Gardening for Life!

Tips - Container Food Gardening

Container Food Gardening

  • Hours of sunlight, part shade and full shade that my balcony / small space gets (don't try to grow tomatoes on a North facing balcony!)

  • Avoid using black containers. They heat up very fast and will dry out sooner on hot or windy days.If you "cook the soil" it will cause root damage to your food plants.

  • Use a good 'potting soil' or 'soilless mixture' that contains perlite, and dolomite lime which is less dense than garden soil. It will promote good root growth and won't be as heavy as earth on the ground.

  • Select the right plants for the growing conditions (full sun, part shade, full shade)

  • Use as large a container as possible. Do not go over the safe weight load for your balcony.

  • Use reservoir water irrigation methods so that pots do not dry out during the day. This can be simple plant saucers, special planters that have a reservoir built into them or bottles filled with water and inserted into the ground to slow release water.

  • Keep soil in pots consistently moist (don't let them dry out or get too much water! Plants don't like the big changes!) Inconsistent moisture will cause plants to produce much smaller crops.

  • Protect your containers from wind with screening. High winds on higher floors of buildings can knock over containers with a lot of greenery or can cause greenery to give more of the plants' natural moisture out into the air (excessive transpiration). This stresses the food plant.

  • Fertilize the plants in containers regularly (every week) with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion, sea kelp extract, compost tea or sprinkle with compost from worm castings throughout the growing season. There is much less soil in a container and the plant will absorb the soil's nutrients quickly so you must replace them.

  • Replace the soil in the containers each growing season. The soil will be exhausted of nutrients at the end of the season.

  • Fresh soil prevents potential fungi, bacteria or viruses to build up in the soil that would affect the next plant living in the container.

  • Clean pots out thoroughly and store them where they will not collect snow and water that might cause them to crack over the winter

  • Consider learning how to do indoor vermiculture (worm composting) with vegetable peelings and shredded newspaper. The worm castings that result are a terrific source of nutrients for food crops.

  • Some gardeners use fish tank water to provide a good, though inconsistent, source of nutrients for your container garden

  • Create a daily watering habit, lower your stress by preventing plant stress, and stayed tuned to the weather report for sizzling temperatures or wild storms.

Thanks to Janet Melrose, Garden Animator, Calgary Horticultural Society