April 27th, 2017
As you see spring blossoms everywhere around you? Are you feeling bitten by the gardening bug, but afraid you can’t cure it while you live in an apartment? We have the cure: start an apartment garden on your patio with these tips:
There’s no kidding a plant on whether it’s getting enough light. Any plant that says it needs full sun wants a solid six hours of sun every day. If your potential apartment garden has a northern exposure, or an overhang, or a solid patio wall that blocks the sun, you may need to consider shade-loving container plants. For guidance, this is a good list; use this one to choose the best plants for a sunny patio. To choose the best vegetables for a kitchen garden, use this list of the best container vegetables.
Almost any container will work as a plant pot as long as it’s large and has drainage. For your apartment garden to look its best, plants need to spread out their roots. If the roots are pinched in small pots, the plants will struggle. Most container plants don’t need more than about a foot of depth, though, so if your large containers are deeper than that, reduce the weight by using biodegradable packing peanuts to fill the bottoms, below the soil.
When you’re choosing plants, don’t get over-excited by splashy quantities of flowers or fruit. Instead, notice how solid the base stems are, and how green and thick the foliage is. Choose healthy plants and you’ll have plenty of flowers and fruit after the roots take hold.
Figure out what plants to buy by looking for different heights and habitats. You can reliably make a beautiful ornamental pot for your apartment garden by anchoring it with a single tall item, surrounding the tall item with plants that have a full, bushy habitat, and then adding trailing plants around the pot rim to overflow and spill over the edge. Plan on buying enough to pack the pots full. For fruiting plants, on the other hand, space them out so they have plenty of shoulder room—probably only one tomato plant per pot, for example.
Be sure you use potting soil rather than garden soil. The mix for potting soil is made to retain moisture longer than ordinary dirt, resist packing so it drains well, provide structure for growing roots, and provide a medium that makes nourishment easy for roots to absorb. Pour or scoop soil into the pots to a little shy of the top, without packing it down. As you get plants out of their nursery pots, pull the roots apart a bit to loosen them, then dig holes with your fingers and shove the plants in. Add potting soil around the stems to secure them in place and to fill the pot the rest of the way to the top.
Your babies will need water all summer, probably every day during warm weather. Water until you see water running out the drainage holes at the bottom. If you feed your plants with diluted liquid fertilizer every time you water (or even every week), your apartment garden will reward you with healthy growth and summer-long bloom. As flowers fade, pinch them off and you’ll encourage more flowers. You can cut back scraggly, leggy plants by about 1/3 at midsummer to encourage new growth, but don’t hesitate to pull out a poorly performing plant and replace it.
With a few high-impact containers and a little care, your apartment garden will give you a beautiful summer.