10 Commandments to pot a garden of Eden

Two experts give easy-to-follow tips for growing an organic garden in containers.

Published: 01st March 2017 04:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st March 2017 04:47 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Urban life leaves little space for gardens. This means, the green thumbs have to be extremely creative with their growing spaces and choices. 

Let us share with you ten pointers to make the most of space and recycled or re-purposed containers to create a beautiful garden to grow succulents and organic food. We’ll bet that you’ll find it a lot simpler than you imagined. 

You can grow in almost any container (almost). Selecting the right type of container to grow in is important, but most containers can be adapted easily with a little bit of creativity and effort. Almost any container that can withstand watering for a period of time is useful and we’ve used ones made from wood, plastic, metal, jute and much more. Avoid growing in containers like old tyres and poor plastics however as these can leach un-friendly compounds into the soil. 

Once you’ve picked a container, a few modifications and you’re ready to grow. 

The most important consideration with containers is to ensure that there are proper drainage holes. This is critical because overwatering is one of the most common causes of disease in plants. Make sure the holes are placed so that they won’t get obstructed when the pot is in place for growing. In containers of wood or metal is best to line them with UV stabilized plastic which extends their useful life too.

Reimagine terraces and balconies 

Usually we tend to view these as horizontal spaces, but there is loads of free vertical space to use. Growing containers can floor standing, wall hanging, ceiling mounted or mounted on a railing. Look for many fantastic and imaginative arrangements by kitchen gardeners across Bengaluru on the Facebook Organic Terrace Gardening (OTG) group. 

Preparing great organic soil that is nourishing for most herb and vegetable plants and even fruit trees is pretty simple. Take your existing soil (even if you think its poor) and modify it by adding coco soil or coco peat and compost. The soil, coco-soil and compost should be mixed in a 50:25:25 ratio for most vegetables and fruits.

This lets you have great organic soil for your garden in less than 10 mins of work. In the case of some popular Mediterranean herbs like Rosemary, Sage and Thyme the coco-soil may be replaced with construction sand, for faster drainage. The same mix is also suitable for cacti and other succulents. 

Picking the right things to grow for the season is important – While the cooler weather is very forgiving, it’s better to stick to safer choices to keep things easy. Leafy greens, gourds, beans continue to do well in the coming months but root vegetables and crucifers (like cabbage and cauliflower) will struggle. Lady’s Finger is another crop that can be very productive in this season.

Seeds can be germinated in paper or plastic cups. You’ll find it easy to manage small nurseries where you grow seedlings till they are ready for transplant. These cups can be filled with a seeding medium that is 50% vermi-compost and 50% coco soil. That eliminates the chance of confusion due to the sprouting of weed seeds. Remember not to bury seeds too deep and water very lightly to avoid damage. 

Transplant the vegetable seedlings into your growing container when they are 3-4 weeks old. This is when they have 4-5 real leaves and will establish nicely in the containers you had prepared with the organic soil. Water them deeply after they planted to avoid transplant shock. 

Caring for your young plants – Your plants are dependent on sun, soil, water and compost for their healthy growth. Make sure that they get adequate amounts of each, but not too much. Place them where sufficient light is available for what you’re planning to grow. (Fruiting veggies like full sun and veggies refer semi-shade.

Dealing with pests organically – To avoid pests, ensure that you don’t grow too much of one vegetable type and also use pest repellents like neem and cow urine. Each of these needs to be diluted to about 10% before it is used. Other mechanical pest management tools like sticky traps and pheromone lures are also useful.

Harvesting your produce – Fruiting vegetables will be ready for harvest in 8-10 weeks, but leafy vegetables are ready as early as 6 weeks from sowing. Make sure that you leave 4-5 leaves unharvested on leafy plants like spinach, so they can produce more leaves in coming weeks. Don’t just uproot them, use a few leaves from each plant and make sure you’ve grown several plants to meet your food needs.

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