I've got a set of methods I use in my daily routines. They're constantly changing and improving. Nothing is nailed down or written in stone. As I look at where I started, I'm happy to see things have come a ways since then. My hope is that method posts like these offer you encouragement in the processes you've started or are interested in. Take them, adapt them, and celebrate the progress as it happens. Then let's compare notes, I'd love to hear your stories along the way.
In 2012 I lived in my very first apartment. There was a balcony that over-looked the river that was lined by trees. I had a romantic image of a little garden up there. Of course I was still too busy spending all my spare money on new clothes so I never invested in a little garden. When I moved into my second apartment, I went to the library and checked out 5 books on gardening for apartments. I managed to plant a few already grown herbs that didn't last long because the window they were by didn't get enough light. Before we moved to Michigan, when we were looking for places to live, I felt in my gut we needed to be in an apartment, I knew I wasn't finished living in a tiny space but I didn't quite know why.
Then we planted a rooftop garden. Peppers, herbs, lettuce, and flowers. I'd read books and dreamed this day would come and then it did. Naturally. Here are the little things we've learned about growing food in pots, what we will change next year and what we will add!
1. Start from Seed
One afternoon this Spring, I was curled up on the couch with a fever and terrible flu. Cale came home with a handful of seed packets and a little starter kit for growing. He carefully prepared each little pod with our seeds and when I awoke from my fever, I found we had started a veggie garden in our front windows. We started our seeds a little late, April 17th, Next year we will start them late March because we get pretty good light in our windows. Cale planted 2 seeds in each pod and multiple pods of each plant. As the little sprouts grew, he picked the larger of the two sprouts and cut off the smaller. Then when they got big enough for pots, we picked the largest of each pod and gave away the rest.
2. Planting in Pots
We planted our sprouts in pots and took the pots outside in the beginning of June. These pots were 6" and we used all organic soil. The peppers and herbs love sunshine so we found a spot on the rooftop that would work and moved them into their new homes. Once the plants were bigger in height than the pot (about a month later), we transplanted to 10" pots where they stayed the rest of the season. This time we carefully removed the peppers, "tickling their roots" which is Cale's way of softening the root ball to loosen the roots for better transplanting.
3. Feeding Plants
4. Changes for Next Year
When we spotted our first bell pepper we were so excited we just let it grow. We now know that for the maximum amount of pepper to come from the plant, you should pick the first pepper you see growing. On both our plants this year we had a massive pepper and a bunch of tiny ones begging for nutrition.
We are confident in peppers and herbs (excluding cilantro... why is cilantro so fast to seed!?) We aren't confident with Lettuce. I think the kind I bought would do better in a bed than a pot. We are curious about pot radishes, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. So maybe next year we will dabble in some new veggies. I would also love a tomato plant.
As the season for rooftop gardens comes to a close, we have decided to do a Winter experiment: overwintering. We are going to bring in our Bell Pepper and Jalapeno Pepper plant (our most used peppers) and keep them in a cool room all winter. Basically the plant goes dormant for the Winter and because it is grown in the Spring hopefully it's production will be jump started.
At the end, we are pretty pleased with our first garden. It's given us plenty of peppers for salsa and several batches pesto. I can't wait to see what Spring has in store for us!
To you more experienced gardeners out there, any tips and tricks you'd like to share with me?