Written by Maddy Hardy
As part of a legacy project for CSUS 200, our group has decided to put 20-gallon pots on the loading dock by the Bailey hoophouse. We are going to grow onions, sweet peppers, and sunflowers in the space. Our idea is to show that students can grow their own food even in tiny spaces. All the food will be grown organically and be sold with the rest of the produce in the hoop house. The onions have a natural scent that repels pests, making them a good choice in an organic garden. The loading dock is against a south-facing wall, making the area into a “mini Arizona” perfect for growing peppers. We are also planting some sunflowers to attract bees to the area, a vital part of any food system. The bees attracted to the flowers will help pollinate the plants all over Bailey.
All the plants we chose grow well in containers so students can easily start their own vegetable garden on their patios or balconies. Other vegetables that grow well in containers include potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and summer squash. It is possible to grow full-grown vegetables in containers and provide your own food. Benefits of containers include increased control of sunlight, soil, and water. Growing vegetables in containers requires enough room for each plant and a container with drainage holes for excess water. Large containers are generally easier because the extra soil holds more water. The extra water storage allows for less watering, making gardening easier for beginners. While most plants aren’t too picky about the size of the pot, some, like tomatoes, do best with larger pots. If the plants you choose need to be grown using a support system, wire cages can be placed around the edges of containers. Almost any material pot would be suitable for growing in. However, clay pots may need more attention because they tend to be porous. Avoid using treated wood, as the chemicals may leach into the vegetables. Our group is using soil provided by the Bailey hoophouse, but soil especially made for containers can be purchased at any garden store.
Plants in containers can be seeded, transplanted from indoors, or transplanted from seeds in garden centers. Vegetables can be planted at the same time you would in a garden. After they have been planted, watering is the hardest and most important aspect of caring for the vegetables. Drip irrigation is ideal, but most students will probably hand water. The number one rule: never let the soil dry out! Going a few days without water can cause poor root development, rot, and insect problems. Although container plants are less likely to get diseases, still watch for signs of damage. Most important is to do research on the plants you choose before you start, water regularly, and enjoy your fresh vegetables!