By Cindy Naas
Growing veggies in a container garden is a fun way to bring fresh produce to your table even if you live in the middle of a big city.
Thanks to Urban Garden Casual, you’ve got the secret recipe for mixing perfect container soil.
Here are some tips to make sure that your garden is everything you want it to be.
There are so many pretty pots to choose from when you go to your local nursery or home improvement store. But, are all pots created equal? Well, it depends. In container gardening, size really is one of the most important considerations.
If you want to grow lettuce or radishes, these have a relatively small root system, and so a smaller pot can work. Tomatoes, though, need a lot of room to grow and therefore a large pot or container is a must. You can even grow melons, squash and pumpkins on containers as long as you have the room for big containers and can build a trellis for the vines to climb.
Plastic pots are less expensive, and some ceramic pots are more attractive. I have several of each, and there is no difference in terms of plant health or crop yield, so choose whatever you like. By arranging some smaller pots filled with flowers and fresh herbs around a grouping of large pots containing your vegetables, you will have an attractive garden no matter which containers you choose.
Because vegetables have a short growing season, they place high demands on the soil they grow in. Even in a garden bed it’s important to fertilize during growing. It’s even more important to add fertilizers to containers since the plant roots can’t grow down deep into more fertile soil. However, since the pot is a completely closed system it’s also very important to use fertilizer which is gentle to the plant.
In my own garden I only use organic fertilizers, both for the health of the plant and for the health of my family. There are a lot of simple options for the urban gardener. Many of the large home improvement stores have eco-friendly sections where organic fertilizers and pesticides are sold. There are kelp-based fertilizers which are excellent. Many organic gardeners swear by a concoction called ‘manure tea’, made by dissolving composted manure in water and keeping it near the garden.
I’m not a fan- one or two really hot days and the smell of that is, well, it’s not my cup of tea. My very favourite fertilizer is one I order online, and it’s a combination of a blue-green algae harvested in Oregon, combined with a rich volcanic ash. It’s called ‘Planet Food’ and is sold by the Simplexity company. I was given some of this several years ago and after seeing the results have never used anything else since.
Water, Water Everywhere
The one unbreakable rule in container gardening is: water every day. During the hottest days, there will be days when you need to water twice a day. Some gardeners set up an automatic drip system so that the soil never dries out. I enjoy going outside and spending time watering my garden, so I’ve never used one of those. The best times to water are early in the morning- before 10 – and in the evening after the hottest part of the day is over.
Watering midday is a waste of time and water, since so much of the water will simply evaporate before soaking into the soil. If you have room for a rain barrel, using rainwater on containers will be wonderful for your plants. However, it’s absolutely essential that you never allow your pots to dry out, otherwise you will reduce your crop yield or even lose your plants entirely.
Arranging your containers into groups of pots not only looks great, it actually creates a more humid micro climate in the area around the pots. If you water them all at the same time, water dripping off the plants growing in the center will continue to water the pots on the outside edge for a short while after you finish.
If you build trellises to go with some of your pots, the trellis plus any growing vines will also slow the evaporation in pots nearby, so grow your pots of veggies close to each other. As long as there is room for air to circulate between the pots- they shouldn’t touch – you’ll do your plants a big favour by letting them cuddle up next to each other.
Buying pots which are roomy enough, feeding your plants with care and watering them often will ensure that your garden is a spectacular success.