Container gardening can be very fruitful (Google / mLive / Kalamazoo Gazette)

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Container gardening can be very fruitful

Sunday, June 29, 2008

BY LAURIE A. CERNY

Special to the Gazette

I’d like to think I’m urbanized when it comes to gardening. After all, I haven’t lived on the farm for more than 20 years. However, I must admit that I have really struggled with the idea of putting anything other than flowers in a container. Where I come from the only place to plant vegetables is in the ground. When I was a child, my family raised about 10 acres of asparagus and about the same acreage of sweet corn. The rest of the farm was used to raise produce including tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, grapes and plums. My Future Farmers of America project during my junior year in high school was growing 5 acres of winter squash.

I’ve always gardened at my home, which is in Kalamazoo Township, just outside of the city limits, and I have always been challenged with limited space. The first year I crammed about as much as I could in a flower bed that has good southern exposure. I knew better, but I packed the plants in anyhow. The plants grew into miniature versions of themselves and produced little. Last year, I practiced self-control and put in about half as many tomato plants and zucchini. They produced fairly well.

I also tried some container gardening, growing a patio tomato plant in a halved whiskey barrel and a cherry tomato plant in a terra-cotta pot.

This is the first year, however, that I’ve really embraced container gardening. Since May, I haven’t had to buy any spinach or lettuce. I’ve grown all of it in containers at my home.

From my recent success, I can see that when you choose the right containers, put the right plant in that container, use good soil and fertilize, container gardening can be very successful.

It’s also exciting to see a local greenhouse, Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, 5268 East O Ave., develop a line of vegetables and fruits specifically for container gardening.

The line, called Urban Gardener, is 100 percent U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic and is being carried by Meijer Inc. stores.

“All you have to do is water it and pick the fruit,” said Mark Elzinga, CEO of Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses. “They’re bred to grow in a container.”

The vegetable varieties offered include tomatoes (cherry, Roma, patio), peppers, cucumbers, peas, eggplant and mini-pumpkins. Strawberries are the only fruit currently available in the Urban Gardener line, and they are an ever-bearing variety.

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.