How to be a backyard micro farmer

Do you have a small space? Perhaps just a balcony or patio as outdoor space?

Maybe you have no soil and can only grow plants in pots.

You too can be a backyard, micro- farmer by planting the best vegetables for small spaces listed below.

All except for the beans can be seeded into compact spaces or container gardens now.

Look for sunny spots between shrubs or flowers or recycle plastic nursery pots or large tubs with drainage.

To direct sow seeds into the soil now, first dig down a foot or so and loosening up the soil.

Remove any rocks larger than your fist. Add a shovel full of compost or well-rotted manure for each one foot of soil you designate for food crops.

Next read and follow the planting tips on the back of the seed pack.

You don’t need to waste precious space planting in rows. Just plant in blocks, one to four feet square in size by spacing the seeds in all directions.

According to local gardening legend Ed Hume, these are the top six vegetables recommended for small spaces or pots in our cool summer climate of Western Washington:

Beets, lettuce, carrots, spinach, bunching onions and bush beans.

Q. What tomatoes will do best in a large container on a sunny patio?

A. The upright mini or patio tomatoes can give impressive yields in a container at least 18 inches deep and wide.

Sweet 100, Sweet one million, and the yellow pear shaped tomatoes are local favorites.

Warning: Do not let tomato plants sit outdoors at night until mid May or when the night temps are above 50 degrees. You can place the pot in a wagon or wheel barrow and move it into a garage at night if you really want an early start. Experienced gardeners wait until June to set out tomato plants.

Q. I want to grow eggplant in a container on my sunny balcony.

I also want flowers. Can I put low growing but fragrant alyssum in the same container as eggplant? What about plant food? Do I use a fertilizer for vegetables or one for flowers?

A. Yes, eggplant is a beautiful edible that thrive in hot spots and as long as you avoid pesticides, flowers and food make for great pot mates.

You can use any complete fertilizer on food or flowers. The plants can’t see the picture on the label and only care if they are offered the nutrients they need.

A slow release plant food worked into the potting soil, perhaps followed by a liquid plant food in mid-summer is enough to keep your egg plants producing and the flowers blooming.

Be sure to use quick draining potting soil and a container with drainage holes.

Q. I grew Swiss Chard with colorful foliage last summer. It looks like some of my plants that were in raised beds survived the winter!

I want to rework the soil in the beds and add compost. Can I transplant the Swiss Chard into a container and continue to use it for a second year?

A. Yes! Leafy greens like the beautiful Swiss Chard “Bright Lights” are perfect for the center of a container either surrounded by micro or salad greens or dressed up with some low growing pansies.

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