8 Great Tips for Urban Gardening
No backyard? No problem! Use these urban gardening tips to add greenery to even the smallest porch, patio or balcony.
1. Grow Your Plants in Containers
Even if you have a backyard, you might not have enough room for a garden. Growing plants in containers and hanging baskets is the perfect solution for any porch, patio or balcony that’s seriously strapped for space.
2. Give Your Plants Space
Use big enough containers that your plants will have plenty of room to grow. Ask your local nursery how much soil each plant will need. Although scientists have developed vegetables that don’t require as much growing space, some still need a lot of soil. For example, you would need at least a 19-litre container for a single tomato plant.
3. Stick To Potting Soil
Use potting soil in your containers rather than soil from the ground. Potting soil is lighter, drains better, and is sterilized to kill weed seeds and diseases that could hurt your plants.
4. Find the Right Fertilizer
Use a slow-release fertilizer in pellet form. Since you need to water container plants frequently, a regular fertilizer would tend to wash right out of the soil. But in pellet form, one application will release the plant food slowly and last for several months.
5. Don’t Drown Your Plants
Don’t over-water your plants. Make sure that you thoroughly soak the entire container each time you water, but pour away any extra water that fills the saucer underneath the container. Making the plant sit in water encourages root rot. Since the signs of rot include wilting, many people think that the plant needs more water, which does even more damage. If you’re not sure whether the wilting is from too much or too little water, gently pull the plant up out of the container. If the roots are brown and slimy, it’s root rot. Water it less.
On the other hand, exposed balconies in high-rises can get extremely hot and dry from sunlight reflected off other structures. Under these conditions, you may need to water your plants every day.
6. Pick Plastic Plant Pots
Use plastic plant pots rather than clay pots. Plants in plastic dry out less quickly because the pots aren’t porous like clay ones. Put 5 centimetres of an organic mulch on top of the soil in the container to reduce water evaporation from the soil.
7. Hang Smart
When you’re planning for hanging baskets, consider how you’re going to water them. Can you safely stand on a step stool and water with a watering can? Will you get tired of taking the basket down to water it frequently?
8. Add Water-Releasing Crystals
If you travel a lot and worry about the health of your plants while you’re away, a fast, affordable, and practical solution is to stock up on little crystals that soak up and then gradually release water. Specific brands include Water Crystals and WaterSmart Crystals, which are sold by garden centres. When you add water to these polymer granules, they absorb many times their weight in water. By mixing them in with the soil in your plants’ containers and then watering, the crystals soak up and then slowly release the water to keep your plants watered while you’re gone.
Be sure to follow directions on the label, because putting more crystals in a container is not necessarily better. Since they expand when wet, too many crystals can swell up and damage your plant or even push it out of the pot.