Today, we are going to explore growing one crop rows in containers. Let’s say you want to grow fresh vegetables, but you don’t think you have the space for a proper backyard garden. Did you know that patio or balcony, even a window sill or doorstep, can provide sufficient space for a productive container garden which requires just a little more attention to detail than other, more traditional gardens? The best container crops are those that allow best use of the limited space available. This includes many herbs, carrots, radishes and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a period of time such as tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers. Dwarf or miniature varieties of many crops are available.
Here’s what you will need to begin:
- garden gloves
- water source
- seeds and or plants
- potting container
Containers can be made of a variety of materials, with the most common being clay, wood, plastic, or metal. Most importantly, they should be the proper size and provide good drainage, while providing a balance between supplying adequate soil volume, and easy transportability in cases of inclement weather and winter storage. The depth of the container depth is important, because most plants need at least 6 to 8 inches of soil for proper rooting. Remember that in container gardens, plants have only a small amount of soil available for root growth, meaning limited water and nutrient availability. Finally, be certain the container has sufficient holes to obtain a proper irrigation flow.
Begin with filling the container with mulch to within about 6 to 8 inches of the rim. Then add just enough water to moisten, and add soil to about 2 inches below the rim. The best soil media for container gardens contain combinations of peat moss, perlite, and sand, or may include wood chips or bark. Native garden soil alone does not make good potting soil for containers because it does not provide adequate drainage or air exchange.
Next, mix and knead the soil with your mulch to a depth of about 3 to 4 inches into the mulch base, being sure to evenly spread out the soil media, and then moisten. Most manufacturers add major plant nutrients to mixes they sell, but may not add trace elements that are necessary for good plant growth. This problem can be solved by adding compost at a ratio of about 25% by volume.
After the container is prepared, figure your plant placement chart, and if you are adding fertilizer create a trough to a depth of about 2 to 4 inches. Remember to use fertilizer according to size of the container. There is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” Once fertilizer is in in the created trough, pour extra soil on top of fertilizer and build a mound in the center of your container so that water will drain off and not pool up.
When placing your starter plants, make hole according to size of plant, accommodating the root ball and assuring loose soil to a depth of about an inch below the bottom of the roots. You may need to gently break up tightly clustered soil containing the roots prior to placing the plant in the hole. Use the access soil dug away to create the hole to cover the plant roots, then gently water at the base of the plant.
Position the containers where plants will receive sun during the majority of daylight hours. If this is not possible, choose crops that can withstand some shade. Generally leaf crops can tolerate some shade, while vegetables grown for their roots or fruits need a minimum of 8 to 10 hours of full, direct sunlight each day. Water only when the plants and soil indicate a need. Check containers at least once a day to determine if the soil is damp (but not sopping wet) below a depth of about one inch and water if the soil feels dry. We at Organic Gurl’z Gardens of Fort Wayne, Indiana recommend that you purchase a moisture meter so that you are aware when it is time to water.
If plants are grown for longer than 8-10 weeks, add water-soluble fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks. This can be dry fertilizer, well-aged manure, or compost at the recommended rate provided for your plant type. Remember to inspect your plants periodically for the presence of harmful insects, or the occurrence of diseases, and then treat as needed. Before you know it, you will be enjoying delicious, nutritious home grown fruits, vegetables, berries and/or herbs.
“Let The Muddy, Messy Girl Build Your Garden Today”
The Organic Gurl’z Gardens
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