The Edible Deck Garden
Even though it’s already July, it’s not too late to plant an edible garden on your deck. If you don’t like in a detached home, you still have space to grow some delicious foods in your townhouse deck or condo balcony. It all depends on conditions – hours of sunlight, soil, and water and depth of containers.
You can plant either from seeds or seedlings, and depending on the veg you can be harvesting all the way into October. You can get a head start if you plant what’s already started from the nursery and these you should be able to harvest through the rest of the summer.
The variety of edibles is endless: Beets and turnips provide greens (steamed with lemon and oil) and roots that store well into winter. Carrots, too, can be planted now for a September harvest. Radishes, though, are a favourite summer veg, a spicy addition to any salad, and they grow quickly, between 30 and 50 days.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale seeds can be sown directly into soil now for harvest in September and October.
Lettuce, arugula and spinach can be planted through July, grows quickly and can be cut over and over – just snip off the outer leaves for a continuous summer harvest.
Summer squash is usually ready to harvest after about 45 days, when it’s 5-7 inches long. As they grow, pinch the tips off so they branch out, and keep them watered but not soaked.
If you’re starting now with tomatoes, invest in larger plants, and keep the side and tops pinched to encourage fruit. Feed once a week, and water each morning during hot spells.
Try succession planting: as soon as one crop is over, clean it out from the bed or container, nourish the soil with half an inch layer of compost, and plant fresh seeds or seedlings. If you’re using seeds, plan ahead and order before you need to plant. When planting, choose a cloudy day, or at least plant late in the day when the sun isn’t as strong. If it’s very hot, provide shade for the little crops – row cover or shade cloth on top of hoops will protect them. Water consistently, and mulch with straw or shredded leaves to retain moisture.
How to grow: many edibles do really well in containers, especially because you can move them around for optimum sun and shade. Choose a container large enough to hold the full-grown plant – salad greens and herbs don’t need a lot of space but tomatoes and peppers do.
Use good quality potting soil not garden soil which is too dense and won’t allow proper water drainage of aeration. You need to nourish the soil with a slow-release fertilizer, or give the pots a weekly dose of organic food, but make sure to follow the instructions because each food is different. You also need to water more often.
When it comes to planting, you can either mass one type of green or a mix of them – lettuces and mesclun only need a pot about six inches deep, and other greens like chicory, spinach and radicchio only need about 8-inches deep. Peppers need a container at least 8-inches and preferably 12 inches, and about 18-nches in diameter – they won’t grow as big as in the garden, but they’re just as good tasting.
As for tomatoes, match tomato size to container size, and preferably a little larger. Small cherry tomatoes need a pot – or hanging basket – a foot deep and wider – and the bigger plants can use the largest container possible. You will likely need to stake the largest tomato plants.
Summer squash needs a larger pot, at least 18 inches in diameter for each plant. Get the bush variety – as opposed to one that vines unless you intend to use a trellis.
Growing your own food is a very rewarding experience that every Canadian should try! Dunpar’s townhomes offer decks and plenty of natural light to grow edible gardens.