More and more people are opting to live in complexes especially in Johannesburg for various reasons; safety and affordability as the foremost. The allure of living in a concrete jungle also has its disadvantages like lack of space and gardens. The cost of food is rising at a rapid rate, never mind the chemicals (that no one can pronounce) that are injected in the food we consume on a daily basis. Many of us would love the opportunity to grow our own food but living in a complex presents the challenge of a lack of space. Enter container gardening. It is easy to set up, maintain and most importantly it takes up minimum space and the best news is you can grow just about anything in container gardens – within reason. Here are some tips to get you started on growing your own container garden:
Proper Planning is Key
Before you go on a shopping spree draw up a plan! For example; what type of flowers/vegetables you will grow. Some plants need more sun and if you don’t have enough sun, it could be a disaster mission. Likewise, if you intend to plant different plants/vegetables in one container, plan within the container. Ideally, you should start working from the inside out – the largest and tallest plants/vegetables should be placed in the middle with the smaller plants/vegetables placed closer to the outside edges. If you plant multiple vegetables in one container, ensure that you grow vegetables with similar growing conditions.
Choose the right Container
Cheap plastic containers may be more affordable and light weight, however they deteriorate much faster due to sun exposure. Terracotta pots are stronger and have a longer life span, but they dry out often and may require more watering. If you will be using a vintage container like a teapot, old bucket or small wheelbarrow, remember to drill drainage holes at the bottom. Where possible, buy large containers to lessen the amount of time spent watering.
Sterilize the Containers
Whatever you decide to use, make certain that all your containers are clean and sterilized before you plant. Particularly if you will be using second-hand containers that may have housed diseased plants. Scrub your pots with an environmentally friendly all-purpose cleaning detergent, thoroughly rinse them out and dry before your start planting.
Good Roots equal Good Foundation
To increase your chances of getting a good crop invest time in harvesting good roots. Plant in a soil-less mixture, using a combination of one half peat moss, a quarter of perlite and a quarter of verimiculite. Fertilze in two-week intermissions, check moisture of plant daily and ensure each container has a drainage hole.
In a perfect world one would simply shovel soil outside into the container, water and poof! In the real world however, containers need potting soil as the garden soil is often too heavy and contains too much clay which holds moisture thus drowning roots.
Feeding and Fertilizing
To get the best, biggest and healthiest crop, use fish emulsion for plants and for vegetables use manure tea (water extract from manure with soluble nutrients). This keeps the nutrient level at a very good level. Depending on what you planted, feed once a week or whenever you water your crop.
Water (and make it often)
If you have plants, you will need to water them more often than the rest of the garden especially during heat waves and dry climates – when such circumstances arise you may need to water on a daily basis. Do not drench your crops in water. Rather water often than watering too much and drowning your crops every now and again.
Rotating is imperative
Farmers rotate their crops to help keep soil healthy, likewise you need to rotate your crops to get the best nutrients from the soil.