British Columbia

Attention apartment dwellers: here are the secrets of small-space gardening

Master gardener Brian Minter says living in small space shouldn't deter you from exercising your green thumb.

Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries galore

Master gardener Brian Minter says there's a wide variety of berries that do well when planted this time of year. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

The first day of spring is just around the corner, and master gardener Brian Minter says it's the perfect time of year to start growing small fruits.

Many people in Metro Vancouver reside in apartments or condos, and Minter says living in a small space shouldn't deter eager gardeners from exercising their green thumbs.

"There are some pretty exciting things coming up in some of the small fruits," said Minter during CBC's B.C. Almanac.

Minter said blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries all do well in small containers. Among the selection of seeds available this year, is the new polar berry blackberry.

White blackberries

"The newbie this year is the polar, it's the first-ever white blackberry," he said. It's rich in antioxidants and very vibrant in flavour, he said.

Minter also recommended the Perpetua blueberry, which he said flowers and produces early, and continues to produce fruit for quite a long time.

He said gardeners should purchase ever-bearing strains of fruit, which do well when the days are still short, as long as the temperature is mild. 

"It won't be long before you're actually able to enjoy fruit."

Minter also said asparagus is an excellent small container crop. He said there's a newer variety of white asparagus now available called "rhapsody" which he said would do quite well this time of year.

He said those living in colder regions of British Columbia should consider the haskap berry, also known as honeyberry or honeysuckle. He said work is being done around the world to cultivate the haskap and make it larger, more flavourful and hardier.

Sunlight is key

The key to growing berries in a small space, said Minter, is to have sunlight for the plant from the morning, into the early afternoon.

Also, make sure not to plant them in a container too small. Minter said the minimum circumference of a container should  be at least 46 centimetres.

The soil should also be high-quality, and a soil nutrient can go a long way, he said.

Minter said many of these seeds are available in garden stores around the Lower Mainland, and as long as they are planted within the next month, gardeners should expect a large yield.

"It's fun. The fact that you can plant many of them and get a lot of production the same year, to me is very important," he said.

"This really is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's out there."

With files from B.C. Almanac