Urban Homesteading 101: Container Gardening

With so little distance to travel from soil to plate, potted plants are the carbon footprint equivalent of roller skates.

A little greenery can do a whole lot for a porch, balcony, or patio—all the better if that pot produces fruits, vegetables, and herbs just steps from your kitchen, with freshness and flavor that store-bought can’t match. Container gardening is often the least labor-intensive and most rewarding way for the apartment-bound urban gardener to go, since many plants thrive in certain combination pots, allowing you to maximize space and diversity. With so little distance to travel from soil to plate, they’re the carbon footprint equivalent of roller skates.

Whatever type of container you choose (a five-gallon bucket or even a burlap sack will do), make sure there is room to build up the soil as your spuds grow. This encourages tubers to grow in layers. Drainage is essential, so ensure your container has several holes. Place the container in a spot that gets full sun for six to eight hours per day.

This versatile fruit (ahem) can be grown with only moderate difficulty on a porch or balcony that gets full sun. You’ll need a fair size pot and a cage to support the plant. Tomato plants have a high yield for their size—best of all, the smaller the plant, the more tomatoes. But they also require a lot of water. Choose compact varieties specifically bred for tight quarters for the best results.

Hot peppers, purple basil, cilantro, and nasturtium
This container delights the eye, the nose, and the tongue. Hot peppers, basil, and cilantro are a zesty addition to many dishes, while colorful, peppery nasturtium blooms can be added to a salad or candied as a garnish for confections.

Lavender, anise hyssop, borage, calendula, and chives
Add fresh chives from your doorstep to eggs, spreads, salads, and dressings. The rest of these flowers can be used to make teas and cocktails (or freeze flowers in ice cubes).

Parsley, sage purpurea, rosemary, and golden lemon thyme
This savory herb mix will find a million uses in your kitchen. The lemon thyme carries citrus notes, and oils from its crushed leaves make a natural mosquito repellent. Sage, combined with lavender from the other pot, can mix with witch hazel and cider to make a homemade aftershave lotion.

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