Container gardening

I live in an apartment building and in an area where it's not safe to grow food crops in the ground because it was a former garbage dump. So I do container gardening. I grow everything from seed. I'm in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada so am fairly northerly.

I started out indoors with one tomato plant in a 5 gallon pail purchased from Home Depot. As the following photo shows, I used stiff fence wire, also purchased from Home Depot, attached to the exterior of the pail and extending upward to support the plant as it grew.

I found that I had to keep moving it from room to room during the day in order to get the best sun, an east window in the morning and a south window during the remainder of the day. Since it was indoors I started it in the middle of winter. This worked well since sun was low in the sky and shone in at a shallow angle covering the plant well. But once the high summer sun arrived and the plant got taller, only the bottom of the plant was in direct sunlight due to the steep downward angle with which the sun came through the window.

As tomatoes ripen they give off ethylene, which is supposedly odorless. At the same time they also give off something that has an odor. Once this started happening a lot I decided to move the plant outdoors since I strive to keep my indoor air pure.

But I immediately ran into a problem. The local squirrels loved digging in the soil in the containers. So I had to come up with some form of cage.

The following photos show my cage solution.

The cages are just mesh, often called chicken wire, with various hole sizes bought from Home Depot over the years. They are entirely effective at keeping out the local varmints. As the following photo shows, I use short pieces of electrical wire to hold the pieces of the cage together. The photo on the right shows that you can be fairly creative with how the cage works, in this case with a top that swings open.

Over the years my crop size got more ambitious so I started using a cage with a wooden frame. The photo below on the right shows that the door is an entire side of mesh that is held in closed with the usual short pieces of electrical wire. Top open it, I simply untwist the wire and swing the door open and around the side out of the way. I hold it open against the side with another piece of electrical wire.

I started with a simple frame of scrap wood screwed together.

As the following photo shows, the heavy weight of the containers sitting on the crosspieces of the frame hold it firmly down in case of high winds. The photo on the right shows that I underestimated how big a cage I'd need so I simply used short pieces of electrical wire to tie more pieces of mesh to the side of the initial cage to create a second cage.

The last thing to point out about this cage, as the following photo shows, is that the mesh provides handy places to tie strings to in order to hold up my tomato plants. Notice also that this is all taking place at the end of our apartment building parking lot. Who says you can't grow food in the big city.

Example foods grown using container gardening

Here's how I grew some broccoli using this container gardening technique.
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