My wife and I are going to plant all our vegetables and herbs in planters on a back patio—the only place on our property with full sun. It’s also the windiest spot throughout the year. Are windy conditions bad for plants in containers, and if so, what should I do?
Having grown up on the wind-buffeted high plains of Kansas, I can tell you that it’s quite possible to grow vegetables in windy locations. In fact, good air circulation helps to discourage many fungal diseases. If it’s windy enough to tip pots over, just be sure you’ve chosen hefty, broad-bottomed containers and added a good dose of sand to the potting medium for weight.
Depending on the strength of the wind, you may need to change the way you grow your vegetables. The trick is to encourage a ground-hugging profile so the wind skims over their tops. Instead of staking tomatoes vertically or using tomato cages, let the vines sprawl on a bed of straw, or train them on low trellises that angle away from prevailing winds. Choose bush beans instead of pole beans. Let cucumbers and melons sprawl horizontally instead of growing them up a trellis.
Plants tend to dry out faster when it’s windy, so keep an eye on soil moisture. An automated drip irrigation system is easy to construct and will save time in the long run.
If your patio is so windy that leaves are shredded, then consider adding a barrier or screen of some sort to buffer the wind. Picket or lattice fencing or a leafy hedge on the garden’s upwind side will help to diminish the wind’s force. —Doug Hall
How can I get the vegetable garden ready for planting when it won’t stop raining? This is a yearly dilemma for gardeners who live in climates where spring brings drenching rains. It’s best to stay out of the garden entirely when the soil is sodden; every footstep compresses the wet soil, squeezing shut the essential pore spaces. Digging in wet soil is worse yet—a guaranteed way to damage soil structure. I limit my early-spring planting to the raised beds, which I can reach while standing in the wood-chipped path.
Because my garden spot has been devoted to vegetables for more than a decade, the soil is rich and porous; no deep tilling is necessary. But this weekend, as I prepared to seed rows of leaf lettuce and spinach and plug in onions and broccoli transplants, I faced raised beds that were carpeted with a bright green ryegrass cover crop, planted last fall. Cover crops are usually turned under and left to decompose in place, but in this case I skimmed off strips of the ryegrass to make room for the transplants and seeds. I shook the loose soil off the roots and put the tops in the compost pile.
I did nothing more to the soil in the raised beds except to scratch shallow drills for my seeds into the surface. When soil is soggy, the less you work with it the better.
Mud season will pass. By the time I plant tomatoes and peppers in May, the soil will likely have dried enough for me to till under what remains of the cover crop. And I’ll bring out the hose to water in my transplants—something I definitely didn’t need to do on this rainy weekend. —Doug Hall