Dana’s Gardening Adventure: Growing veg is also great in a crate

So, the plants and seeds are doing their thing in the garden. Weeds seem to be growing faster than anything, which is a bit of a worry but I guess also a fact of the organic gardening experience. While mine is a classic backyard garden plot, I’ve noticed that people are finding any way they can to be better earthlings by growing a few of their favorite veggies and herbs.

Urban community gardens are popping up in all kinds of Canadian cities. In fact, the picture above is of a 2007 summer Toronto garden sponsored by Hellmann’s mayo. This year their project will continue with 94 contest winners who will get urban garden plots in cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Hellmann’s also has some useful online garden planning tools I found fun to play with.

If you don’t have access to one of these plots or have a yard that’s suitable for planting, you can still grow food in window boxes, pots and other containers. I’ve done it and it’s surprising how much produce a few pots can yield.

Even if you’re a champ at growing decorative plants in containers, the shift to growing edible plants can be a challenge since soil, sun and fertilizing can greatly affect the taste and nutrient content of herbs and vegetables. So, check out my container gardening tips before you get started:

Sun: To mature successfully, the balcony or terrace where you grow edible plants should receive about 5 hours of sun a day, preferably morning or late afternoon exposure, which is less scorching than the intense, mid-day rays.

Drainage: Choose containers that have an adequate number of holes in the bottom to ensure proper drainage; that way your edible plants will neither drown nor parch.

Soil: The soil for growing edible plants in containers needs to have a combination of characteristics: container plants do well in soil that allows rapid drainage but also require sufficient water retention to keep the plant roots uniformly moist. “Soiless” potting mixes and peat moss drain quickly, are lightweight and free from soil-borne diseases and weed seeds.

Planting: Since there is seldom 100% germination and emergence when growing plants from seed, always plant more seed than is needed in each container. After the seeds sprout and the seedlings start to touch, thin plants to the desired number.

Feeding: Since you’ll be cooking and eating the herbs and vegetables you grow, choosing a safe fertilizer is very important. Avoid chemical fertilizers that can make plants inedible. Unlike a yard garden, the soil in containers is unlikely to get organic enrichment naturally so work compost into the containers often. Compost is sold by the bagful at most garden centres.

Watering: The best way to water container plants is with a watering can or gentle sprayer attachment on a garden hose. Be sure the water is cool before applying it to the vegetables, particularly if the hose or watering can sits in the sun for part or all of the day. Watering with hot water cannot only damage foliage, but retard root development.

14 Responses to Dana’s Gardening Adventure: Growing veg is also great in a crate

  1. nhnursery says:

    The garden looks great, you all should be proud of your efforts.

  2. Jamie says:

    Gardening is a tough job. I have been unsuccessful in every attempt. Yours is looking great! Please stop by my blog Dana, as I have left something there for you 🙂

  3. Cheryl says:

    Dana, I read something fascinating yesterday on a local (Calif.) blog, Grow Better Veggies, that made me think of you. The farmer provides produce for one of Silicon Valley’s most high-end restaurants, and she posted about how she adds fish heads, egg shells, and bone meal to the soil before planting tomatoes in her biodynamic garden. I’d never heard of such a thing! But I have eaten her produce, and it’s incomparable.

  4. Dana Mccauley says:

    Thanks Cheryl!

    I remember from social studies that this is how the native peoples used to feed their soil. I’d be afraid to invite too many skunks and racoons to my yard by adding fish heads. They are already a problem.

    Bone meal is easy to get at the garden centre though and I already add egg shells to my composter. This is great ‘food for thought’. Thanks again. : )

  5. Brava! A garden is a wonderful thing.
    My son, who graduated from college last year, planted his first garden last year, and has become the king of mulch this year! I couldn’t be happier that with all he has going on, that he takes the time and gives the love to his garden.

    Another cool thing for those long winter months is the AeroGarden. Our friend at Snowbird Utah was bringing us fresh mint and basil in February, now you can’t beat that!!

    In my little town in Italy, it’s a very small, stone, walled village, so there isn’t much garden space, but everyone has a plot of garden somewhere outside the walls, not to mention that every window sill has a jungle of herbs. It’s all good and all fun!

  6. danamccauley says:

    Thanks Judith. I will definitely check out this aerogarden. Sounds cool.

  7. Christine says:


    Containers are so challenging! Constant watering is what I do all the time. But everything seems to be sprouting up really well. Thanks for your tips. In fact I started a small compost for all my coffee grounds (organic of course), filters and egg shells. Start small and think big!

  8. danamccauley says:

    Oh, you’re so right about all the watering when you have container plants – you really are a slave to the watering can aren’t you?

    One trick I forgot to mention, is to fill your watering can right after you finish watering so that the chlorine can dissipate and so that the water is ambient temperature when you water your containers. For flowers, especially, I’ve found this tactic helpful.

  9. Marie says:

    Great tips! We have a small garden in our backyard and I have grown some vegetables succussfully in containers in our courtyard. We live where summer weather can get into the 100’s, so watering and placement of containers is key.

  10. Christine says:

    Dana thanks for the tip. I will give that a try! Right now I have been using a water filter and it takes forever to fill the bucket up! BTW, my strawberries are coming in full force. My daughter is announcing to her friends that we are going to have a strawberry festival at our house and her friends can pick strawberries for twenty bucks!

  11. danamccauley says:

    I like your daughter’s style!

  12. Congratulations, Dana, for your excellent blog and this “practical” article with good gardening tips. Living in Belgium, I discovered your website through Google Alert-gardening and I republished a part of it on my containergardening blog to inform my readers on the existence of yours. I have also put a link to your blog on my blogroll. As we live nowadays the so-called “food crisis”, contributions to invite people to start with urban gardening in all available spaces (see what happens with guerilla gardening, small space gardening, square foot gardening, … everywhere) and with container gardening (in all kinds of containers) are more than welcome. Therefore, I published on my blog already very simple methods to grow veggies in plastic bottles and even in yoghourt pots. These techniques created a lot of attention in the drylands of the Third World because one can save a lot of water and fertilizer, limiting leaching and evaporation. Container gardening is applicable on any spot, in and around our home.

  13. Willem,

    Your blog and approach to container gardening sounds really interesting. I will absolutely be checking it out later in the week when I have time to scroll through it at leisure.

    Many thanks for your support and for sharing info about your innovative ideas.

  14. Eugenia says:

    I think it is hard to determine how much water is too much or too ltlite, that is why I am grateful for a watering system, I have a? Bucket Garden which was created by a man named Ted Hallett, he has over 30 years of experience in Organic Gardening. His system makes gardening not only successful but simple.

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