Weekend Project: Patio Container Gardening

A few weeks ago Elyse, Development Director at Mobile Baykeeper, shared the story of how she got started composting. Today she invites us into her backyard again to share her “container garden” farm. Make sure to read our post about windowsill gardening too!

My husband affectionately refers to my collection of pots on our deck as “the farm.”  I started “the farm” as a way to help my two grandsons understand that fruits and vegetables have to be cared for and do not just appear in the grocery store.  I wasn’t ambitious enough to want to care for a real garden plot so I started my farm in a variety of buckets, pots and containers.

I have had the most luck with tomatoes, potatoes, corn, green beans, Rainbow kale, lettuce, strawberries, Myer Lemon, and various herbs.

I have attempted several times to grow cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash and have finally given up.  Every year I will have beautiful blossoms and then some insect bores into the stem and everything dies.  Last year I planted all three in a large upside-down tomato planter, and I had a little better luck with my cucumbers. I still only got a few zucchini before the boring critter destroyed the plants, and didn’t get any yellow squash.  That is one group of vegetables that I will purchase locally.

The most fun have been the potatoes.  In fact, as you read this, I should be uncovering my Yukon Golds.  It will be fun to see how many I have this time around.  I was lucky enough to receive a potato grow bag but potatoes can be grown in black heavy-duty leaf bags or the bag that your growing mix (potting soil) came in as long as it has plenty of drainage slits.

Home-Grown Potato, in Potato Grow Bag

The Potato Grow Bag, from Gardener’s Supply, has made growing potatoes very easy.  Place the bag in a sunny spot where it will get 6 or more hours of sun each day.  Roll the sides down so the container is about 8” deep; fill with 4” of good potting soil; place 5 seed potatoes on soil and cover with 3” of soil.  Seed potatoes should be about the size of a lime and can be cut in half if very large.

When the potato foliage has grown to about 8”, unroll the turned over edge of the bag and add about 4 more inches of soil.  It is OK if some of the foliage is covered.  Repeat process until bag is full.

The joy of using the porous Grow Bag is that it is hard to over water.  The soil should be moist but not soggy and in the hottest part of the summer, you may need to water everyday.

Through last summer I watered, watched for beetles, and did nothing else.  I am glad I was warned that toward the end of the growing cycle that the foliage would wilt, turn yellow, and look terrible.  At this point, stop watering, wait another two weeks and then dig out your potatoes!!!  You can dump out the dirt and find your potatoes but watching my two grandboys dig for them is more fun.

Do you have the urge to become a container gardener? If so, I hope you’ll join me! The experience has been so fun, rewarding, and delicious.

Check out these resources to learn more and get started:

Little House in the Suburbs: Guide to Alternative Gardening

How to Plant an Outdoor Potter Herb Garden

Container Gardening For Food

Let us know in comments what’s growing on your patio! Make a difference!



Check out the potatoes Elyse unearthed! The one next to the glove is the biggest one she has ever grown. The smallest one is about the size of her thumb. Congratulations, Elyse!

Yukon Gold Potato Harvest