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Package Directions: Water. Eat. It’s that easy.

Sage from my 2009 container garden. Photo Credit: Brian Harkin

It’s winter, we’re freezing (not including yesterday), and thinking warm thoughts about laying on a warm beach and sipping a refreshing drink isn’t working.  Agreed.  However, it’s good time to start considering what herbs, fruits or vegetables you’re gonna grow this year.  For the skeptical New Yorkers: hear me out.

No matter where you live or how green your thumb may (or may not) be, you can easily grow a couple of your favorite seasonal items.  Small windows with good light or small outdoor spaces can be perfect places to grow.  In the city, I’ve done over 15 different herbs, raspberries, tomatoes, salad greens, scallions, and peppers.  I’ve grown on small balconies, in windows, parking lots, and in my friend’s backyard.

Some seeds can start germinating indoors as early as now in the northeast, so this is the week to give it some thought.  A container garden is a great option for people with little time or space and it requires minimal effort.  Here’s a quick guide to container gardening.

When you choose what to grow and where to grow it, consider these:

  • What you like to cook or eat
  • The size of your space
  • The amount of light and air available

For instance, if you like chives and fresh oregano, those would be good choices for a window sill.  On a small balcony or outdoors, salad greens and small tomatoes would be good options.  Most herbs can thrive in containers, but vegetable and fruit selections can be more limited:

Small tomatoes Peppers Blueberries
Radishes Carrots Strawberries
Bush cucumbers Bush squash Raspberries
Salad greens Green beans Blackberries

Here’s what you need:

  • Container: Select a container with good drainage (planter box, bushel basket) or poke holes in a plastic trash can.  You could also use a ceramic pot.
    • 6-10 inch pots or window boxes: good for herbs and scallions
    • 1-2 gallon: small tomatoes or greens
    • 5 gallon: tomatoes, beans, fruit, most tomatoes, peppers
  • Fertilizer
  • Water

That’s it.  Now you can grow.  If you need even more guidance, here you go:

  1. Germinate your seeds – read the seed packets for information about the correct amount of water, light, fertilizer, germination period, grow period and harvest time.
  2. Transplant the germinated seeds to their respective containers after the last winter frost (check the Farmers’ Almanac for the last frost).
  3. Fertilize and water your plants.
  4. Harvest when ready.

Disclaimer: I’m not encouraging anyone to put containers on their fire escapes.  InNew York, it’s illegal, for obvious reasons (i.e. if there’s a fire, you’ll have trouble escaping).

For more information, check out Texas A&M Extension’s AgriLife Guide to Vegetable Gardening In Containers.

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