Sustainable farming does not have to involve rows and rows of veggies. Or even a garden plot in the backyard.

It could be as compact as a patio pot with fixin's for a salad.

At the end of container gardener Marylee Pangman's Saturday class, students will plant and take home a 12-inch low pot full of greens, herbs and edible flowers such as pansies.

In the process, they will learn how to select soil, fertilizer and winter salad plants; when to water and feed the garden; and where to place it for best light and temperature exposures.

This carry-out, demonstration garden will regularly supply salads for two or three people until the greens die in warm spring weather, says Pangman.

"For our small patio homes and loft-style living with balconies, this is a way people can have their sustainable farming in a small area," she says.

Once students get the hang of the concept, they can fill bigger containers at home with other types of vegetables such as cherry tomatoes and bush cucumbers.

Some plants are hard to grow in pots mainly because they require a lot of space. These include corn and runner plants such as squash, Pangman says.

Growers should look for determinate tomatoes, which are smaller varieties, and newly developed container varieties of vegetables, including bush cucumbers.

Pangman hopes to demonstrate that containers can hold thriving veggie gardens.

"I think it's a revelation to people because people are so ingrained in gardening in the ground," she says.

There are plenty of benefits to growing vegetables in pots, she says. These include the ability to easily control soil conditions and water conservation through targeted irrigation.

Pots also reduce or eliminate the need to stoop or kneel to garden. Their portability allows gardeners to move them into the best conditions for changing seasons.

Between the movement to grow edible plants and the popularity of container gardening, more of these small farms will pop up, Pangman predicts.

"As growth of container gardening and edible gardening continues, they're going to merge," she says.

If You Go

Creating a Potted Salad Garden

• What: Class on planting vegetables and herbs in pots.

•When: 9-11 a.m. Saturday.

• Where: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

• Cost: $60, $50 for Gardens members.

• Register: or 326-9686, Ext. 19.

Theme gardens

A popular way to grow container gardens is to plant around a culinary theme.

Besides the salad garden, gardening educator Marylee Pangman likes the idea of a salsa garden. One container can grow tomato, chile, cilantro and chive or onion plants.

A check around the Internet also yielded these ideas:

• Pizza garden: parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, tomato.

• Marinara sauce garden: tomato, bell pepper, basil, parsley and oregano.

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba at