How To Grow A Vegetable Garden In Your Apartment
Of the many things apartment dwellers lust for, a backyard is at the top of the list. If you are lucky enough to live in an apartment with a yard or patio, you may be able to grow a garden in part of the space. Garden growing in the city is not as hard as it sounds. With some basic supplies and a little hard work, you can grow an assortment of vegetables in your own urban backyard.
The choices you make for your garden should depend in part on who shares it with you. The garden and backyard may be shared among all tenants, available only to those on the first floor or available to a particular tenant. Check your lease before you assume that you are the only one with access to the backyard. Your landlord may also have restrictions on what you can do with the space. If you have any doubts, check first before you spend time or money on your garden. If you share the space with your neighbors, consult them before planting anything as they may have a different vision for the garden. Working with your neighbors to create a backyard garden can help you get to know other people in the building and share costs and labor.
Get to know your backyard:
Different plants grow well at different conditions. Before you decide what you’ll grow in your garden, determine exactly how much space you will have to allocate to it. Some vegetables, like corn, require ample space and will not grow well in small lots. Others, like potatoes, require deep plots. You’ll want to assess the garden’s depth and make sure that there isn’t a layer of cement right below the soil.
Take some time to observe how much light the garden gets on average. The presence of tall buildings around your yard may leave the garden in shadows for much of the day. The yard may look sunny when you leave for work at 8:30 am, but make sure the sun doesn’t disappear behind tall buildings by late morning. If your garden gets limited sun, seek out vegetables that grow well in lower light. When you are ready to purchase seeds and small plants, consult your local nursery or the planting guides that come with your seeds. They will inform you how much light, space and depth the plants require.
When you don’t have a backyard
If your building doesn’t have a backyard, or if you are just one of the unlucky tenants without access to it, you can still have a garden. Many vegetables can be grown out of containers in your apartment. You can purchase containers or pots at gardening stores or use plastic bottles and basins that you already have at home. To allow for drainage, cut small holes in the bottom of the pots and line the bottom of each container with small rocks. Remember that potted plants need to be fertilized more often than outdoor plants. Make sure to keep your containers in an area that gets at least 4-5 hours of sunlight a day.
If you have a balcony or extra space to dedicate to your plants, you can grow vegetables that require larger containers, such as cauliflower and brussel sprouts. If your space is more limited, eggplant, peppers (both bell and hot), salad greens and herbs all grow well in smaller containers. Carrots will also grow in small containers that are sufficiently deep. If you are lucky enough to have a balcony, you can use it to grow plants that require structural support. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and other vine plants require trellises, cages or poles to grow properly. You can use the beams and fixtures of your balcony as supports for these plants.
If your space is really just too limited for plants but you still would like a garden, do some research into community gardens in your neighborhood. Some non-profits and community groups transform vacant lots into gardens where local people can rent plots. These lush urban oases provide a wonderful escape from city life and can give you an opportunity to meet other people in the neighborhood. So if it’s a garden you’re after, don’t let apartment life stop you. With a little creativity you can bring a little piece of the farm to the city.
Growing potatoes ~
- There are dozens of different potato varieties, usually described as early, second early and maincrop potatoes.These names indicate when they crop and also give you an idea of the space you’ll need, how closely and when they can be planted.
- You should concentrate on the earlier types if you’re short of space, and it’s also worth remembering that earlies are less likely to encounter pest problems as they’re lifted so much earlier in the year.
- Second earlies take 16 to 17 weeks to mature after planting, so you should be able to harvest them from very late June through to the start of August.
- Maincrops are ready 18 to 20 weeks after planting, so they can be lifted usually from July through to October. Maincrops take up the most space in the garden, but they tend to be the best varieties to grow if you want some for storage.
How to chit
- Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting.
- Start chitting from late January in warmer parts of the country or in February in cooler areas, about six weeks before you intend to plant out the potatoes.
- Each seed potato has a more rounded, blunt end that has a number of ‘eyes’.
- Stand the tubers with the blunt end uppermost in trays or old egg boxes, with plenty of natural light.
- The potatoes are ready to be planted out when the shoots are 1.5-2.5cm (0.5-1in) long.
How to plant
- Plant your chitted potatoes when the soil has started to warm up, usually from mid-March or early April. Start by digging a trench 7.5-13cm (3-5in) deep, although the exact depth should vary according to the variety of potato you’re planting.
- Add a light sprinkling of fertiliser to your trench before you begin planting.
- Plant early potatoes about 30cm (12in) apart with 40-50cm (16-20in) between the rows, and second earlies and maincrops about 38cm (15in) apart with 75cm (30in) between the rows.
- Handle your chitted tubers with care, gently setting them into the trench with the shoots pointing upwards, being careful not to break the shoots. Cover the potatoes lightly with soil.
- As soon as the shoots appear, earth up each plant by covering it with a ridge of soil so that the shoots are just buried.
- You need to do this at regular intervals and by the end of the season each plant will have a small mound around it about 15cm (6in) high.
- Your home-grown potatoes should be ready for lifting from June until September, depending on the varieties and the growing conditions. Earlies can be lifted and eaten as soon as they’re ready.
- This will be when above-ground growth is still green, and usually as soon as the flowers open.
- Second and maincrop varieties can be kept in the ground much longer, until September, even though above-ground growth may well be looking past its best.
- Two weeks before you lift the crop, cut the growth off at ground level. This should give the skins of the potatoes sufficient time to toughen up, making them far less prone to damage from lifting and easier to store.
- Potatoes like plenty of sun, so avoid planting them in frost-prone sites, as these conditions can damage the developing foliage. If you’re starting up a vegetable plot on very weedy ground or old grassland, potatoes may help swamp out weeds with their fast-growing, extensive foliage.
- If you’re short of space, try growing potatoes in an adequately drained container that’s at least 30cm (1ft) deep and wide. Half fill the pot with multi-purpose compost or good quality, fertile garden soil, nestle two seed potatoes into the top of the compost and then top up with more compost or soil to within 2.5cm (1in) of the rim of the container.
- It’s particularly important that there’s adequate water once the tubers have reached the size of marbles. Unless there’s regular, ample rainfall, the size and quality of the crop will be reduced if you don’t water your potatoes.
How to Grow Potatoes Anywhere | At Home With P. Allen Smith
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