Urban Gardening Concept – Living in an urban environment or having just a patio or deck doesn’t mean you can’t be a gardener. Container gardens can give you the same sense of accomplishment and your vine ripe tomatoes will taste just as good as those from a backyard plot. Urban gardening requires planning and organization in a way backyard gardening does not. But that is part of the fun.
First, watch the space where your containers will go over several months. How much sun does the area get? Which way does the sun move?
If there’s plenty of consistent sun you’re in good shape. If the sunlight is spotty or shifts dramatically during the day take this into consideration. You may want to put your containers on wheels so they can be moved easily. Or plan to grow leafy vegetables like lettuces and herbs rather than sun lovers like tomatoes and peppers.
Are there natural or architectural features you can use? Is there a wall that will serve as a wind block? Can it be trellised for beans and vines? All these factors will help determine what and how much you want to plant.
A container garden is something of a miniature eco-system. Problems that might be spread out over a hundred square feet in a small backyard plot can be magnified when focused on just a few plants in close quarters. Soil quality is especially important. Synthetic soils are a good alternative when growing in pots. They are disease and weed free. Synthetic soils also offer excellent drainage. Organic soils can become waterlogged and drown the roots.
Whether you go with organic or synthetic soil remember that your plants will need plenty of nourishment. With such a small amount of soil, nutrients will be depleted quickly in a container environment.
The easiest way to fertilize plants in containers is by preparing a nutrient solution that is used to water the plants. There are many good commercial fertilizer mixes available to make nutrient solutions. If you use one of these simply follow the directions on the label. You can also create your own nutrient solution by dissolving 2 cups of a complete fertilizer such as 10-20-10, 12-24-23 or 8-16-8 in 1 gallon of tap water. This is now your base solution. From this you can create a nutrient solution by adding 2 tablespoons of the base solution to 1 gallon of water.
Plants should be watered with the nutrient solution about once a day. While frequency of watering will vary slightly from one crop to the next, once a day is a good starting point. In particular, watch vegetables with a lot of foliage growth, they may require twice daily watering. Once a week use plain tap water instead of the nutrient solution. This will prevent mineral build ups in the soil.
Many vegetable plants adapt very nicely to container growing. Leafy vegetables like lettuces, cauliflower and broccoli will do very well. Upright plants such as beans, peppers and tomatoes are also good candidates. Radishes, onions and other root vegetables are very happy in a deep container. Avoid plants with running vines. They will be difficult to manage and are better suited to wide open growing spaces. Keep the trip to the pumpkin patch on the calendar. Container grown herbs offer savory leaves all year long. Move them inside when the weather gets cold and enjoy fresh herbs all winter. Each of these vegetables has a unique root system, which will require a well suited container.
Containers should be chosen for utility first, appearance second. Know what you want to grow before choosing the containers. Good drainage and a wide opening are key to allowing roots access to oxygen. Containers sizes should be proportionate to the plants in them. Plants with shallow root systems need a shallow pot while deeper roots systems will require more soil to explore. A variety of sizes, shapes and materials will give added visual interest to your urban garden.
Harvesting your crops and sharing them is just one of the benefits of container gardening. By adding plants to your urban landscape there is a renewed connection to the earth. Growing offers the same satisfaction to all gardeners, regardless of locale, crop or container.