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Container Gardening 101: Organic Gardening for the Apartment Dweller
Apartment life makes growing your own vegetables more difficult, but not impossible. If you’ve got a small patio or room for some window boxes, you can still grow a remarkable range of veggies, edible flowers and herbs in containers, especially when you focus on the easiest vegetables to grow. Once you decide which plants to use, you can even do so organically.
Before You Start
Like any garden plot, container gardening requires some preparation and planning. The direction your patio and windows face, for instance, determines how much sunlight your containers receive, in turn limiting which types of plants you grow. Lettuce and many herbs only need two or three hours of direct sun a day, while tomatoes need full sun.
Not all veggies grow well in containers. Your best choices are herbs, which provide plenty of flavors while requiring very little space. Lettuce and spinach both do well in containers, as you can just snip off the amount you need and let the plants regrow. Hardy edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, often do well in apartment gardens.
Root vegetables, which require more space and dirt, are less compatible with container gardening. You could, however, include baby carrots and small radishes in your container garden.
Choosing Your Containers
Possible plant containers include plastic, ceramic and clay pots. Plastic containers lack the aesthetic appeal of clay or ceramic, but they’re cheap, lightweight and come in a wide range of sizes. Plastic also holds moisture better than clay or ceramic pots — an important consideration as container gardening requires a strict watering schedule.
Some people recycle wooden containers for patio gardening, adding a layer of newspaper to the bottom to prevent soil from escaping and lining the inside of the container with plastic. No matter which container type you choose, pick slightly larger containers than the plants need to grow. Giving roots opportunity to spread out results in healthier plants than if roots are compressed within the container.
Lettuce and herbs do well in relatively shallow containers with large surface areas. Choose containers that allow about four inches of soil. If you plant two pots, you can snip what you need off one container, and then harvest the second while the first recovers. Keep soil moist.
Tomatoes need deeper pots. Many people use deep buckets filled with a mix of potting soil and compost. Unlike lettuce, which needs continuously moist soil, let tomato containers dry between watering.
Choose or make an organic potting soil for container gardening. Potting soil allows for proper drainage while allowing air into the soil. Chose soil with no added nutrients or fertilizer: this allows you to customize soil mixes for each plant’s specific needs with specific plant food that meets your requirements.