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    Aug 9th, 2011

    Turn Your Patio Into A Voluminous Vegetable Garden

    By Jill Homer

    My first apartment was a second-story condo in an urban complex, far displaced from the groomed suburban landscapes and sprawling gardens I had grown up with. My only connection to the outdoors was a small porch, surrounded by brown siding and a fading carpet of artificial turf.

    To add a little color to the patio, I adopted a few small tomato plants from a friend who had started his garden indoors, and planted them in large pots near my railing. To my surprise, they started to grow. Soon I had filled the 5′ x 10′ space with more than a dozen ceramic pots, plastic containers, and beach pails filled with peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and pole beans. Before I knew it, my porch was a curtain of green and my meals regularly featured home-grown vegetables.

    patio vegetable gardenWell-planned patio gardens allow gardeners to make the most of a small space while maintaining a degree of control not available to those who plant in the ground. If a plant is not getting enough sun, it can be moved. If it is not draining properly, more holes can be added. Healthy plants prevent pests, and some, such as slugs, are not even a factor. Watering is more efficient, because it must be done by hand, making a patio garden ideal in a drought situation. And at the end of the year, even inexperienced gardeners can enjoy a bounty of vegetables thanks to the built-in advantages of garden containers, which include regular drainage and nutrient-rich soil.

    Herbs also make great container plants, as they survive in generally drier conditions. Pots offer the opportunity of bringing herbs inside when the weather gets colder. However, many herbs are fast-growing, so it’s best replant the container each spring.

    Starting a patio garden is not difficult. Here are a few tips:

    1. Start with 4″ plants, which can be found at most nurseries. With a little creativity, just about any vegetable can be planted in an above-ground container, however, the most common seem to be tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, beans, and spinach

    2. The size of a plant can vary depending on the variety of seedling used. Make sure containers are large enough to accommodate a full-sized plant. Most tomatoes will need at least an 18″ square container. Peppers, however, are perfectly happy in smaller pots.

    3. Cover the holes at the bottom of the container with small rocks to improve the soil drainage.

    4. Part-fill the container with compost. A slow-release fertilizer can be added at this stage to distribute nutrients as the compost dries out. Fill the remaining space with a nutrient-rich planting soil.

    5. Water the plants and let them drain. Take them out of their pots and arrange in the container, packing in tightly. Fill in any gaps and firm all the plants in place. Keep the soil below the rim of the pot for easier watering.

    6. Water the container well and move it to its final position. Arrange plants according to their needs. Tomatoes prefer a south-facing porch with full sun, while spinach and lettuce are happier near the house in partial shade. Make sure the place where you want to plant gets at least six hours of direct sun every day.

    7. Trellises, cages or poles will be needed for tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and other vines. Patio gardeners can also take advantage of permanent features, such as fences and railings, to support their plants.

    8. Containers need to be watered at least once a day in summer. They also require regular fertilization. A fertilizer dilutor can be clipped on to the hose to feed plants as you water.

    With just a little time and imagination, any drab patio can become home to lush green vines, red peppers, juicy tomatoes, and succulent cucumbers. Why not start today?

    About The Author

    Jill Homer is a freelance writer who is happy to provide articles for your home and gardening needs. For more information, contact her at jill@biketoshine.com

    Posted in Living Outdoors | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Oct 15th, 2009

    Container Gardening

    Container GardeningWhether you have a large garden or a small one container gardening should be included in your planning. City dwellers have been container gardening for centuries. Indoors or outdoors you can grow beautiful arrangements that will make your proud.

    When choosing your arrangement try to pick plants that require the same maintenance and light. If you travel frequently pick a container that is self-watering. Some soils also help with infrequent watering.

    If your space is very small try choosing one type of plant and have a collection. A collection of African Violets in a kitchen window is very cheerful.

    For your terrace you can go with larger containers of small trees or ferns. Grouping pots that are different heights make an interesting space. Also think of using old things that were not meant to be pots as containers. The possibilities are endless. Mix pot styles for a more eclectic look. You can create privacy using plants.

