GREEN MADE EASY: McCain hosts talk on urban gardening

Published 10:24 pm Friday, April 29, 2016

For those who live in the city but still hope to have the fresh farm to table food that’s become increasingly desirable, there’s hope through urban gardening.

Extension agent Anna McCain gave a presentation on subject Friday for the final installment of Earth Day presentations done in partnership between Martin’s at Midtown and the MSU Extension Office.

“A lot of times people tend to put in gardens that are bigger than what they really need,” McCain said. “Something like a 10’ by 10’ area should provide a family with the vegetables they need, depending on what they choose and how they arrange them.”

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When working with confined spaces like a patio garden or a small plot of land, an important factor is when and where the sun will hit the area, McCain said.

“You can really maximize the space you have by doing things vertically or encouraging cucumbers or squash to grow up the side of a fence,” she said. “You always want to do anything that’s going to be tall like that on the north side so it doesn’t create shadows on anything down in the bed. I think that’s a great thing for patio gardens.”

As for what to plant in limited spaces, McCain suggested vegetables such as Asian greens and lettuce for the fall.

“They’re renewable,” she said. “You can harvest and keep harvesting from them several times.”

On the other hand, vegetables like squash and other plants that grow out on a vine may be less desirable, McCain said.

“You can put them in a small pot, but they’re going to run,” she said. “If you’re OK with that, I don’t think there’s really any limitation to what you can do.”

Many plants are being modified and sold specifically for container gardens, while some are simply a natural fit, McCain said.

“Radishes are really easy, and I think that would be a great thing to grow in a container,” she said. “It takes 27 days from the time you put a radish seed in the ground until you have a radish.”

McCain said herbs, including rosemary, basil, cilantro, thyme and oregano, are great for this area.

“Herbs are great in our region because they like to be hot and dry,” she said. “They don’t want to be babied a lot, they just want to be left along.”

As for what to plant your vegetables in, McCain said you don’t actually want soil.

“It’s often marketed at potting soil, but it actually doesn’t have any soil in it at all,” she said. “It is peat-based. The peat-based mix helps to retain water.”

Keeping plants watered is important, especially in Mississippi’s climate, McCain said.

“When you don’t have a lot of soil there in the first place, it’s going to dry out quickly,” she said. “In the summer, you’ll need to water it at least once a day. That’s one of the realities of living here.”

Thankfully, there are solutions to help gardeners who travel or who just may be forgetful or lazy.

“With container gardening, you’re limiting where the roots can move and get water,” McCain said. “They have a lot of really great technology now like timers that are really user-friendly and easy to use. They utilize the water very well and only use what you need.”

McCain said another solution to water woes is the lechuza pot.

“They basically have a reservoir in the bottom, and based on how much water the plant needs, it will take it up from the bottom,” she said. “You can kind of stockpile down in there and just add water back to the reservoir as you need it.”

Those interested can also check YouTube for tutorials on how to make a lechuza pot, also often marketed as tomato buckets.

“You don’t have to limit yourself because of space,” she said. “There’s so many ways to grow vegetables. I’ve seen them in rain gutters and all sorts of other things.”

McCain suggested visiting for additional ideas on how to make urban gardening work for you.

For more information on urban gardening, contact the MSU Warren County Extension Service at 601-636-5442 or visit the office at 1100-C Grove St.