If you happen to live in apartment or flat and have free space in balcony, you should really fill it with vegetables. It will make you happier and healthier. I will show you how easy it is!
Step 1: Write Down What Is Currently Available
Measure what size is your balcony. Write down and measure all the pots that you have available. Also, calculate how many liter/gallons of potting soil is already existing in pots. This year, I will be reusing soil that I used last year, so I have to calculate how much compost I need to add to refresh this soil.
Step 2: Plan Your Layout
Once calculations are done, lay out your plan. If you have handy tool for that, great. I used Sims builder mode and Paint :)
Calculate how many pots you have and how many fits your space. Take note where is sun and how your plants will cover your windows, since it will get darker inside. I just bought bigger pots (5gallon/20 liters), so I can fit less. Then, decide what is going to be in the pots. I stick with tomatoes and cucumbers, also I have some strawberries that hopefully did not freeze during winter. This year, I also bought water container I will be keeping more water and will try to implement dripping system to help with my holiday season.
Step 3: Prepare Soil
Once you calculated pots and how much fits in them, you can buy new soil or if you have time and want to create your own potting mix you can do that by mixing 3 parts old soil:1 part vermiculite:1 part worm compost:few scoops organic fertilizer (depends on pot size, read instructions on package!). I just made my first video covering this recipe and 2016 garden plans if you are interested. I also planted lettuces in strips to try out his potting mix.
Step 4: Grow Seedlings
I always grow from seeds. It is very easy, just fill your containers with soil, pop in seed, water and week from that it will start to grow. Cucumbers usually germinates in few days, tomatoes in few weeks, peppers takes longer. Few tips :
- Do not plant too early. I know how tempting it is to start early thinking that inside it should be warmer. Don't. First make sure you checked weather forecast. Calculate when you will be available to plant your seedlings outside it should be at least 10C/50F outside to plant. Also, you have to introduce your plants to colder weather few hours at a time, otherwise they will get shocked if left in cold weather straight from warm house. Also, plants need light. If you plant too early, they will be weak and "leggy" reaching for light with weak stem. You need to produce artificial light for that.
- Plant batches few weeks apart. This will make sure that you harvest your crops each week for months, rather harvesting all at once. Super important when growing determinate tomatoes, or "bush" tomatoes. All the tomatoes from the plant ripen at approximately the same time (usually over period of 1- 2 weeks).
Indeterminate tomatoes will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost. Indeterminates will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the season.
Step 5: Growing Cucumbers
Once weather is warm enough, replant them outside. Carefully take out whole seedling with roots and put in prepared container. I have wall that faces sun in the middle of the day and I attached netting to wall, so basically cucumbers just climb themselves I barely need to tie them. I use 6 gallon/22liters buckets for two cucumbers. They do not need a lot of root space, but you need to make sure they are watered every day. They have surface roots so make sure don't burn them with fertilizer and cover if possible with mulch if sun is hitting them. Don't forget to fertilize, pots have very limited amount of nutrition. You must add additional.
Step 6: Growing Tomatoes
When re-potting tomatoes, bury the stem also, additional roots will shoot from their stem too. Attach rod to keep them stable when they grow large. Pinch out any suckers that tries to grow as new branches, leave one main stem for indeterminate tomatoes. Add calcium if you experience blossom end rot, witch is quite common when growing in container since calcium is easily washed out when we over water our pots. Add egg shells that are crushed to powder. Also, add NPK fertilizer. Try to find fertilizer that is rich in PK and less in N, after long research I finally found fertilizer in my country N14 P17 K28. I think of this formula as N-leaves, P- blossoms, K-fruits. If you will have a lot of N, you will have very bushy plant but no fruit.
Step 7: Walls That Have Less Light and Windowsill
If you happen to have windowsill, add pots of herbs, lettuce, strawberries and other smaller plants that would not cover sun of plants in the back. Also, leave some spaces between them for sun to penetrate when it is rotating. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to enjoy strawberries the same season when you planted them from seeds, since they germinated late for me I was able to enjoy fresh strawberries until November, last photo was taken October 17th last year. This season of 2016 I planted FRIGO seedlings (last photo) - Clery, Florence, Sonata and ever-bearing variety.
Seedlings "Frigo" are dug at rest in winter and placed in cold storage.
Advantages and predominance of frigo seedlings over green stems from the fact that the seedlings "frigo" after planting behave like plants on beginning of vegetation , their growth and development takes place, however, much more rapidly, because it facilitates this already long day and a higher temperature than in early spring, when vegetation is progressing very slowly. In addition they do not pass the stress caused by replanting, and since most are leafless, not dries up, after planting they do not lose water by transpiration (evaporation of water from the upper part of the plant). If we plant at the same time "frigo" and "green" plants, "frigo" are ahead in the development before seedlings "green" that long even pass the stress associated with physical damage to the root system, with loss of running nutrients, with drying of these seedlings (what delays the development of plant on the grow of lateral kroons).
Frigo seedlings planted into the soil with a low moisture content usually are accepted all and grow very quickly (the strength of the growth of such plants is down right amazing). They yield fruits an average of just 8 weeks after planting. With seedlings "frigo", you can set up a plantation at any time, yielding fruit in a strictly scheduled time, for example in May or August. Controlled cultivation of fruits harvested at a time, when traditional crops have finished fruiting or have not yet begun, so achieved higher prices of fruits. During the following years the fruiting strawberries normally, in normal times, but they are achieved very high yields. The highest prices of fruit crops we get from cuttings planted in February and March.
Step 8: Enjoy Gardening
If everything sounds too complicated, just try our own way. Just start. I started to plant seeds in empty bottles from water just to test how they grow. Now I can not wait to come back from work and spend time in my little greenhouse and enjoy fresh vegetables every morning.