Growing your own herbs and vegetables on your balcony or patio is an easy and inexpensive way to grow some healthy food to eat and do a little gardening at the same time. It's perfect for those who have a small space or limited time for a large garden and it's a great way to teach children the joy of gardening and give them some responsibility as well.
It all begins with choosing the container. It does not have to be fancy and you can defiantly think outside the box here just make sure it has enough room for the plant you have chosen and that it has adequate drainage. You should also know that lighter color containers are better for the plants and their roots because darker colors absorb heat and may get too hot. Last summer my family and I decided to do a small container garden on our lower deck and we used 5 gallon paint buckets for ours.They may not have been the most attractive choice but we could not beat the price which was free. If your container does not already have drainage holes in the bottom, you need to add some. For our paint buckets I drilled about a dozen holes in the bottom and on the sides about an inch up from the bottom. On top of that, you should add a layer of rocks, gravel, empty soda cans or broken pottery to the bottom. This added layer serves several purposes. First, it becomes a barrier between the holes and the soil and keeps the soil from clogging up your drainage system. Second, it takes up space and saves you from adding as much soil and lastly if you use something lightweight like the soda cans, it allows it to be lighter in weight in case you want to move it around. For ours, I sent my kids on a hunt through the woods behind our house to find rocks and used those.
Next comes the soil. Save yourself some time and energy and get a good soil that has a time release fertilizer added to it and it would not hurt to use one of the ones that has moister control as well since container gardens dry out quickly in the hot summer months. The better the soil you begin with, the less you will have to add in the way of amendments and the happier your plants will be. Since you need to begin with fresh soil each year for a container garden, one with a time release fertilizer in it should last you the entire growing season and you won't have to add a thing.
Last but perhaps the most important stepof all is choosing the right plants. There are many plants that will do well in container gardens. Tomatoes are one of the best but you can also grow cucumbers, lettuces, peppers, eggplants, herbs and many others. Plants can be started from seed or to speed things along, you can choose small healthy seedling. Dwarf and bush varieties are excellent choices and many plants even state right on the tag that they are suitable for containers. If you are in doubt or have any questions, make sure you talk to one of the professionals in the garden section of your store.
Once your plants are in, make sure you check the moister level on them daily because as I already stated, container gardens can dry out quickly. In the summer months, you may actually have to water them more than once a day to keep your plants happy. Don't wait until the plant looks like it needs the water as it can put a lot of stress on the plant and slow down the production of your crop. Get in there and feel to soil to see how wet it actually is to the touch. Don't over watereither as that can cause root rot or disease.
Once they are all planted and happy, the waiting game begins to see which one is ready to harvest first. This was my sons favorite part and he checked the plants daily to see if there was anything ready to eat. When we did pick our home grownveggies the kids said they were the best they ever had because they grew them themselves.