You can grow vegetables without a garden

2014-08-15 00:00

THERE is absolutely no need to feel despondent about growing your own veggies if you don’t own a garden as many will do just as well in containers if you follow these practical tips.

• Use a good container planting mix

Any commercial potting mix will compromise mostly organic matter, which will help it hold more air and water, plus it is lighter so won’t put so much pressure on your balcony or the post you are using. The stuff you find in a vacant lot will definitely not be adequate. Clay soil will also not provide enough air spaces and sandy soil will not hold enough water.

• Be sure the containers you use are deep enough for the crops you plan to grow. Too shallow a pot will stunt the plants and this is particularly important when you will be eating the fruits your plant bears. Given adequate depth, often the best containers for salad crops like lettuce or carrots are wider than tall, so you can have more plants, while tomatoes, peppers or herbs are often grown one in a pot. Yogurt tubs are just high enough for strawberries.

• Plan ahead. So for ease of watering, make sure your pots and trays are near a water source. Plants in containers need water more often than ones in the ground. You could perhaps use a watering hose attached to an indoor sink.

• Provide drainage holes in containers. This is really important for plants in pots. The best thing to do is to drill holes in the pots and then to put the containers up on small wooden blocks or bricks in trays. I have heard mixed reports about putting stones at the bottom of containers that don’t have holes, but bigger pieces of broken clays pots do definitely provide better drainage in a pot that does not have holes.

• Place containers where they will get adequate sunlight. Those raised for their roots will tolerate partial shade, as will leafy vegetables. Crops grown for their fruits commonly require at least five hours of full, direct sunlight every day, but perform better with eight to 10 hours. The root vegetables can stand more shade than those which bear fruit.

• Avoid spots that are too windy. Roofs may get plenty of sun, but a sea breeze will be stronger at roof level.

• Know your fertiliser. Purchased potting mix comes with some fertiliser already in it, but vegetables have high fertility needs and will use it up rather quickly. If you have a worm bin, you can dig in one to two-and-a-half centimetres of worm compost before you plant, or use a purchased organic or slow-release fertiliser as the package directs. If plants are growing slowly, or lack good leaf colour, chances are that they lack water rather than fertility, but if you are watering regularly and they still aren’t thriving, water weekly with a liquid fertiliser such as fish emulsion, diluted according to package directions.

The easiest way to add fertiliser to plants raising in containers is by preparing a nutrient solution and pouring it over the soil mix. If you use an organic fertiliser at planting time, supplement it with weekly applications of fish emulsion or apply dry organic fertiliser according to directions. — Health24.

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