Many city dwellers would be familiar with this sentiment due to lack of experience in gardening, shortage of space for starting a garden, or simply because of not enough time or money for making such a major effort. Well, there is good news for you out there! Micro-gardening is the answer to your dreams.
What is micro-gardening? Maggie Heeger, a micro-gardening enthusiast from Alabama, defines it as “growing your own plants-food or flowers-in containers rather than in a plot of ground”. It is as simple as that! You can make your micro-garden as big or small as you wish with no major investments and no exhausting time commitments.
Micro-Gardening.com, offers three easy steps for getting started:
1- Making or finding the right containers
Containers should be able to hold enough (1) growing mixture and (2) water for the plants and should have (3) good drainage. You can use barrels, baskets, concrete urns, crocks and glazed ceramic pots, plastic pots, sacks, tires, tubs, wheel barrows, wire baskets, wooden boxes (caution-susceptible to rot). The size of the container must meet the requirements of the veggies you intend to plant.
Generally, containers for vegetables need to be between 15 and 120 qt. capacity (15 qt. = 866 cubic inches or a 12″x 12″x 6″ high container; 120 qt. = 6930 cubic inches or a 24″x 24″x 12″ high or 20″x 20″x 18″ high container).
2- Preparing Growing Mixture
The happiness, health, and successful growth of your veggies will greatly depend on planting them into a good growing mixture. “Soils for containers need to have three key elements. They must be well drained, have good aeration (pore spaces for air), and retain enough water to maintain good growth”.
The easiest way to go is to buy ready-made container mixes. A wide variety of selections are available in the market; however, the ones to look out for are those referred to as ‘soilless’ mixes or synthetic soils, as they are “best suited for vegetable container gardening”. Note, however, that the soilless mixes require you to make some extra effort on watering and fertilizing your veggies.
If you wish to have a mixture that does have a part of soil in it, then “mix together one part good garden soil, one part peat moss, and one part perlite or coarse builders sand” (Soil Mixes). This 1:1:1 combination is more forgiving regarding watering and fertilizing.
Now, it is time to get down to planting. As you fill your containers with the growing mixture, make sure to leave about one inch from the top for the needs of water. Also, just before planting your veggies, wet the growing mixture thoroughly.
3- Choosing Vegetables
It might be surprising to find out that just about any vegetable is suitable for growing in a container. The ideal ones are those with a quick maturing period. Some suitable ones are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, leaf lettuce, green onions, green beans, radishes, parsley, and cucumbers.
Before selecting the place for bigger size fixed containers, you should note that most vegetables would need quite a long stretch of sunlight-at least 6 hours per day. If you intend to plant tomatoes or cucumbers, you should count on up to 8 hours of required sunlight. In this case, a good idea would be smaller and more mobile containers, which you would be able to move along with the sun during the day. On the other hand, root crops, such as beets and carrots, are easier to please-they will do well with only 4 to 5 hours of sunlight. Cabbage, lettuce, and other leafy vegetables are the most modest in their requirements-they can tolerate the most shade.
- Avoid containers with narrow openings.
- Adequate drainage holes should be ½ inch.
- Cover the drainage holes with chards (broken pot pieces), screen material, or 2 to 4 layers of newspaper to keep the plant material from seeping out but still allow adequate drainage.
- Set containers on bricks or blocks to allow free drainage.
- Light-colored containers lessen heat absorption in hot climates and discourage uneven root growth.
- Keep baskets away from the afternoon sun.
- Metal or thin plastic containers may allow the sun to heat up the plant mixture. If you use these consider putting or setting something around the pot to block direct sunlight”
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