By now, you may have noticed the mini farmer's markets spilling out of your neighbors' window boxes, down their steps and across their tiny backyards. The farm-to-table trend has hit home, even in cramped city quarters, thanks to creative container gardening.
Herbs and leafy vegetables, such as lettuce or chard, are perfect for growing in containers as long as they can get some sunlight and TLC, says Alice Edgerton of Graceful Gardens, an organic gardening company in Center City whose specialties include "edible landscapes." With a little extra maintenance, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants can work well, too. (If you haven't already started your garden, check out nurseries for some pre-planted produce.)
"It's possible to grow a ton of food in containers, so that is often the easiest bet if you are a renter," Edgerton says. "But you probably need to give up your dreams of growing anything sprawling, like watermelons or pumpkins."
Whether you're planning for next year or are in the midst of maintaining your finicky tomatoes, Edgerton shares a few tips for your pint-sized farm.
Choose a container
"You can plant in pretty much anything -- plants don't care if they're in a coffee can or a Ming vase," says Edgerton.
Make sure whatever container you choose has drainage holes and wasn't used to store anything toxic that could seep into your veggies. Knowing how spaced out your seeds or plants should be will determine how big a container you need.
Save some green
The Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center gives out free compost; just bring your license to prove you're a Philly resident. Compost by itself is a little too heavy for container gardening, Edgerton says, so make a mixture that's part compost and part light soil.
Water, water everywhere
"You need to water more than you would planting in the ground," Edgerton says. "You can have the best soil and light, but if you don't water you're not going to have too much fun."
She recommends elevating the container off the ground to help drain excess water. On a deck, place something under the container to catch any liquid and avoid damaging the wood.