I hope these cans will prove useful as cans for growing vegetables

I hope these cans will prove useful as containers for growing vegetables

The scale of my gardening has evolved progressively but slowly over the past two years.  Two summers ago I tended five planters worth of potatoes (yielding barely five pounds after they were run over by a front-end loader–seriously).  Last summer I took over my mother’s 10′ X 10′ garden at the cottage and Kat and I added lettuce, radishes, peas, soybeans, hot peppers, strawberries (wild and “tame”), and pumpkins to the potatoes as well as an unsuccessful, late-season experiment with beets and carrots.  For this summer that garden has expanded by about 50%; we’ll be growing whatever, whereever we can in our backyard in the city; and I’m doing some research on Toronto’s community gardening system.   Generally, I’m pretty happy with the gradual pace of our expansion.

I guess one regret I have is not coming, early enough, to the realisation that many crops don’t need to be coddled–at least not across all variables all the time.  Put seeds in some nutrient-rich dirt, in just about any container, and water regularly (this is one variable that deserves the most attention, most of the time) and given a bit of sun you’ll have food in a couple of months (or weeks).  So, of seed source, fertiliser, physical location, water,  sun exposure, and growing days the physical location is, by far and away, the most flexible.

A deep bed of well-cultivated topsoil is ideal for most food crops (though not all, such as wine grapes which like things rocky, dry, and generally pretty inhospitable) but a lot of vegetables will grow just about anywhere.  I’ve heard stories of Newfie farmers burying a couple seed potatoes in seaweed on a rocky outcrop and coming back in September to find that they have a crop of potatoes.  Without either a ready supply of seaweed or rocky outcrops I’m hoping to emulate the model that Jamie Oliver sets on his Jamie At Home programme and cookbook.  He grows vegetables (particularly hot peppers, tomatoes, and herbs) in used cans.  I imagine the bigger the better so I’m saving the larger variety of tomato cans and coffee cans.

From experience I know that egg cartons work well for starting seeds and potatoes

From experience I know that egg cartons work well for starting seeds and potatoes

Egg cartons are great–I’ve done this before–for starting seeds and for chitting potatoes.

This is a project that can take a while so it’s a good idea to start now rather than in early May when these containers will become very useful.  By then it will be more reasonable (and cheaper) to just buy a seed tray rather than eating three omellettes a day to free up the egg cartons that you suddenly need.