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Urban Garden Guide

Updated on August 23, 2012

Urban gardening is also known as container gardening and is a convenient way for apartment dwellers to enjoy the benefits of home grown herbs and vegetables the same way anyone with a plot of land would. Container gardens make it possible for those living in condos and apartments to grow just about anything they want by acting as a portable plot of land. Think about it—all plants really need to grow is dirt to anchor their roots and water.

Choosing A Container

Setting up a container garden is actually pretty simple. Just about any container will do when it comes to container gardening, as long as it is large enough to hold the plant and accommodate their roots. You don't' even have to spend money purchasing a special container, if you have something around the house that you can use. Pails, buckets, bushel baskets, and hanging baskets work just fine. Good drainage is the key though, so be sure to drill four or more quarter-inch holes in the bottom of the container. This will ensure proper drainage.

Also, keep in mind that plastic pots, while inexpensive, often don't hold up to the harsh UV rays of the sun. Plastic pots sometimes warp or crack in extreme conditions. Sometimes it is better to go ahead and spend a few extra dollars on a ceramic pot instead because you will find that it lasts a lot longer and isn't susceptible to the wear and tear of the sun, like plastic pots. Another thing to keep in mind is that terracotta pots may also dry out and crack over time. If you live in a hot and sunny climate, stick to light colored pots and containers.

With wooden containers you have the advantage of building them according to the size and shape you need. However, wooden containers are susceptible to rot, especially if they aren't treated. Redwood and cedar containers are relatively resistant to rot without the need to be stained or painted. Keep in mind that woods treated with creosote, penta, and other toxic chemical compounds should be avoided because the vapors damage the plant.

When choosing the size of the container, you must consider the type of vegetables you intend to grow. An herb garden will do well in 6-10 inch pots. Peppers and tomatoes will need a 3-5 gallon container. Other good vegetables for container gardens are green onions, beats, beans , lettuce, summer squash, radishes, and spinach. Avoid containers with narrow openings.

What type of container do you prefer?

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Type of Soil

A light-weight, soiless potting mix is preferred because it will be free of plant disease organisms, weed seeds, and is less likely to compact so it will be able to hold moisture and plant nutrients well. You can find soiless potting mixes at garden centers or nurseries. You can also mix your own using vermiculite, peat moss, limestone and fertilizer.

Garden Care

Gardens need at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Since your container garden is mobile, you can move it to ensure that it gets the proper amount of sunlight it needs. Make sure to water your garden almost daily because allowing the plants to dry out completely between watering may cause them to drop fruits or flowers. You might also find it beneficial to apply fertilizer every few weeks to boost their health.

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