Container gardens let you grow food in a small space


Growing your own food doesn’t require a big yard. Container gardening is a way for you to make the most out of limited outdoor space and grow vegetables and herbs that are found in most kitchens.

Gary Pilarchik of Glenelg, Maryland, runs a YouTube channel called “The Rusted Garden” (, which has more than 500,000 subscribers. “I personally think it’s really important that you learn some skills to be more self-sufficient,” he said.

He adds that many people don’t know how their favorite foods are grown. For example, “a lot of people don’t know that radishes come out of the ground, not on vines,” Pilarchik said.

Container gardening starts with picking a pot that’s the right size, he said. “A common mistake people make is that they have too small of a pot for a mature-size plant,” he said.

If you want to grow one cherry tomato plant or a green bean plant, a five gallon pot is big enough. However, if you want to grow two of the tomato plants, a 10 gallon pot is necessary.

The type of pot is important, too. A pot made of fabric material will drain water on its own. “Basically [plants] need oxygen,” Pilarchik explains. “You don’t want wherever you’re planting to fill up with water — that can damage the plant roots.” If you get a non-fabric pot, ask an adult to drill or puncture a couple of small holes on the side or bottom for drainage.

You can buy seeds to plant. Or you can buy a “transplant,” which involves getting a tomato plant, for example, that has already grown two inches and planting it in your container.

For soil, any type of mix named “container” or “potting” can be used.

Pilarchik recommends watering most plants several times a week. “Because if they dry out just once, it damages the root system,” he said. If you touch the soil and you don’t feel moisture on your finger, it’s time to water the plant.

Plants also need nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus to grow. Once every two weeks, Pilarchik recommends mixing in a water-soluble (meaning it can dissolve in water) fertilizer with the water you’re going to give your plants.

And you shouldn’t forget about sunlight. Plants “need eight hours of sun. And that’s full sun — directly coming down on and contacting,” Pilarchik said.

Place your plant where you think it will get the best direct sunlight. That could be the steps by your front door or on a balcony.

An organization called Cultivate the City in Northeast Washington offers support for new gardeners through its rooftop garden center, H Street Farms. Cultivate the City founder Niraj Ray said the organization wants to help city residents grow plants.

“We’re always just thinking about what are the different things that we’re growing and how can we make that more accessible and more understandable to more people, so they can grow better,” Ray said.

H Street Farms has weekly classes that kids can attend. There is also a monthly class on container gardening.

Ray said gardening is about becoming self-sufficient. “We grow up in a very consumerist cultttfkdokgfsdokdoskure where we’re taught we need to buy everything,” he said. “I think growing plants and growing food is a really easy way to create something of value out of absolutely nothing.”

What: Indoor and Container Gardening 101

Where: H Street Farms
at 910 Bladensburg Road
in Northeast Washington

How much: $10 per person (additional $10 to take home a plant)

For ages: All ages; kids need adult supervision

For information: Visit the H Street Farms website to purchase tickets:

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