    Posted in Living Outdoors | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Oct 15th, 2009

    Tomato Growing

    growing-container-tomatoesOne of my earliest memories of home-grown tomatoes was from my Italian grandmother’s garden in the heart of Philadelphia. She grew tomatoes in large containers since backyards in the city are paved. Her tomatoes were in good company with her herb garden and her magnificent roses.

    So whether you have a large garden on just a terrace you can grow tomatoes. In a relatively small space you can produce 8 to 10 pounds of tomatoes. Select soil that is slightly acid and purchase a fertilizer that is recommended for tomatoes.

    Planting
    Choose a stake or a cage to support your plants. Plant your staked tomatoes 2 feet apart in rows and an additional foot for caged plants. If your planting in a container I recommend Tomato Growing Kit from Gardeners.com.

    Staked plants should be pruned and tied loosely with soft twine. Once your plants are set, mulch to prevent weeds.

    Keep the soil moist around the roots so the tomatoes won’t wilt.

    Posted in Living Outdoors | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Oct 14th, 2009

    How to Stay Warm When Entertaining Outdoors

    If you love to entertain outdoors even in cooler weather, setting up proper outdoor heating is the key to enjoying your backyard to the utmost. When the cooler time of year rolls around and temperatures plummet, this is often a great excuse to enjoy an outdoor fire and spend time with friends and family trying to stay warm and toasty.

    There is more than one way to heat an outdoor space. The simplest option is to purchase a wood and pellet burning fire pit – the most elaborate solution involves installing a large outdoor fireplace that runs off gas. In the end, the type of outdoor heating you select will be determined by what you need, your budget and by the look you want for your patio or backyard garden.

    Fire Pits

    If you don’t spend a lot of time in your backyard, it may be easier and less expensive to purchase a fire pit. Fire pits are also great if you have limited space on your patio. If you’re going for a simple rustic theme in your backyard, a fire pit is the perfect way to top off the whole look. Plus,
    fire pits are entirely portable so you can move them around your patio or garden to wherever heat is needed.

    Outdoor Fireplaces

    If you are looking for a more elegant and sophisticated look and want to entertain a large amount of family and friends, an outdoor fireplace may be the perfect solution for you. And because
    outdoor fireplaces are often fueled by gas, it’s very easy to get a fire going.

    Outdoor fireplaces do have some disadvantages however. They can be expensive. You can only install it in one spot, and don’t have the option of moving it at a later date. You also have to plan ahead and make sure the fireplace integrates well into your dÈcor and meets local government requirements.

    Chimineas

    Chimineas are another option to consider. They are a great way to add a unique look to your backyard and keep you warm. They are beautiful works of art that provide heating for a large area.

    Chimineas have actually been around for hundreds of years. They are large clay structures with a hole in one side for providing heat. Basically, a
    chiminea is a simple or rustic fireplace made out of clay. Traditionally, they were used for heating the home and preparing meals, but today they have been adapted to modern life and make great space heaters for outdoor use.

    In the past chimineas were made out of a single piece of fired clay, but today they are constructed out of more than one type of material. You can still find them in clay if that is what you’re looking for, however they’re also available in cast iron and cast aluminum.

    Patio Heaters

    Patio heaters are a popular choice for outdoor heating. They are reasonably priced and are portable so can be moved around the patio or garden as required. They come in free standing or table top. Ensure that you determine the area you wish to heat prior to purchasing a patio heater. The more heat required, the more powerful the patio heater needs to be. Also ensure that the patio heater is fairly stable and has an anti-tilt shut-off device.
    Finding the right space heater for your backyard patio or garden doesnít have to be difficult. Do your research and you should be able to find something that works well for you and your family, at a price you can afford.


    Visit Outdoor-heating-guide.com – A consumer guide to outdoor heating including safety tips for outdoor fireplaces, firepits, infrared patio heaters, tabletop patio heaters, chimineas and gas outdoor heaters.

    Posted in Living Outdoors | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan