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A Basketfull of Veggies
by Carla Allen
by Carla Allen

Greetings from Nova Scotia!

Carla Allen has been gardening for the past 25 years, co-owned a nursery in southwestern Nova Scotia for 16 years.

Carla has an extensive image library and nurtures a network of horticulture in the region. She was the first president of the Yarmouth Garden Club.

August 24, 2008

The versatility provided by containers for apartment dwelling gardeners like myself continues to amaze me. Last spring I wrote about growing tomatoes and squash in inexpensive plastic laundry baskets. This April I decided to copy what a friend did with hers last year.

I lined a woven basket with a large clear plastic bag, filled it with potting soil and sowed mesclun lettuce mix, Little Marvel peas, carrots and Early Wonder beets thickly across the surface. After watering this, I inserted a tomato plant support ring, pulled the bag up over and pulled the drawstring tight.

The contraption served as a small greenhouse and within eight days the soil was sprinkled with emerging lettuce. The peas are now three inches tall, beets are up and carrot leaves are identifiable. Although this little basketful of veggies may appear to be crowded, I’ll be starting to devour the mesclun very shortly and the beets soon after. The carrots and peas will have more room to grow. Container gardens can be planted more densely as they receive extra care with regard to fertilization (once weekly) and watering.

This compact garden is the perfect solution for those who have trouble using up store-bought salad greens at their peak of freshness.

Other vegetable varieties for planting in limited spaces include: Sweet ‘Little Finger’ carrots that grow slender and uniform and should be harvested young. ‘Tom Thumb’ lettuce is a miniature butterhead type of lettuce that produces perfect one-person sized heads. ‘Miniature Bell’ peppers produce loads of miniature green bell peppers on small plants that only reach 16" tall. They are excellent for salads, stir frys and hors d'oeuvres as the fruits measure just an inch and a half across.

‘Sweet Dumplings’ squash are a delightful teacup size, about 4” across. They have sweet, tender, orange flesh with green-striped ivory skin.

The ‘Fancy French Pickling’ cucumber has a dual purpose - it’s good for pickling when mature but is also very good for salads and eaten raw. If you favour eggplants in your garden there are ‘Bambino’ and ‘Ichiban’. It’s easy to incorporate beans in a mini-garden by going vertical. Plant ‘Blue Lake’ or ‘Kentucky Pole’, or even ‘Scarlet Runner’ to have the benefit of red blooms before the beans. You may even attract a hummingbird to your urban abode.

Cherry tomatoes have long been thought of as being great container plants and now there are a host of varieties to choose from, including the new ‘Sugary’, All America Selection winning, grape tomatoe. Clusters of sweet and delicious fruits are produced between 60-65 days from transplanting. If a bountiful harvest is your goal, plant the ‘Sweet Million’ cherry tomato. It’s early maturing and crack and disease resistant.

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