SPOTLIGHT ON: URBAN GARDENING
Summer is here! Time to nourish your garden and find ways to make it compatible with the drought conditions we’re currently experiencing. No garden? No problem! Urban or courtyard gardening is a growing trend that promotes creating green zones in even the smallest of spaces. Here’s some top tips on transforming your balcony or courtyard into a garden retreat!
PLAN YOUR URBAN GARDEN
First, assess your space. What direction does it face, how much sunlight does it get and is it undercover or exposed to the elements like wind and rain? What is your plan around watering? We strongly recommend using grey water (keep a bucket in your shower to collect excess water) that you distribute using a watering can so you can track your usage. Lastly consider the objective of your garden: do you want a hard-working herb garden or a green space to live in that is aesthetically pleasing?
Next, think about how potted plants will add to the look and feel of the space – what colour pots will work with your décor scheme and what kind of plants (structural/wispy/edible) will help you achieve your objective. How do you plan to arrange the pots for ease of use and access? Write it all down and remember, a good plan is half the battle won!
HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY PLANT IN POTS
Ensure that there are enough drainage holes at the base of your container. Cover the bottom of the container with a layer of small stones. The larger the pot, the thicker the layer of pebbles should be. Add river sand on top of the pebbles to act as a filter and to support drainage. Top up your container with potting soil and remember to leave space for your planting hole. Your planting hole should be wider than the diameter of the root area of the plant. Place a hand full of bone meal and granular feeding in the hole that the plant will be planted in and pour in a little water. Spread the roots out evenly to avoid bending them when placing the plant in the hole. Finally, cover the roots with potting soil and firm down the soil around the transplanted plant and water well.
Most smaller pots meant for indoor use do not come with drainage holes. Simply place your plant in your pot in its black plastic container and remember to place the plant in the sink to drain when you water to avoid root rot.
WHAT IS THE BEST POTTING SOIL FOR WATER WISE PLANTS?
If you choose to plant your urban garden with water wise plants (these are, in general, low maintenance plants that will survive with infrequent watering), bear in mind that most potting soils are too rich in fresh matter for them. The most important factor in choosing a planting medium is that it allows food, water and air to get to the roots and is porous enough to let water drain through. Many cactus growers use a mix of sand, small pebbles and vermiculite. Experiment with different combinations to discover the right combination for your conditions. A top dressing of crushed granite or pea gravel looks good and has benefits as well. It keeps the topsoil from drying out faster than the rest of the soil in the pot, keeps the base of the plant dry and assists in the even distribution of water.
As a general rule, most garden and container plants benefit from a good feeding with 3:1:5 fertiliser (chemical and organic variants are available).
Indoor and outdoor pot plants: Feed with a liquid fertiliser, such as MultiFeed or Seagro.
OTHER FRESH IDEAS
Grow your own: Herbs
Adding herbs to pots serves a dual pupose – they look, and taste, great! Have fun arranging different herb pots on your window sill or create a herb zone in your courtyard or on your balcony. Best of all, they’re easy to look after and use minimal water.
Herb of the month: Lemon Thyme
Lemon thyme is the perfect addition to any herb garden: a popular herb grown for its cooking uses and its attractive foliage, lemon thyme plants has a zesty zing that adds wonderful aroma and taste to chicken dishes. It can also be planted as a fragrant ground cover or amongst pavers along a path or patio. The tiny flowers are a bee attractor, aiding in the pollination of surrounding plants.