing your own food is still a possibility. You will have to make some adjustments in your soil mix, what you plant and how you water.
If you have a small balcony or patio, plant in pots. Use a light soil or soil-free mix enriched with compost rather than a native soil. Deep pots provide greater root room for plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers, which need at least a 3-gallon size; but for herbs and smaller plants, 1-gallon containers work. Larger containers usually require watering less often than smaller ones. For plant health, good drainage and air circulation are required, so all containers must have drainage holes. A saucer or drip pan underneath prevents water damage to the balcony, deck or patio.
Smaller varieties take up less room both above and below ground while still allowing bountiful yield or flowers. Read seed packages, search catalogs and read labels on transplants at nurseries for patio varieties. Climbing types, such as peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and pole beans, make use of vertical rather than horizontal space. Lettuce and spinach can grow close together and be picked for baby greens. Herbs are ideal for containers and are often drought-tolerant. Some catalogs offer exotic choices such as banana, grapefruit, pomegranate and olive tree patio plants. If you grow these in containers, you can bring them inside when it's cold outside.
Potted plants dry out more quickly than those in the ground and may need to be checked for moisture a couple of times per day depending on the temperature and sun exposure. You might set up a drip system to the pots. Fertilize with a balanced vegetable food once per month.
No matter the size of your planting space, you can grow something edible. Plan your garden today!
• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.