Gardening While Social Distancing: Container and Small Space Vegetable Gardening Edition

What can you do while maintaining the social distancing protocols other than shop online and clean your house?  Quite a lot really.  You can mulch your flower beds, do spring cleanup projects around your yard, start some seeds for a vegetable or flower garden or you can use the time to plan a landscaping project for later in the season.

Speaking of vegetable gardening, has the recent run on groceries made you want to start growing your own vegetables?  You are not alone.  I plan on growing at least twice as much as I did last year and also plant a few varieties of vegetables and herbs I haven’t grown before.  But how can you have a vegetable garden if you don’t have a yard?  And how do you even get started?  Is it too late to start seeds?  Let’s look at what you can be doing right now and the options that are out there even if you don’t have a place for an in-ground garden.

As far as starting seeds, it is getting a little late to start some things such as peppers or celery but you can still start plants in the cabbage family (kale, chard, kohlrabi, etc.) and some flowers.  Check your seed packets.  It is still safe to start any seeds that say you can start them 4-6 weeks before transplanting.  Otherwise, you can buy plants already started from us!  Many vegetables like beans, corn, and peas will do better being direct sown wherever they will be grown.  Again, check the directions on the seed packets.  They will have the most accurate information for that specific plant.

You can grow vegetables in containers if you don’t have a spot for a vegetable garden.  I have a nice sized yard but I don’t have a great spot to have a garden.  For years, I did vegetables in pots and planted them along my fence.  Even after I got a plot at my local community garden, I have continued to grow vegetables and herbs in containers at home.

If you decide to grow in containers, make sure they are big enough for the plants you want to grow and place them somewhere with easy access to water.  Last year I was gifted some planters that are on wheels and have a water reservoir in the bottom. It was easy to fill up the reservoir and the wheels made it possible to move the planters inside during the colder nights early in the spring.  I will be getting those ready to plant soon.

If your space is small (patio or balcony) you can still grow something as long as you have enough sun. While most vegetables and herbs need 6+ hours of sun to really thrive, there are also many that will do well in part sun.  Many leafy greens such as kale, lettuce, chard and spinach as well as root crops like beets, carrots and potatoes will do fine with some shade.  As far as herbs, parsley, chives and thyme are a few that do well both in sun and part shade.

If you are limited on space make sure to choose compact varieties and where you can, use the vertical space by growing on trellises or in hanging baskets.  Look for determinate varieties of tomatoes.  These will stop growing after they reach their maximum height whereas indeterminate varieties keep getting taller all season.  Indeterminate tomatoes can get 7 feet tall if the plants are supported.  You can use trellises for vining plants like beans and peas, or you can choose bush varieties although they don’t generally produce as much per plant.  You can also train many plants in the cucurbit family (cucumbers, summer squash, etc.) to grow on a trellis.  This is nice option even if you do have lots of space as it will also help keep the produce up off the ground.

In my opinion, even if you don’t grow enough to feed yourself for an entire year, it is worth growing some of your favorite vegetables or herbs this season.  It is very rewarding to be able to walk outside and grab a handful of fresh herbs to use for supper or to be able to pick all the ingredients for a salad.

Written by

Cathy Maxson is Sargent's Gardens Perennial Growing manager. In addition to making sure Sargent's grown plants thrive, she enjoys growing in her own garden, canning fruits and vegetables, traveling, and walking her dogs.