By Cindy Naas
Even city gardeners with no gardens can grow wonderful fresh vegetables and flowers.
The trick is to collect an attractive assortment of pots and other containers. However, preparing your soil for use in pots is even more important to the success of your urban garden when using containers.
For the container gardener, getting the right mix of soil and amendments can be worth more than the elusive pot of gold- but luckily, also easier to find.
Plain Old Dirt?
The first impulse of someone new to container gardening is to spend a lot on an assortment of decorative pots and then go home, dig up some dirt and fill them.
Trust me, it doesn’t work, at least not well. There are several challenges to successful container gardening and all are directly related to soil type. First, containers dry out really rapidly. Soil amendments are needed to improve the water retention of the soil. Next, nutrients can become rapidly depleted in container soil, so the soil has to be rich and also as easily replenished as possible. Finally, and this is probably the biggest problem, container soil tends to become compacted and hard quite easily, and this will kill your plants.
Mix it up!
Containers are still a wonderful option for urban gardeners despite all of the problems. Learn to mix your own potting soil for container gardens and you can turn your balcony or stairs into the garden you’ve always dreamed of.
There are commercially available soilless potting soil mixes for containers. The soilless mixes are light enough that they don’t compact easily. While those are good for houseplants and even for growing pots full of colourful annual flowers, your veggies need something a little more nutritious.
Adding composted manure will add nutrients to the soil. Adding in a small amount of a good quality triple mix – usually black earth, compost and peat moss – will also give it an extra bit of nutrients in addition to boosting the water retention qualities of your soil. Here is the soil recipe I use in my own containers:
Soil mixture for container gardens
- 3 parts soilless potting soil
- 1 part composted cow manure
- 2 parts triple mix
Using this combination of soilless potting mixture and organic amendments will get your containers of veggies off to a great start – your tomatoes will thank you!