This quick and inexpensive planter will have you enjoying your own efforts at container vegetable gardening in a month or less. Put it on your driveway or your deck, on a sturdy outdoor table (no-stoop gardening!), or just on the ground. Anywhere that gets at least five to six hours of full sun a day will do.
6 Strategies for Urban Vegetable Gardening
1 packet snap pea seeds
1 packet chard seeds (or 1 six-pack seedlings from a nursery)
1 packet radish seeds
1 64-quart bag organic potting mix; we like Organic Mechanics
1 bottle liquid organic plant food; try Terracycle's All Purpose Plant Food
1 20" x 26" mixing tub (dimensions are approximate)
I'm suggesting a mixing pan as a planter because it is inexpensive and provides lots of growing room for shallow-rooted plants like these. My local big-box home-improvement store sells 26-inch-x-20-inch-x-6 inch pans made from high-density polyethylene for less that $6 including tax, which will suit the purposes here. Those dimensions are rough; you might find one slightly bigger or smaller depending on what's available near you. If you'd prefer to go plastic-free, there are lots of different planters and pots to choose from. They're more expensive, but you can also buy ceramic, metal, and wooden planters to grow veggies in. Just look for one roughly the same size as the plastic version I've suggested.
1. Poke 1/4- to 1/2-inch holes every few inches around the bottom edges of the pan so excess water can drain. (If you put the holes in the flat bottom and then put the planter on a flat surface, it may not drain as well.)
2. Put your planter where you want it and then fill it with potting mix. Trust me, it is easier to carry the potting mix in its bag than in the planter. Putting it against a wall or railing will offer a bit of support for the pea vines.
3. Water until the potting mix is evenly moist. Top it off with a little more potting mix, adding enough so it comes to about 1/2-inch below the rim of the planter and making sure the soil surface is level.
4. Start your pea seeds about 2 inches from one of the long sides of your planter. Use your finger to poke a row of holes about 1 inch apart and 1 inch deep. Drop a single pea seed into each hole then stir the surface of potting mix with your fingers to fill in the holes.
Grow Vegetables Anywhere!
5. Plant your radish seeds along the three remaining sides. Count out about 12 radish seeds (that's about all I'm likely to want in a week) into your palm and poke one in about an inch away from each side, about every 6 inches or so. Repeat the radish seed planting once a week, placing the new seeds about 2 inches away from the radish seedlings already there.
6. Use your finger to draw two long parallel lines along the center of the planter, splitting it roughly into thirds. Plant two or three chard seeds about 1/2-inch deep, or three chard seedlings, at three separate points along one line. Then plant three more on the second line, staggered so that the seeds or seedlings won't be right next to those on the first line.
7. Water every two or three days to keep the soil evenly moist (in hot, dry weather you may need to water every day). Once a week, feed liquid organic fertilizer according to the label directions.
Time to pick!
o Radishes will be ready to harvest in as little as three weeks; they are ready when the roots are brightly colored and as big as you want them (use the seed package description as a guide for how big you can expect them to get, and harvest them at that size at the latest or they will get woody and send up a flower stalk). If you continue to plant more radish seeds every week, you will have radishes to harvest all spring, summer, and fall.
o In about three weeks you can gently pull out or snip off almost all the little chard seedlings, leaving just a single plant (the strongest or your favorite color) in each spot, and eat up the "thinnings" in a salad. A week or two later, you can start harvesting a few the outer leaves of the six remaining plants by gently bending them down and away from the plant so they separate from the stem, leaving the center of the plant and the roots intact. By harvesting only the outer leaves, your six plants will continue to feed you all summer and late into the fall.
o The pea plants will start to flower after about a month, and each flower will soon turn into a tiny pea pod. Let them fill out until the peas inside are the size of the peas you'd buy, and then gently snap the pods off the stem. Eat the entire thing, pod and all, immediately. They are good raw (my kids ate them right in the garden, and I often do, too) or gently cooked! After a while the peas will stop flowering. Pull the plants out after the last peas are picked, then plant more pea seeds in late summer for a fall harvest.
Peas: I like snap peas because you get to eat the plump peas pod and all. 'Sprint' is my favorite variety, as it bears fast (the label says 58 days), it is just 24 to 30 inches tall, so the vines need little or no support, and is resistant to common pea diseases. 'Cascadia' is also tasty and has short vines. Check the seed packet for height because some grow to 5 feet or more and will need trellising.
Chard: Ruby/red chards are really pretty and probably higher in antioxidants than white; 'Bright Lights' and 'Neon' offer a range, from white, pink, red, and yellow to orange, and you may find packets of single colors as well. Pick a color or colors you like the look of.
Radishes: My favorite small radish is 'Easter Egg,' an heirloom that includes reds, whites, and purples and everything in between and usually makes it to harvesting size in just 28 days. 'Cherry Belle' is a reliable round, red variety that often makes it in just 21 days.