If you are new to gardening, here are five vegetables that are easy to grow in pots in a small space such as a balcony. Take this small step towards growing your own food.
To plant a garden today is to believe in tomorrow.
There are daily reports of pesticides and chemicals seeping into the vegetables we consume. This strengthened my conviction to take baby steps to grow vegetables.
My mother loved gardening. She spent hours and hours tending to the plants. It came to such a point that my brother, all of three years, insisted on having only okra 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 spinach and mint to radish and broccoli. We rarely bought vegetables in the winter, and primarily used the produce from the garden.
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 re-potting them with jasmines, and white and orange hibiscus. I’m also adding some vegetables to the mix.
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.
HOW TO SET UP A CONTAINER VEGETABLE GARDEN
I often get questions from beginners on how to get started with gardening. Like, what are the materials required, where to buy them, how to plant, germinate seeds etc.
- Containers: The choice of containers is up to you based on how much space you have. For germinating seeds, you can use either of these methods: cotton wool for faster germination or an empty egg shell filled with potting soil. I use a combination of grow bags and plastic pots.
- I grow vegetables in grow bags. The Cocogarden grow bags are what I have been using for the past two years. They are exposed to direct sunlight. They have withstood extreme weather conditions.The bags come with few drainage holes and are light enough to be moved around, unlike pots.
- You can use clay or cement pots too. The only disadvantage is they can get heavy, so I prefer grow bags.
- The recommended pot size is 12 inches.
- Cocopeat: The medium for planting is soil + cocopeat + vermicompost or manure. The advantage of using a cocopeat brick is it is compact and can be easily stored. To use, break the brick, take the required amount and immerse it in a bucket of water. It will grow in size. Mix this mixture with red soil and vermicompost to get the potting mix. Addition of cocopeat makes the red soil less dense for roots to breathe.
- Tools: Sooner or later, you will have to invest in a set of garden tools to weed, mix the soil, prune the plants. Always wear gloves before you put your hands in soil.
SHOPPING LIST TO SET UP A CONTAINER GARDEN
- Plastic Pots
- Grow bags: Cocogarden growbags
- Cocopeat: Cocogarden Cocopeat Brick (Brown)
- Manure: 5 Kg vermicompost from Cocogarden
FIVE VEGETABLES YOU CAN GROW ALL ROUND THE YEAR:
1. CHILLY / PEPPERS/ CAPSICUM
- Take two or three ripe green peppers. Slit them open and dry them in sun until.
- Check out how to germinate seeds. It takes about a week for the seeds to sprout. I can see about ten plants now. After you see about 10 leaves, transplant them into a bigger pot/grow bag – one plant per bag or pot.
- Seeds: Tomatoes come in many varieties from heirloom to exotic. The size varies, too. If you are getting started and don’t have seeds, cut a tomato you like into four pieces. Then, bury it about 1/2 inch into the soil. Wait for 3-4 weeks for the seeds to start sprouting into a plant.
- Thin the seedlings keeping one seedling per pot. The plant grows taller and needs support to hold it together. The picture below is that of a cherry tomato growing in a small 10″ wide hanging pot. This is the second harvest. I feed it with organic compost once a week.
This without doubt is my favorite herb to grow. Less maintenance and quite easy to grow. But many beginners find it hard. The trick is to use soil that is not too dense.
- Seeds: the seeds come from the kitchen.
- How to plant coriander or cilantro: 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 footwear. Pour the crushed seeds into the can, cover it a layer of soil, water it and forget it. Ensure it gets enough sunlight.
- Harvest: You should have a bunch of coriander leaves within a month.
This video should help you get started:
Mint needs a small container like coriander/cilantro. Alternatively, you can grow the herbs together in a big container. Mint grows like a weed.
- How to plant mint: To get started, buy stalks of mint form the market. Remove the lower leaves. Place the stalk in a pot in a sunny spot and see it grow like a weed.
- Seeds: buy the seeds. Sow the seeds directly in pots a few inches apart.
- The plant grows into a vine so train them on the grill or a tall pole. You will need at least seven pots to grow seven plants to feed a family of three. If you grow just one plant, the harvest will not be enough.
Nitrate manure is available in most nurseries. Feed each pot with 25-30 gms of organic manure once in 30 days.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PLANTS FROM PESTS THE ORGANIC WAY:
Sowing, sprouting and transplanting is easy. Protecting them from pests is hard work. The ones that you’ll often encounter are white squishy things along the stems and backside of leaves. This is how I get rid of them naturally, without spraying organic chemicals.
- Plant feed: plants need nutrition on a regular basis to grow. The best thing to feed them would be dried cow dung. I use a handful of compost/panchagavya every week.
I hope you found this useful. I would love to hear any questions you may have.