Hi, Stella! Container gardening is a great way to produce a surprisingly bountiful amount of food, and the work involved is quite pleasurable. As to containers, you need materials that will not leach any toxic substances into the planting mix. Clay containers are probably best, but hard to find as recycled items. Food grade plastic, with the recycle codes (1) and (2), are good. I've been told that some restaurants and food packaging plants discard five gallon buckets, but I don't understand why they would since these could probably be reused. Avoid wooden containers that may have been made from creosoted lumber (whiskey half barrels are fine, but not cheap!). Metal containers are iffy in my opinion...most will rust quickly and whether they leach or not is the question.
As to plants, lots of choices. Much of the Pacific Northwest is zone 8 for hardiness, so most of the brassicas will do well now - broccoli, kale, cabbage among others. Carrots should be good, too. My personal favorite is Swiss chard. I like this best of all the cooked greens, and it is easy and durable to grow. It will tolerate both heat and cold, even below freezing for short periods, and is ornamental as well. I like to grow the variety "Bright Lights". The stalks will be a mixture of red, pink, white, yellow and orange, contrasting nicely with the deep green leaves.
Will your containers be placed where you can check them daily? Maintaining an even water supply, enough but not too much, is very important. You live in a wonderful place for gardening supplies and advice. One of the best is Nichols Garden Nursery in Cottage Grove, Oregon. (www.nicholsgardennursery.com).
I container garden on our front porch since we don't have usable garden space in our yard. My container of choice has been the five-gallon buckets that my sister gets for me from the fast-food restaurant that she works for (generally the buckets are thrown away when empty). I use a drill and drill 3 or 4 drainage holes about 1 inch from the bottom. The holes help the plants from becoming waterlogged. Good luck. (10/09/2004)
The polystyrene boxes that fruit and veggies come in are good. They are about 2' x 1.5' x 1'high and are easy to punch drainage holes in the bottom. In Australia you can pick them up free from supermarkets. They have good insulation properties as well and are nice and light to move - a container full of potting mix can get heavy. (10/09/2004)
By Jo Bodey
Stella, take a look at http://www.containerseeds.com. It's a small company just getting started, but you can read the monthly newsletters that have some really good ideas for containers.
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