Amy Witt, a Portland-based master gardener with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension has seen a marked increase in recent years in people interested in gardening and growing their own food — whether it’s tilling a small plot, growing in containers, or even raising backyard chickens.
“People want to know their food source and what’s on it,” said Witt. “The interest in local foods has helped. People like the idea of being able to grow it themselves, and to see the whole process.”
There are a few things those interested in container gardening or working within a confined space must remember.
“One of the biggest things is that people really have to have proper drainage for their containers,” said Witt. “They can dry out very quickly, especially if it’s clay or terra cotta, so you’ve got to make sure they get enough. But, you don’t want them to get too much either, which is why drainage is important.”
For those growing only flowers, removing dead flowers from the plants is an important part of making sure you have blooms all summer.
“In terms of flowers, people hesitate to deadhead things,” Witt said. “It promotes more bloom if you’re doing containers, however. It’s also good to put in a slow-release fertilizer, so you don’t overfertilize.”
Aside from proper watering and fertilizing and maintaining the basic health of the plant, a good amount of sun is key.
“Any garden needs full sun for six to eight hours,” said Witt. “The good thing about containers is that you can move them, so if one spot doesn’t get full sun all day, you can take it to another that does.”
For those who want to plant on their front or side lawns and live in an urban area, Witt recommends getting your soil tested.
“You always want to do a soil test in an urban environment to check on lead levels,” said Witt. “You can put a barrier down or make a raised bed if it’s very poor. Compost is important, as well.”
Limitations on gardening in a confined urban space are only dependent upon how creative you want to get.
“You can do a lot in a small space,” said Witt. “People get so creative with what they do.”