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Think inside the box, its okay

With all the options for small-space gardens, excitement may be hard to contain


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Jerry Anderson plants vegetables and flowers in almost anything he find.Shopping carts are still wheeling food around Forest Grove, but now they’re wheeling dirt, roots and Mycorrhizae, too.

The Mobile Gardens Project has come to town, transforming donated grocery carts into mobile gardens.

Johanna Wood, a Pacific University student and Dairy Creek Community Food Web intern, got the idea from the North Coast Food Web and ran with it.

“These carts supply a great deal of nutritious produce at a very low cost and show people that they can grow their own food,” Wood said.

Wood has put a creative spin on the possibilities of container gardening.

After talking with managers at local stores, she was directed to corporate headquarters where she was able to secure a few donations.

After lining the carts with landscape fabric, and filling them with soil and compost, these metal hulks are host to nature, ready for seeds and starts to blossom into fruits and vegetables.

The garden carts are ideal for people who want to grow their own food, but don’t have the space, Wood said. They can be easily moved to a water source and sunlight for those who have shifting shade or hidden hoses, or out of the sun when heat is severe or harsh weather.

Carts are also higher off the ground, reducing bending for those with limited mobility.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - This table top garden is ideal for those who have difficulty bending or need support. You can even share it with a friend or leave it with a trusted gardener.

If shopping carts are lacking in your yard, try a wagon or cart. Anything with wheels will work.

Jerry Anderson, of Forest Grove, has been gardening for decades. He teaches classes at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center and works at the Washington County Fairgrounds demonstration gardens as a member of the Tualatin Valley Garden Club and Master Gardener.

Anderson loves getting creative with containers.

Fabric bags, barrels, troughs, baskets, jugs, window boxes – they’re all homes for plants.

“It’s all about figuring out how to recycle and reuse without spending a lot of money,” Anderson said.

Never use wood that’s been treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol.

If you have a balcony, windowsill or doorstep, you have enough space to garden.

Anderson grows tomatoes and peppers in fabric bags. They help keep the roots compact and the plants smaller, he said. Also, when the season is over, dump the soil out and fold up the bag – no storing a bulky container or moving heavy pots.

Anderson grows everything from artichokes to sunflowers in container, but chooses varieties that will grow well restricted. He is especially fond of dwarf and miniature varieties.

This year, he’s going to try cabbage, baby bok choy, baby carrots and dwarf cucumbers. Gonzales cabbage only reaches four inches in diameter – perfect for those who want a taste of cabbage, but not pounds of it.

If you have enough sunlight, scatter radish seeds in a six to eight inch pot and cover with one-fourth of an inch of soil. Place a piece of plastic or glass over the pot to keep in heat while seeds germinate.

Anderson will also plant bib lettuce, which he crowds so it can’t get too big. Little Gem lettuce is also a good miniature choice. Rocky and Alibi cucumbers, and Carrot Mignon, bambino and Little Finger carrots and are miniature varieties small enough for patio gardens.

Eggplants can also grow well in containers and are a good option for those who want to try the vegetable out in smaller portions. Thompson & Morgan Seed Company offers a patio mix packet of eggplant seeds, claimed to be ideal for pots on the patio. The company’s Pot Black eggplant variety is also a good size for containers.

Rambling Red Stripe tomato are not only tasty, but eye catching.

Many herbs are great container growers. Parsley, catnip, mints, rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, lemon verbena, lemon grass and German chamomile are all great choices.

Wood said they’ll be planting four varieties of kale, purple broccoli, salad greens, chard, peas, and Detroit Red and Touchstone Golden Bulls Blood beets – all by Gales Meadow Farm -- in their carts.

There are many varieties suited to container growing not mentioned here. Pick up a seed catalog and peruse the options.

The possibilities for growing veggies in containers are endless, but like in all gardening, healthy plants start with healthy soil. Container soils require a little different set up and maintenance than sowing directly in the ground.

Digging up soil from the ground to fill a pot will not work very well -- it will be too heavy and soggy, Anderson said. Containers require a fairly light potting mix. To make your own mix, mix one-part peat moss, one-part garden loam, one-part clean and course builders sand, and the recommended amount of slow-release balanced fertilizer. Adding lime will increase the pH of the soil.

Anderson fills his pots and troughs with one-third compost, one-third potting soil, and one-third vermiculite or perlite. He refreshes the top half of the soil mixture annually.

Container soil dries out faster than outdoor soil, and small pots tend to dry out faster than bigger ones. Watering twice a day in the heat of the summer may be necessary. Water until it runs out of the drainage holes (drainage holes are important). Overwatering can cause plants to drown.

Add more water-soluble fertilizer eight to ten weeks after initial soil mixture, and apply every two to three weeks after that according to label directions. Over fertilizing can burn or kill plants.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Jerry Anderson uses recycled chimney parts with wire on the bottom to contain his mint plants.At the mobile gardens event on Monday, April 22, at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center, members of the Dairy Creek Community Food Web will help participants create their own mobile food garden in celebration of Earth Day.

Three carts will be available for purchase at $10 each. Members will go over design, soil care and varied plant needs.

Mobile garden carts project participants will partner with Market Sprout Kids club at this summer’s Forest Grove farmers market to provide activities for kids that inspire healthy eating. Kids can create customized artwork for the outside of their garden cart, and learn how to plant, care for and cook with vegetables.

Those who can’t attend the event can find instructions at http://dairycreekcommunityfoodweb.org to make their own.




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