Balcony Garden: Five Vegetables to Grow in Pots

A  huge cotton tree, ladies fingers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, chillies, potatoes, brinjals, carrots, cabbage, and beetroots – this was the backyard of our home when I was growing up.  The front section was relatively a colorful one in hues of bright reds, pinks, violets and oranges,  so much so that it was easy for the security guards to direct visitors to our place;  “the house with a large flower garden in the front” did it.  Marigolds, sunflower, dahlias, rajnigandhas, arali, and an assortment of flowers whose name I’m not sure of adorned the house.

My mother loved gardening. She spent hours and hours tending to the plants while my brother and I were at school. It came to such a point that my brother, all of three years, insisted on having only ladies finger for lunch and dinner every day. We moved cities and countries after three years in that small town, and never got to live in a individual house with a front and back yard. Years later, I found the same passion for plants in my father-in-law. He grew everything from palaks (the tastiest I’ve ever had) , mint, radish to cauliflower, potatoes and broccoli.  We rarely shopped for vegetables in the winter. Most of the produce from the garden was cooked.

That’s where my weakness for greens comes from. The limited 8*4 feet balcony space is no deterrent. Last summer, the pots mainly contained flowering plants. This summer, I’m repotting them with jasmines, and white and oragne hibiscus. I’m also adding some vegetables to the mix.

Certain vegetables thrive well even in pots. You can grow them in deep pots of 14″-18″ size or use planter boxes. It all depends on choosing the right vegetables – the ones whose roots don’t grow very deep. Get started with me if you want to grow your own vegetable garden.

1. Chillies and Peppers – Take two or three chillies. Slit them open and spread the seeds in the pot filled with potting soil. Ensure the seeds don’t go too deep. Cover it with little potting soil and water it. It took about a week for the seeds to sprout. I can see about 10 plants now. If the pot is not large enough, you can replant the sprouts into a bigger pot.

2. Tomatoes - Roots of a tomato plant grow deeper into the soil. Not ideally suited for pots. You can either choose the country-side tomatoes or cheery tomatoes. You don’t need to invest in buying the seeds or a small plant to get started. Just cut a tomato into four pieces and bury it about 1/2 inch into the soil. Wait for 3-4 weeks for the seeds to start sprouting into a plant. The plant grows taller and needs support to hold it together.

3. Coriander – This without doubt is my favorite herb to grow. Less maintenance and quite easy to grow. Recycle used cans or tins and fill it up with soil. If you can’t make a drain hole at the bottom of the can, fill it up with gravels for about 2 inches and then put the soil on top. Once you have the container ready, take a handful of coriander seeds and rub them with your sandals (footwear). Pour the crushed seeds into the can, cover it a layer of soil, water it and forget it. Ensure it gets enough sunlight. You should have a bunch of coriander leaves within a month.

4. Mint – Mint needs a small contained like coriander/cilantro. Alternatively, you can grow the herbs together in a big container. How about using a old kadai you’ve been thinking of disposing for this? Paint it, plant it and keep it on the windowsill.

5. Beans – Sow the seeds in pots a few inches apart. The plant grows into a vine so train them on the grill or a tall pole.

Nitrate manure is available in most nurseries. Put about 25-30 gms of organic manure to the vegetable pots once in 30 days.

On a closing note, I’m sharing some images of the vegetable garden in my apartment complex. It is well maintained with a right mix of flower beds, greens, and vegetables.

A spicy variety of chilli from North-east

A spicy variety of chilli from North-east

Cabbage

Cabbage

Chilli

Chilli

Chilli

Chilli

The 100-day flickr stream to track growing of tomatoes in a 2 liter container is inspiring.  I’m starting a 3-month challenge to plant vegetables in pots and see where we stand 100 days from now. I’ve planted chilli, tomatoes, and coriander today. I’ll be posting pictures of the progress the plants have made every week. Would you like to join me and start your own vegetable garden too?

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