Container Gardening Basics

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Container Gardening Basics

Staff Writer · Dec 29, 2009

Whether you are a seasoned apartment dweller with an itching green thumb, or a former homeowner craving the tomatoes you once grew in your own backyard, container gardening is for you. By creating a balcony garden, fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers can be delightfully yours — even in a small space.

Assessing Your Space for Gardening Opportunities

Before trotting off to the garden shop or local farm, you should spend time taking note of the sun and shade factor. Is your balcony immersed in total sunlight or shade throughout the day, or are there periods of both? Are there window boxes installed on your balcony or will you need to purchase stand-alone planting boxes? (If budget is a priority, a small table placed into a corner of your balcony will also do nicely to set your plants upon.) Will you be planting from seeds or using already started seedlings? If seeding is your choice, do not forget to pick up some potting soil and containers. Having that information in advance will save you time shopping, help narrow down your planting choices, as well as make your container gardening a more successful feat.

Container Gardening: Vegetable and Herb Varieties

The more popular container gardening vegetables i.e., cherry tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers, need direct sunlight throughout the day (or at the least 4-6 hours), so are not the best choice if your apartment balcony is surrounded by large shady trees that block out the sun a majority of the day. Most herbs have the same requirements — especially basil and oregano.

Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, field greens and spinach are able to grow in less sunlight, although may take longer to produce. Other vegetables that grow well without day long direct sunlight are green beans, peas, broccoli and radishes. Examples of herbs that do well in the shade are mint, lemongrass and even catnip!

Container Gardening:  Flowering Plants

No matter what growing conditions you have, there are large varieties of flowers to choose from for your balcony garden, and what it really boils down is a matter of personal taste. Spend time browsing around the nursery of your garden store, or local farm, to see what flowers catch your eye. Then it is simply a matter of reading the individual markers that clearly depict the sun and shade requirements, growth size and watering requirements. In areas of direct sunlight, Geraniums and Mums do very well. As for shade and partial shade, Impatiens are great — they are beautiful and easy to care of. All three of these varieties come in a nice array of colors as well.

Creative Containers

Flower pots, hanging planters and wood barrels are always great containers to use.  But, do not disregard containers that you may already have on hand, such as an old pan or colander, a chipped bowl, a large coffee mug or wicker baskets.  Its a creative way to save money and you’ll be contributing to the recycling effort as well.

A balcony garden is a wonderful seasonal extension to your apartment. It creates a relaxing atmosphere, starts up new conversation, and has nutritional benefits as well. Enjoy!

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