Monday, June 27, 2016

Urban container gardening


     As the plants in containers on my small apartment patio start to grow, make me realize why I'm so glad that I took the time to plant this past spring.  Now that it is officially summer these seeds will really advance due to the longer and warmer (hopefully) days ahead.
 

  

   If you are thinking that I planted them in the cool wet soil of spring, then guess again.  I have planted them in containers such as window boxes, grow bags, upside down revolutionary planters and even just ordinary Terra Cotta pots that I had on hand. Each of these containers either have ample holes for drainage or gravel in the bottom as a prevention of moisture build up. Well drained soil and containers are especially essential for optimal plant growth and health.








   The past few weeks have showed me great success with what I wanted to experiment with, besides isn't this part of the fun in why we garden? I feel that I am very fortunate to have a deck just outside my patio door even though it is small and on the third floor of a three story apartment complex. It just grows to show that even in small spaces any type of gardening can be successful, even vegetable gardening.

     After being raised on a farm and later to garden on my own property over the past number of years, is it no wonder that I still feel like trying this type of gardening as it is still in my blood to use these skills. A gardener can still get adequate enjoyment and reap the benefits of the final results no matter where you live. Growing plants in pots can seem like it won't work but it does with the right ingredients and combinations.
  



   I started planting these containers in mid May and next year I will likely plant some of my vegetables such as leaf lettuce , spinach and radish even earlier. These crops as you may know love the cool weather and it really doesn't matter where they are growing.  As you can see displayed in these pictures of my own deck that it is possible. To learn more detailed gardening tips with each individual vegetable or flower variety, you can refer to our Vesey's Seeds online growing guide.







    
    My apartment deck, as I mentioned is on the third floor of a 35 unit complex.  My container gardens and I are fortunate to enjoy the morning sun. My plants will receive what we consider full sun which is at least 6 hours.  For plants such as peppers and tomatoes that really love to soak up the warm rays will benefit from even more sun that lasts from at least 8 hours. From time to time, I do find I have to rotate the planters, especially if it is a cloudy day. The plants will stretch out to reach the light but once I rotate them they will straighten up again.

                                                                                                           


                                                   
       In order to have my plants grow successfully, I invested in a good quality topsoil that is best for container gardening.  I do recommend to use potting soil and not a starter mix or a type that is used for flowers or house plants.  For vegetables to grow successful I mention the need to use topsoil because it has an ideal and more suitable holding capability for providing the plants with the right amount of nutrition. Plants that are in pots drain faster then plants that are directly planted in the ground. As an added benefit, when preparing your pots for planting, you can mix your topsoil with a good quality compost such as sheep manure. Veggies especially love this and it will provide them with a well deserved reserve during the growing season. If you feel that it is necessary to fertilize your planters during the growing season then you can do this as well.  Since they are edible plants, I would recommend to use an organic type of fertilizer such as a fish emulsion type or sea weed fertilizer. 


Application rates for any of these products are found on the label and many can be used on other plants also. Once you have applied the right amount of fertilizer with recommendations of every week to 10 days as well as finding your plants are growing well, you can reduce the amount of fertilizing. Refrain from fertilizing to much as large amounts of fertility can build up in containers resulting in lush,dark green and thick foliage but with little to no flowers or fruit. As mentioned, following a regular fertilizing regime and knowing which plants need more then others can be established early on.
     Along with providing light and fertility to these containers, it is equally just as important to be sure that your containers are receiving the right amount of moisture as well. Too much moisture is just as damaging, if not more, then under watering. In many instances over watering mimics signs of under watering but can be easy to diagnose. If your plant is showing signs and symptoms of wilt and later toppling over but soil is wet, usually is a sign of too much water. Other signs for both over-watering and under-watering are; brown tips on leaves, leaf yellowing and edema(stems swell from taking up too much water and can burst, split or get blisters). This can also be an issue for flower containers.  As you can see with the example of the Geranium plants below: the one on the right received too much water but the one on the left received the right amount of moisture and looks much healthier.

   
    The best way to know that your plants are receiving the right amount of moisture or even the right amount of drainage is very simple. Just stick your finger into the soil about an inch and if it feels wet then there is no need to water. Often times, and I'm guilty of this, we see the surface as being dry and feel the need to water.  You can continue to check on each plant in the early days of plant growth until you develop a regular watering routine once every few days when temperatures aren't extreme.  A deep watering every few days is better then a light shallow watering every day. When I refer to deep watering, I'm not saying to drown the plant but give a generous amount. Having a saucer or tray below the pots can be beneficial to catch any excess leakage, just be sure to empty this tray as standing water can create root rot if left too long.  Deep watering encourages a nice deep, healthy root which results in healthy and strong tops. If the tops are healthy, then that is a sign that roots, blooms and fruits will be too. You will be rewarded with beautiful blooms all season long in your flower pots or a plentiful harvest if growing veggies in containers. 
     As I mentioned, growing flowers or veggies in containers can be very successful as well as  possibly provide you with an earlier harvest. The versatility of being able to move them around is beneficial as well.  My personal favourite container for planting vegetables in are the grow bags.


These grow bags provide just the right amount of air circulation as well as drainage.  I have grown many different types of vegetables in these bags and have even found they were versatile for growing flowers as well as small shrubs. The thick and sturdy handles are also convenient for transferring these containers to a different area if you choose to.
     As you can see, the love of gardening can be done anywhere, all you have to do is use your imagination and have the confidence that it can be easily done! You can sit back in your cozy, comfy spot that you created and watch everything grow.


Happy Planting and relaxing!

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