Home Living Home & Garden No room for a garden? Local expert gives tips on patio planting

No room for a garden? Local expert gives tips on patio planting

There’s nothing like eating the fresh veggies and herbs that you tenderly cared for and grew in your own garden, but for some homeowners, a lack of space makes constructing a garden out of the question.

Robin Simmen, community horticulture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, said that shouldn’t stop them from growing food in their own backyards. Instead, she suggested that they use their backyard patio as a canvas for a garden.

“There are so many benefits to gardening,” said Simmen. “There is of course, exercise, but also a connection with food — especially for kids so they can learn where it comes from and about nutrition.”

Another reason to plant your own garden, no matter how small, is the knowledge of where your food comes from. What better way to ensure that pesticides haven’t tainted your fresh tomatoes or peppers than growing them yourself?

But at the top of Simmen’s list on why to dig into the soil and plant a garden is the health benefit.

“There have been a lot of studies that show that gardening reduces blood pressure and is good for breathing,” said Simmen.

To start a small patio garden, Simmen recommends purchasing a variety of colorful pots in difference sizes, especially some deeper ones for your tomatoes, as well as seeds or pre-started patio plants that are available at local nurseries.

“Tomatoes are great to grow in pots and there are a number hybrid cherry tomatoes varieties available that are perfect for patio gardens,” said Simmen.

Keep in mind: tomatoes need deep pots and will also need to be staked.

Aside from tomatoes on your patio, Simmen suggested planting veggies that flower and feature beautiful colors to make your patio garden aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

For example, she said peppers are very beautiful, as are eggplants and cucumbers — all of which need to be staked like tomatoes.

And for the kids, be sure, she said to plant beans of any variety since they are very easy to grow.

“Think vertical for a patio garden,” said Simmen.

Aside from veggies, Simmen said herbs are also perfect for a patio garden.

“Herbs are fabulous to put in pots and containers,” said Simmen, who recommended planting everything from basil to oregano, parsley, thyme and sage.

To keep your patio producing food, even in the winter, Simmen also suggested planting both kale and cabbage.

“Kale is very beautiful to grow and overwinters well. Cabbage is the same and it will give you a big burst of a flower come spring,” said Simmon, adding, “It is wonderful to see the cycle of these greens that you can live on throughout the winter.”

Once your garden is planted, Simmon said you will need to care for it by watering it daily. She recommends using a hose or a watering can to thoroughly water your veggies and herbs between midnight and before noon, but the optimal time, she said is around 5:30 a.m.

Courtney Blasl
Courtney is a freelance photographer, videographer, web designer and writer. She is a lifelong Riverhead resident.