Vegetable Gardening 101: Pots, Plots and Spots


This article wasn’t a part of my original plan because it’s such a broad topic; but we chewed a pebble off a bolder when we talked about Soil so I will attempt to do the same here.

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to what you grow your plants in, everything from space to work with, physical ability, time or growing season just to name a few. Cold frames, low tunnels, high tunnels, greenhouses, raised bed, pots, vertical gardens and row gardens are all wonderful ways to grow

Cold frames tend to be structures low to the ground and usually made of more permanent materials, such as wood frames and glass tops. The are great for extending your growing season earlier in the spring, longer into the fall and in some locations through the winter. Plants are grown directly into the ground beneath. They work like a mini greenhouse; the sun heats the air and ground in the frame. These are great for cool weather crops such as broccoli, radishes, and beets.

Low tunnels are usually built low to the ground using a series of half hoops covered with a greenhouse grade plastic sheeting. The sheeting allows for the side to be tied up during warmer days for air flow, and watering, and can be put down for frost expected nights. Planting is done directly in the ground. These are also great for extending your growing season. In the north, they are great for growing peppers and other heat loving plants when the sheeting is left down through out the day.

High tunnels  have the same basic design and principal as the low tunnel with the difference being the height. Go figure, right. High tunnels are made tall enough for someone to walk in and tend the plants. Again the planting is done directly in the ground.

Greenhouses come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The basic concept of all are about the same. Plants are grown in containers or pots. (not always the case but generally).Greenhouse frames can be constructed from wood or metal (metal would be  more costly but much longer lasting with humid air). The side and roof have many options too, most popular are plastic sheeting, glass, Plexiglass or hard plastic sheeting. These too are great for extending the growing season. Depending on how well your greenhouse retains heat from the sun this could extend your growing well into cold temperatures.

Raised beds are beds or small garden plots that are framed usually by wood (railroad ties work well) or short stone walls. The frame can be lined on the bottom with a garden fabric that allows drainage and keeps weeds at bay. This is optional but if you do line it don’t forget to make sure it drains; you’re not building a pool here.  Then fill the frame to the top with good soil and or compost. Raised beds are a great way to conserve water because you will only be watering what you need. They are also great for those who hate weeding. I’m not saying you won’t have your fair share but done correctly there should be considerably less. I’ve had great luck with root vegetables in raised beds because the soil doesn’t get compacted nearly as much as in my traditional garden. I haven’t seen anything that doesn’t do well in here though.

Some people like to build their raised beds with a low tunnel over them. Another great growing option.

Pots and Containers are pretty self explanatory. A pot or container filled with potting soil (see “Soil” for the difference), then planted. These are great for anywhere! Windows, balconies, patios, even in the garden. With the wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes they add to the visual appeal.

Vertical Gardens another rather obvious title. These are garden the are grown vertically, whether its a pallet stood on it’s side and plants growing out between the boards, a tower of pots or all climbing plants. The space the occupy is up.

Traditional or Row Gardens these are the classic plants in the ground vegetables traditionally in neat rows and flowers amongst each other in beds about the yard. Maybe fenced or lined with field rock or maybe just soil to grass. Things were planted in rows because they were easy to tend as everything was quite accessible but also easy to cultivate using animals (horses, cows). The orderly rows are still a classic but now that most are not using animals we are seeing more and more “plots” in these traditional gardens; a square of green beans, a rectangle of spinach and patches of flowers throughout.

This is just a very basic explanation of the most popular garden types. All have more variations and can be used together in any combination. Feel free to get creative and make the most of your growing season!

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