A 5-step Guide to Organic Container Gardening for Beginners
If you search about what is an organic garden, you will come across several designs and styles for an outdoor setting. While they are appealing, you can easily say ‘No’ to all of them. Why? That’s perhaps because you do not have such a big space.
Most of times, this is an issue for those living in an apartment, condo, or in a small space and yet long for growing fresh organic stuff. These dwellers believe that there is no point in learning how to grow an organic garden, as they can never have it of their own.
However, the fact is that anyone can have an organic garden if there is enough light, food, and water available for the plants. Even a small living room has windows, a balcony, or a patio, where one can get good light and water.
This is where organic container gardening or apartment gardening is possible. It involves using small to big pots to grow almost any veggies, herbs, flowers, and even ornamentals.
Organic gardening in pots is useful when there is compromised soil or if you wish to get the liberty of moving your plants from one location to another. The biggest pro is that you skip ground digging, weeding, and soil amending tasks. You also get the benefits of minimum soil pH obstacles and protection from soil-borne pests.
Organic container gardening for beginners can get very creative as per the location such as porch, balcony, or a deck. The biggest draw is that it is easy to get started and anyone can master it! There is no perfect time to start. It is just now! This guide aims to get you started!
Step 1: Choose Location
The location for container gardening should have enough sunlight and exposure to it. At least, six hours of sunlight is required for plants in pots. So, stand at the promising location and feel the amount and intensity of light. Ensure that the location ensures full sunlight in afternoon.
You also need to consider the nearby wall or blacktop, if any, as it raises the ambient temperature. Unlike plants on the ground, plants in pots dry and wither more rapidly. So, you need to know whether the containers will be outdoors in the rain or in an enclosed porch.
Porches and patios are the expected sites but you can think of other locations. For example, a flower bed, a teacup, a flower vase, or a canning jar is also fine.
Step 2: Select Your Plants/Seeds
You can grow several edible plants in pots. Potted herbs are widely grown on a patio or in a sunny window. This is because herbs are small in size.
You can even grow fruits, which include apple, orange, fig, and pear but they need large pots or containers along with some effort. In winter, you need to bring them inside. The most widely grown fruit is strawberry in terra cotta pots with holes for water drainage.
If you wish to grow veggies, consider container- and patio-friendly options such as chard, arugula, spinach, lettuce, tomato, pepper, cucumber, peas, and zucchini. However, the last five veggies will need special containers and some trellis for climbing.
Consider buying organic, heirloom plants to avoid buying seeds or seedlings with pesticides and herbicides on them and gain the best taste. Heirloom species mean flowers, veggies, and fruits grown from seeds that our ancient ancestors have given.
These save seeds are highly disease resistant and delectable. Consider buying their seedlings from a local nursery or farmer’s market.
In short, consider your region’s climate and choose the plants or seedlings. Depending on the climate, a few plants will survive without much care, while some might need more effort.
Step 3: Choose Your Containers
A container can be a window box, traditional pot, or a hanging basket in a window sill. No matter which one you choose, it is really portable, affordable, and adjustable even in awkward places such as rooftops and fire escapes.
Containers also vary in terms of materials, each having its own pros and cons. You have plastic containers that are light and affordable but are not aesthetically appealing, terra cotta or clay with beautiful look but non-durable and more water requirement, and wood with protective ability.
You can even choose a stone or marble pot that is stunning and sturdy but are heavy enough to move and costly. The key here is to choose the right size that gives enough space to the plant roots, nutrients, and drainage holes to prevent water logging.
For choosing the right container, consider the container’s depth and the plant’s root system. For instance, lettuce grows well in normal pots but not carrots. Do also consider where the container will be placed. If putting in a sill or on a rooftop, you will need a lightweight pot.
For proper irrigation, self-watering cans are ideal.
Step 4: Go for Healthy Organic Soil Mix
You may not have high-quality organic soil for containers, which mean you need to build the soil bionetwork. You can build your own or choose certified organic soilless mixes. It is best to find healthy organic gardening soil with much compost in it. If you have compost or make it, consider adding 1/3 of it to the potting soil mix.
Step 5: Fertilize and Water
An organic fertilizer for container gardens is essential for good growth. You can choose a balanced NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) formula as 10-10-10 fertilizer, which you can mix in your watering can. For steady feeding and bloom, consider adding 1/10th of the recommended proportion whenever you water.
It is time to water when you feel dry after putting your finger an inch deep into the soil of the container. So, water it until the drops starts coming out of the pot from the bottom.
Planting Procedure: Fill the container with potting soil mix, water it and it will inhabit, add more mix and water it, keep an inch space at the pot’s top for easier watering later, gently take your plant and spray the roots with and organic fertilizers, and plant it such that its root ball top is in level with the top of the soil.
Consider adding some mulch, such as dry leaves and stones, to conserve moisture and retain coolness.
You can grow almost any plant in containers. However, it is recommended to start with easy-to-grow options and expand later from there. Happy organic container gardening!