This book is a manual for vegetable gardening from containers. Smith, an experienced vegetable gardener, noted that many would-be gardeners lack access to garden plots, or find tending such plots difficult because of physical challenges. Gardening in containers would make it possible for these people to grow some of their own food, but yields have been notoriously low for container-grown vegetables. Smith and his wife Silvia embarked on a project several years ago to see if they could develop improved growing methods that would produce produce of acceptable quality and quantity in containers. What they found through their experimentation is that virtually all garden vegetables can be grown very successfully in containers, and that some actually do better in containers than in traditional earth gardens. In this book, they describe in detail how to grow vegetables and herbs in containers, noting which crops and varieties are the best choices for container growing. The book is a joy to browse through, with its numerous high-quality color photographs, many of which were taken by Silvia Smith.
Smith notes that the key to good vegetable yields is an ample and continuous supply of water. In traditional pots, this is hard to achieve, since the pots must be checked and watered several times a day during peak seasons. A further problem is that many of the nutrients are washed out of the soil each time the pot is watered. This led Smith to the new generation of "self-watering pots," which consist of a container for holding soil and roots, suspended over a large water reservoir, with a significant air gap in between, as well as a means for water to be wicked into the soil from the reservoir. Smith found that when vegetables are grown in such self-watering pots, they can go for days, or even a week without watering, yet the soil never goes dry, nor loses nutrients through watering. He found that many garden vegetables thrive in such pots (although he notes that a few herbs do better in traditional pots).
In addition to describing types of pots for bountiful vegetable gardening, Smith provides very useful information about soil mixtures to use in the pots. He enumerates garden pests that may be encountered and ways to overcome them. Throughout the book, he stresses organic methods and sustainable garden practices. A very useful section of the book is the alphabetical guide to garden vegetables, in which he takes up each common garden vegetable in turn and provides specific tips for growing the vegetable in a container, noting any varieties that are better for container-growing than others.
I first heard about Smith's container garden efforts when I saw his container-grown artichoke with a giant blue Judges' Choice ribbon at the Tunbridge Fair. That incredible display got me intrigued with the idea of trying to grow some vegetables in pots myself. As Smith notes in the book, certain heat-loving vegetables such as eggplants and artichokes are practically impossible to bring to maturity here in northern Vermont, but they can actually produce significant yields when grown in self-watering containers. Although I do most of my gardening in a large earth garden, I'm looking forward to using Smith's methods to grow eggplants in containers this summer. With some luck, I may finally be able to enjoy some homegrown eggplants, despite our cool Vermont climate.
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