Jessica Borthwick at Cedar Rim Nursery checked out some plants suitable for container gardens.

Small gardens a big trend

Container gardening is taking off due to smaller homes.

Constrained by smaller yards or life in condos and townhouses, people are taking to container gardening.

Russ Bruce, owner of Langley’s Cedar Rim Nursery, said that it’s also an extension of indoor life to the outdoors – people are spending more time on patios and want to make them into outdoor living spaces.

“People’s patios are becoming more like the inside of the home,” said Bruce.

A lack of land and a desire for a nice place to hang out has led people to grow everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers, perennials, annuals, bulbs, and more.

Trellised fruit trees, dwarf blueberries and raspberries, and grape varieties that stay under three feet tall have all been developed for small-scale gardening in recent years.

“Whatever you can grow in the ground, you can pretty much grow in a pot,” said Bruce.

He knows of people who have 20 to 30 containers and are growing an entire garden on a back deck.

There are also specialized plants that take up less room.

One is a grafted potato-tomato plant. The top tomato portion produces its fruit first, and then the potatoes develop under the soil later in the summer.

“They’re called Ketchup ’n’ Fries,” said Bruce.

Another crop new to the area are cucamelons, which resemble tiny watermelons but taste like tangy cucumbers.

Heirloom tomatoes are also popular, both because people want non-GMO plants, but because of the excellent taste, said Bruce.

Aside from those who simply don’t have a lot of space, container gardening is also gaining popularity among the elderly and those with limited mobility, said Bruce.

It allows for less bending over, and some containers are raised and have enough room underneath that a person using a wheelchair can get close enough to work the soil.

Still others container garden largely for privacy, creating hedges or screens of plants so that their patio is closed off from the view of others.

Because people are using their patios and decks for much of the year, they are raising multiple things in their containers.

After raising a crop of garden vegetables, gardeners can plant three to four layers of bulbs.

The flowers will start to come up in sequence, from early ones in January to late ones in April.

That gives continuous growth and colour in the container right up until April or May, when the vegetables can start again.

Aside from a container – which come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes – only a few things are needed to get started.

Bruce said soil is the most important component.

You want a coarse, bark-based soil mix for the bottom of the container, something that will drain well. Planter soil can go in the top of the container.

Top soil won’t work well, since in a container it doesn’t drain well and air can’t get in.

“You don’t need a lot of tools,” Bruce said.

Along with a trowel and maybe a pair of gardening gloves, that’s all you really need to get going, Bruce said.


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