Five Tips For An Edible Apartment Garden
A multi-herb garden in a single planter ( Mint, Lemon Balm, Thai Basil, Sweet Basil)
In a tropical climate, we are blessed with being able to grow a huge range of plants without having to worry about things like ‘zones’ and ‘frost’. If only we had more land to grow all the vegetables we want!
Well, fret not, because many of the plants that grow in the ground in a tropical garden will also grow well in containers. All things considered, you are far more likely to meet with success growing in containers as you have better control of the basics — growing conditions, nutrition and irrigation and even dealing with pests.
Here’s some of our top tips to get you started:
1. Choose the Right Container Getting started with a tropical container garden can sometimes seem a confusing process. What size pot should you get? How small is too small? Does size matter?
In short - yes, size does matter, especially if you are growing edible plants. A good rule of thumb for growing edible crops is to have a pot that is at least 25 cm deep, because this allows you to fill it with a nutrient rich veggie mix that gives your edible plants all the good food they need to get off to a healthy start. It will also allow water to drain through (very important with all that rain we get!), enabling the soil around the root ball to remain moist but not waterlogged. The lower level of soil at the bottom of the container will hold enough water so plants can draw them up as they need them. This allows you to have a bigger gap between watering, making it even more convenient for busy urban folks!
For crops with a short root system and for 'crawlers' like mint, a rectangular but narrow planter works; while fruiting crops and root crops would do better in a deep, round pot. Self watering pots are a great help, with a caveat: allow the soil to dry out before topping up the water reservoir. It will allow the perfect balance of oxygen and water, and will go a long way in preventing problems like root rot and fungus gnats. Allowing soil to dry out in between watering also encourages your precious crops to send out more roots as they ‘search’ for water , thus developing a healthy root structure.
2. Choose the Right Plants For the Right Places It is important to make sure that you grow the right plants in the right places. Designing a great container garden — just like designing any other garden, begins with an understanding of the conditions plants need, and the environment around you. When choosing the right plants for the right places, you need to consider a range of factors, including:
how much sunlight the area gets a day,
how exposed it is to the elements (direct sun, rain, wind),
what type of shade is available,
how windy the area gets
Observation is key to making the right choices.
You can then choose to grow plants that do well in the conditions you have OR alter the conditions to suit the plants you want to grow. For example:
Use grow lights or light- reflecting tape (including aluminium foil!) to increase sunlight in darker areas
Use a shade cloth to provide shade for areas directly exposed to the hot sun
Mulch the soil to keep the soil cool
Use shade cloth as a wind break to protect plants in overly windy conditions
3. Make the Most Of Your Space
Photo Source: Business Today
One of the main mistakes people make when first starting out with container growing is not taking the time to think about the overall design and layout of the space. Many simply start with a few plants in pots, and add on additional containers and plants in a piecemeal and untidy fashion. To make the most of your space, it is a good idea to create a plan from the outset. Think about which containers you will position, and where you will position them. And, of course, think about how you can use the space wisely to grow as much food, and as many other plants, as possible. Remember to consider the vertical space as well as the horizontal. Stacking containers, companion planting, layering plants, and using vertical garden structures are all strategies you can use to make the most of the space available.
4. Diversify Planting and Attract Wildlife When choosing plants and determining an overall design for your garden , diversity is key. Biodiversity, in both plants and in wildlife, boosts resilience and makes it far easier for you to manage your garden in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. For instance, companion planting tomatoes with basil works well because they share soil and space well, the taller tomato plants provide shade from the harsh afternoon sun for basil, and the basil scent can repel certain pests like thrips and white flies. It is also helpful to add flowers to your edible garden so you can attract beneficial insects that can help with pollination AND feed on the pest population.
5. Maintain Fertility Over Time Maintaining fertility is also key from the outset. Starting with a deep enough pot filled with a nutrient-rich potting mix is great to give your plants a good head start, but their nutritional needs will still need to be taken care as they continue growing. A bi-weekly dose of liquid seaweed extract helps them to develop strong roots, and feeds your plants with micro-nutrients that are essential to healthy growth. Topping up or ‘side dressing’ with compost and vermicompost is also beneficial, especially for heavy feeding crops like tomatoes. Be mindful not to fertilize too much or too often, and resist the urge to give plants more than they need because you want to keep them ‘well fed’. Over fertilizing alters plant tissues and makes them more susceptible to pests attacks!
You could also consider setting up an apartment friendly composting system — a worm bin that you can hide under the sink or just another deep pot that you set aside for garden trimmings. The smaller you can chop up the ‘green waste’, the faster it will turn into compost that you can feed back to your plants so nothing goes to waste!
We hope you the above tips are helpful for those living in sky-high apartment buildings,. Container gardens can be just as productive and easy to care for, so don’t let the lack of land deter you from growing an edible garden!
Get started with our Mighty Grower Beginner Kits, developed especially for urban growers, and absolutely no green thumbs needed!
Mighty Grower Kits come with 3 types of seeds, 100% biodegradable CocoCups, and organic potting mix so you have everything you need to get started!