Vegetable growing does not have to be boring, stodgy and confined to neat parallel rows. Freed from the convention of a standard backyard garden, you can grow vegetables just about anywhere and any way that you can combine light, soil and seeds. Use your creativity to turn your vegetable gardening on its head, create a yard full of whimsically shaped living sculptures or grow your winter salad in a dark cupboard.
Upside-down hanging planters have become a recent market trend for tomatoes, and for good reason. Upside-down hanging planters take up less space, put the produce right at eye level for picking without stooping and can be hung from free-standing poles and moved to any sunny location. The Rutgers University Agricultural Experiment Station advises that tomato roots continue to grown downward, towards the ground, in these upside-down planters, so choose a tall transplant and plant it deeply in the planter so that its roots start way up near the top hanging area and can grow downward through the full measure of potting soil.
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, topiary is the art of making fantastic shapes from living plants. The Nebraska Extension recommends traditional vining topiary plants like English ivy or creeping fig. However, fast-growing vining vegetables can make an impressive seasonal garden topiary, in geometric, figurative or whimsical forms. Many gardeners already create dramatic teepees for their pole beans, but beans, peas, cucumbers and small melons can follow any wire or sturdy twine form. Create a green-bean forest or a front-lawn lake monster using flexible PVC pipe framing held in place with baling wire and twisted with jute twine to give the vines something to hang on to.
Salads in the Dark
Microgreens are the densely-planted sprouts of any number of vegetable crops, grown in a small amount of soil, then harvested by clipping off the stems at the soil level once the plants get their first set of true leaves for a year-round protein-rich salad. While microgreens can be grown under lights, using methods similar to any other seed-starting operations, Vermont microgreen purveyor The Daily Gardener recommends growing the greens in the dark for a week, then giving them just a short burst of light for a day or two to green them up before harvest. Starting the microgreen sprouts in the dark, in trays covered with damp newspaper, helps maintain moisture and compels the sprouts to stretch upwards faster as they look for the light. This method also saves space as the sprout trays can be started in a cupboard or even an empty dresser drawer, then rotated into one small windowsill space as the prior crop of greens is harvested for salad.