Organic Container Gardening 101

Growing your own food is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, guarantee food safety and quality, and save money in the process. But if you’re short on time and space, containers are an easy way to garden. If you haven’t started your garden yet for the summer, it’s not too late.

Soil

Make sure that the soil you buy is natural, with no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers added to it. There are organic options for fertilizers available (such as natural manure and peat) although plants in containers usually thrive without adding anything to the soil. In some cases, plants can benefit from crushed eggshells added to the soil, which provides extra calcium.

Containers

One of the biggest mistakes organic gardeners can make is using treated wood for containers. Chemicals that the wood has been treated with can leach into the soil and into your vegetables. Choose raw, natural wood instead. Ceramic or clay pots are also available, and of course, the cheapest option is plastic. Make sure all the containers have areas for drainage. Most store-bought containers have a hole in the bottom already, but if you’re making your own, be sure to add one.

Vegetables

Make sure that all the seeds and plants you buy are certified organic. For those of us who live in North America and are not lucky enough to have genetically-modified products and seeds labeled as such, certified organic guarantees that they are not genetically engineered.

Tomatoes are a great plant for any beginner because they’re so easy to take care of. Also, there are tons of heirloom varieties to choose from. Cherry tomatoes are a classic favourite, but it’s also fun to experiment with yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes, and tiger-stripe tomatoes. They make recipes like pasta sauce and bruschetta more colourful and delicious. The thing to keep in mind with tomato plants is that they can get quite tall, and require sturdy wooden poles for support. It’s easy to tie the plants loosely to the poles with some hemp twine.

Other vegetables that are good options to include root vegetables like radishes, beets and carrots. Peppers are also surprisingly easy to grow in containers. Organic bell peppers can be quite expensive, so this is definitely a good investment. Greens like lettuce and spinach work well too.

Finally, herbs are an essential for the beginner gardener. Chives and rosemary are great in cooking, and lavender and mint can make tea and sweet-smelling homemade bodycare products. Parsley is one of the easiest herbs to grow—it doesn’t need a lot of warmth or water (it can even survive the winter!), it doesn’t attract a lot of pests and it can be added to almost any recipe. Herbs can be combined in one big planter, while vegetables should be kept separate.

Watering

The great thing about containers is that they can easily be moved in and out of the sun or rain. You can even buy wheels for the bottom of the containers! Some plants do better in the elements then others, but moving them undercover when its raining is generally a good idea. When watering your plants, water close to the roots and try to avoid getting the leaves and vegetables wet. When you first plant seeds, water gently so the seeds won’t get uprooted and wash away.

Insects

Not all insects are bad in the garden. Knowing which bugs to keep around can actually improve your vegetables. Garden-friendly insects include bees (to pollinate plants), ladybugs, dragonflies and spiders (who will eat insects you don’t want) and earthworms. Not-so-friendly critters include slugs and snails, and aphids. You can also make your own organic “pesticide†by pouring a little liquid soap on aphids, which will kill them. Even better, introducing ladybugs will solve the problem.

In many cases, simply spraying aphids with the hose will wash them away. Slugs can usually be deterred by a ring of eggshells or pine needles around the plants that they cannot cross. To kill slugs, beer and salt both work well.


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Leah
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Guest Pixie Gas

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Another helpful tip: the organic weapon for killing weeds? Boiling water. It kills weeds, especially little patches in gravel, walkways, or rocky areas.

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Guest Simon Leufstedt

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Yes, I have actually tried this myself and it works really well. :)

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Guest Rochelle Sun-Moon

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This is required reading for anyone in apartments who likes to garden. I sent it to my mother, an avid gardener who is going through home-fresh veggie withdrawl in her apartment, and she's already gotten her summer garden up and thriving based on these tips! It just never occurred to her that she could do a container garden!

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Guest Pharmaceutical Recruitment

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I use clay pots in my garden and balcony rather so called beautiful plastic pots.

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Guest grngnz9

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regarding so-called weeds:do some homework on them.many are quite edible,tasty and very nutritious.also,many of them are good,beneficial companions for your featured crops.check out a group of weeds known as dynamic accumulators.

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Guest grngnz9

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is anyone else intentionally growing edible wild plants in balcony containers, and if so, are you inter-cropping them,as is often done with green leafy things like lettuces and mustards? i'm growing dandelions, garlic mustard, wood sorrel, goose foot, purslane,and chickweed for starters.

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Guest Mens Suit

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i also prefer using clay pots.. its more beautiful than using the plastic pots

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Guest Carmel Santos

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Containers create a pleasing texture to the eye. Depending on the type of container and its color, they can add a delightful dash of color to your garden as well. When you initially buy the pot or container for your plants, be sure the container already has drain holes in it. The better containers will. If you decide to plant your herbs in unconventional containers -- say a teapot, for example -- then create several holes in the bottom to ensure proper drainage. http://www.herbgardeningguide.com.au/information-for-your-herb-garden/herbs-grown-in-pots/

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Guest Steve

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you state that a cheaper alternative for organics are plastics, I would not agree depending on type of platicsers used in manufacturing. could you be more specific on which plastic containers are certified organic.

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