Hi again! Maryann here, from WW Massachusetts, and I’d like to chat a bit about organic container gardening. Not everyone has a yard to plant a garden in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own fresh veggies and herbs. I live in a townhouse condo, so I’m not allowed to plant anything in the “common area,” aka my backyard, but that certainly doesn’t stop me from gardening!
What types of plants you can grow in containers depends on how much space you have to work with and how much sun that space receives on a daily basis. If your space is small and doesn’t receive a great deal of sun (like my deck ) you can still grow most herbs and greens, such as lettuce, Swiss chard and kale. Three to four hours of sun is plenty for those types of plants. I do my annual herbs in window boxes on the deck railing. These would be basil, cilantro and parsley (a biennial – it grows back once). You could put thyme in there as well; depending on where you live it might come back. Mine usually doesn’t.
I like to start with a good organic potting soil, such as Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I amend it with beneficial mycorrhizal fungi, such as Plant Success. This helps boost the root zone by fighting off bad fungi and thus strengthening the plant. I grow my chives and rosemary (can’t live without rosemary) in separate larger pots (3 gallon-ish). Chives are perennial – they grow back every year. Rosemary is more like a slow-growing shrub. To get it to a decent size, like the one in the pics I attached, you have to bring it in in the winter (in northern climates), or it will die and you’ll have to start over with a small plant the next spring. Plus you get fresh rosemary all winter. BONUS!
The Ocean Forest soil will have enough organic fertilizer in it for a few weeks, so you won’t need to add anything but water. After that, you can feed it weekly with liquid organic fertilizer. You will want to choose a liquid fertilizer that is meant for the “grow” or “vegetative” stage. These are higher in nitrogen to promote green growth. Most herbs are grown for their leaves, so you don’t want them to flower. The same goes for lettuces and greens. You can use the same window box method for these as well. I’ve even done beets and onions in window boxes. Some of my favorite organic liquid fertilizers are General Organics Bio Thrive Grow, Alaska Fish and Earth Juice Grow.
If your area receives six or more hours of sunlight, you can grow a wider variety of vegetables, as long as you have the space. Tomato plants can get very big, both tall and wide. There are varieties that don’t grow as large. They’re usually called “patio” or “bush” types. These are a wise choice for limited spaces. Tomatoes also require a larger pot size, 5 gallon at least. You can also grow peppers, eggplant and even cucumbers if you have a way to trellis them, or if you don’t mind them taking over your deck J. I use the same Ocean Forest soil for these but I usually mix a granular fertilizer in with these heavier-feeding plants. Fox Farm has many great organic granular fertilizers. The Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable is the one I use. After a month or so you may need to start watering in the liquid fertilizers as the granular gets depleted.
In an attempt to save a little money I often reuse the soil from the previous year as long as everything was healthy and disease-free. In order to do that the soil will need to be amended because most of the nutrients that were originally there were used up by the plants the previous year. I like to add some Greensand or Azomite to replenish the micronutrients. Worm castings are also great to refresh the soil. Fresh mycorrhizae and of course your granular fertilizer should be mixed in before replanting.
Here at the store we’re attempting a giant pumpkin in a 100 gallon Smart pot. I’ll update its progress in another blog.
Good luck and happy gardening wherever you are. J