Growing Food In Containers
It’s two weeks since we planted our leafy greens. Our fruiting vegetable seedlings are a bit bigger, as well as the weather being warmer, which they prefer.
This week we plant tomatoes and their companion plants – basil and marigold – cucumber, capsicum, eggplant, chilli and some herbs – the dry-loving rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage as well as the wet-loving mint.
- When planting tomatoes, insert a metal waratah before planting as you don’t want to disturb roots later on. The fruit of a tomato is heavy, so you need more than a bamboo stake to hold the plant up as it grows.
- Into the planting hole, we add neem granules to ward off psyllids and gypsum (a good calcium source) to reduce the likelihood of blossom end rot.
- Finish off with a well-balanced fertiliser and water in.
Upside down tomato
- We’re also trialling planting a cherry tomato upside down in a stainless steel bucket at our balcony garden. Create a triangle hole (with 2cm sides) in the bottom of the bucket. Cut a 20cm circle out of newspaper and a slit to the centre. Very gently take all the soil off the plant, wrap it in the newspaper circle to create a cone, then very gently push it through the hole in the bucket. Gently again, add some potting mix, then neem granules and gypsum, then more potting mix to ¾ full.
- Securely fasten to the eave, taking good care getting up and down if using a ladder. We positioned our tomato over the vegetable planter so that excess water from the bucket can be used by the vegetables planted below.
- In their own container we’ve planted the Mediterranean herbs. They do well in a container as they don’t mind dry conditions. We won’t add any fertiliser as they do best in tough conditions.
- Mint, on the other hand, has a prolific root system and will invade a container if planted with other plants. So we plant it on its own in its own container. It will benefit from the addition of a nitrogen-based fertiliser like chicken manure or sheep pellets. Mint loves being watered.
- Our capsicums are very small plants, so we put a cloche, which acts like a mini greenhouse, over them. Our cloche is a recycled milk bottle with the bottom cut off it and the lid taken off. We’ll take it off once the plant fills out.
- At our balcony garden there are a lot of fruiting plants so we put some chicken manure in their planting holes as they’ll be in the ground for the whole of the summer. In the planters at the other houses we simply apply a well-balanced fertiliser round the plants after planting and water it all in well.
- Using a watering can is the best way to irrigate our gardens, mainly because different vegetables need different amounts of water. The other reason is that when you interact with your plants by hand watering, you notice any problems – something might be going a bit yellow and needs feeding or there are holes and something’s eating your plants. We’re not keen on irrigation systems because they need easy access to a tap and the plants don’t need you quite so much. Keeping a vigilant eye on your plants is a basic requirement of a successful organic food garden.
Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Michael Hardcastle