2010-05-06 / Features

The Potting Shed

Accentuate The Positive For Growing Vegetables
By Carole McCray

Seed Chives Seed Chives Short on space and sun; don’t let that stop you from growing vegetables. To learn how to achieve a vegetable garden when sun and space are the challenges facing you, think the old maxim, “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” Here’s how to do that. The secret is where sun exists for only a few hours there is the reality that certain vegetables can be grown in limited sunshine.

Know how much sunshine is available throughout the day by checking out how many hours of the day the sun is present in the space you have to plant vegetables. Keep in mind the amount of sun a space receives is also affected by obstructions of trees casting their shade or by the changing angle of the sun throughout the season. Even where there is partial shade, cool weather crops like arugula, broccoli, chard, kale, radicchio and spinach can be grown if the space receives about four hours of sun daily.

Strawberry Spinach Strawberry Spinach If you can locate a spot receiving six or more hours of sun a day, then try plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplants. These vegetables need prolonged sunlight and warm nights.

If you are limited by the amount of sun where you want to grow vegetables, think about planting in containers. With containers, your vegetables can go where the sun is; simply use containers that follow the sun throughout the season. Lightweight containers and ones on wheels will enable you to have a portable vegetable garden with the amount of sun necessary for the vegetables you choose to plant.

Besides planting a portable garden that enables you to control the amount of sun required for your vegetables, you can choose attractive containers to enhance your outdoor living space. Vegetables, edible flowers and herbs can be combined in containers. Scented geraniums, nasturtiums and pansies are safe to eat as long as they have not been sprayed with any harmful chemicals.

A few combinations for container plantings are:

Nasturtiums and peppers in full sun.

Tomatoes and basil in full sun.

Pansies and lettuce in partial sun.

Parsley and any leafy vegetables like lettuce, Swiss chard, kale or spinach in partial sun.

Scented geranium with strawberry plants in full sun.

Radishes and the tiny Corsican mint in partial sun.

Scallions and chives in partial sun.

Cherry tomatoes and rosemary in full sun.

Using space and entire season

You can plant vertically when space is limited. Tomatoes, pole bean, peas, cucumbers and vining squash are good choices for growing up. With vertical supports for your crops, you will take advantage of available space, but more importantly the natural tendency will be for plants to reach up for more sunlight.

Use all the space you have and that includes planting in between rows. An example is to plant large, slow growing cabbage with early spinach that will be harvested long before summer heats up. Another example is to have winter squash interplanted with early beets; it means the beets are pulled long before the squash vines are extended and leaves are large.

Extend your growing season

The best way to use gardening time wisely is to begin planting once the soil can be worked. That means as early as spring will allow once a hard frost has passed, plant crops that can withstand a light frost such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, parsley, peas, radishes, spinach and Swiss chard.

Where the growing season is limited to several months of the year, you have a challenge to extend your growing season. A few devices will enable you to do that. There is a cloche, usually made of glass or clay, and referred to as the bell-jar. It was developed by the French and offers good protection in the early spring for individual plants. The cloche is placed over plants at night and removed in the morning.

There are some substitutes if you find the expense of several cloches to be costly. Try milk cartons, large Mason jars or old lampshade frames covered with cloth remnants. Any of these are good covers for tomato plants. Also mini greenhouses or portable cold frames are gardening devices to help you get an early start on gardening and are useful later in the season to extend the harvest into the colder months.

Though your gardening space and amount of sunshine might be limited, remember to think positively and creatively. Striving for that should yield good results and some good vegetables, too.

Carole McCray lives, writes and gardens in the scenic Laurel Highlands west of Ligonier, Pa. She is an award-winning writer; her most recen award was the Garden Writers Association Award for her article on Native Seeds which appeared in The Christian Science Monitor newspaper. She can be reached at mountain26@verizon.net. Photos courtesy of Park Seed.

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