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Posts Tagged ‘container garden’

Meyer Lemon Tree BlossomsDespite a warmer than average winter, I’ve been going over my gardening plans for the coming seasons as I focus on my indoor garden. It’s rare for me to talk about what I do and my upcoming gardening plans. I currently live in an urban apartment where gardening space is limited, but have learned to maximize the small space available with container gardening.

I base most of what I do with my garden off of gut instinct and luck in combination with the knowledge I’ve picked up through trial and error over the years.

What Worked

  • Mixing My Own Soil

Living in an apartment, my access to soil and compost is incredibly limited. In the past I’ve relied on a popular brand of potting soil with varying results. My goal this past year was to find a more rich soil mixture that required less maintenance. I ended up using a mixture of potting soil, a high quality compost, sand, and soil conditioner mixed in accordance to the needs of individual plants.

Mixing my own soil turned out to be the best thing I could have done for my little container garden—it retained moisture without becoming waterlogged. To cut down on cost, I looked for ripped, discounted bags at garden centers. The potting soil I used was leftover from the prior year and I would recommend cutting it out completely if possible.

  • OrchidsOrchids

During the winter, mold can be a major problem with indoor plants. My apartment has poor air circulation that created a severe mold problem with the sphagnum moss potting medium used for my orchids. The mold caused root rot, so the decision was made to replant them in bark which has completely abolished the mold problem. While still healing from the mold attack a year later, all have stabilized and look to be healthy.

  • Lizard TerrariumTerrarium

After longing for a terrarium, I finally created a large and nearly self-maintaining eco-system plus an additional lizard. A layer of rocks under the soil help create a self-watering system that the plants thrive on. Beneficial springtails help to tidy the enclosure and decompose waste. Can’t wait to add some live moss!

  • Overwintering Herbs

Currently, our mild winter has made wintering over the many herbs and plants incredibly simple. The hardier plants are unmoved since summer while the more tender are housed in a small pop-up greenhouse for protection from the winter nip.

  • Container PondContainer Pond

Mid-summer, I picked up side project and turned a large, cracked planter into a container pond. This was an especially cheap and simple project—the container was clearanced for $6. Easy to maintain, the pond and goldfish within provided a tranquil addition to an already relaxing jungle. The goldfish have adapted well to overwintering in a tank inside

What Didn’t Work

  • Balcony GardenLack of Space

This past year, I grew both lemongrass and tomatoes; however, both plants grow fairly large and take up a lot of space. Since they shaded out many of my other plants, I have decided I will not grow them this coming year in order to make room for new plants.

  • Various Tropicals

I grow many tropicals that rotate between inside and outside depending on the weather. Both last winter and this current winter, I have found molding soil due to my apartment’s poor air circulation. Currently I have been treating with cinnamon to keep the mold at bay, but would like to find a better solution in the future.

After busting the pot on my large White Bird of Paradise, I attempted to repot it on my own despite suspicions it would be a two person job. I was unprepared for the thick, stiff roots that grew straight down and the three plants separated as I loosened the old soil. In the end, I ended up with leaning plants that were growing into one another.

My cats have done a good job of eating the foliage and even killing a few. I have resorted to placing them in odd places so the plants will have time to begin their recovery.

Looking Ahead

  • Seed SproutingSeed Sprouting

The warmer than average winter is wreaking havoc on my gardening plans as I’ve been cautious of planting seeds with worries they’ll sprout too early. However, I have picked up some new seeds to try of which includes fenugreek, cattails for my pond and cat grass in hopes of distracting the cats from my tropicals.

  • Enduring Soil

When I created a soil mixture last spring, I tried to plan ahead in anticipation of this growing season as I wanted the repotting to be minimal. I added plenty of soil conditioner to each pot in hopes that it would decompose throughout the year, leaving another year of rich soil for each plant to continue growing in. I am eager to see how well (hopefully) this has worked out.

  • Meyer Lemon Tree in FlowerLemon Tree

I will endure the continual wait for the first lemons to ripen on my Meyer Lemon tree. I’m also hoping to see the growth even out a little more this year. The tree is currently in full bloom with a scent that fills the entire room; however, I won’t be leaving many lemons to grow as it’s still a young tree.

After a fairly successful year, this coming year looks to be a promising experience with plenty of room to grow and expand my gardening knowledge. So, how did your garden grow this past year? Got any interesting plans for the 2013 season?

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With autumn in our midst, many gardeners are focused on their fall gardens of leafy greens and roots. However, now is a wonderful time to create a winter garden of indoor herbs or tomatoes. Adding a little living green to a home during the chilliest of months can be simple.

One of the best ways to get indoor herbs started is to root a cutting—this way you don’t have to play the waiting game for a seed to sprout and develop into a mature plant. Cuttings may be rooted in water, moist soil, or even a damp paper towel wrapped in plastic. Rooting hormone will help speed the process along. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, mints and tomatoes have all been known to root and not let go!

Choose a Cutting

When choosing a stem to cut,  it is important to avoid new, immature growth. I prefer to use a woody or developed softwood side shoot. Take cuttings early morning before a warm sun has sapped their stored energy.

It is also a good idea to take several cuttings per chance one doesn’t develop roots.

Remove Leaves

Remove any leaves and side shoots 2”-4” from the bottom to prevent rot.

Dip cutting end into rooting hormone.

Rooting mediums:

  • Soil – make sure the soil mixture is light and retains moisture.
  • Water – root cuttings in a jar of water. Don’t forget to change the water every couple days.
  • Paper towel – dampen a paper towel and wrap around the base of the cutting, then wrap plastic around the paper towel.

Developing Roots

Until they begin to develop roots, cuttings need to remain moist and must not be allowed to dry out. Use a plastic bottle or plastic bag (like a miniature greenhouse) to help retain moisture. Stick the cuttings in a sunny location such as an east or south facing window. Do not fertilize until roots have developed.

Tug Tug Tug

Check weekly for root development. If using soil, gently tug on the cutting—any resistance means it has begun to develop roots. Generally it will take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for roots to develop. If rooting in a glass of water or a damp paper towel, wait until roots are at least 2” before replanting in soil.

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Sitting on an apartment balcony in the early morning, the rising sun awakens birds singing a morning song to be heard; however, there isn’t a single bird in sight. Apartment balconies are notorious for being void of wildlife. With a few simple changes a thriving sanctuary can be created on any balcony.

Attracting Birds

Feeders are one of the easiest and quickest ways to attract a variety of birds. Use tube feeders to attract Goldfinches, Chickadees, and finches that prefer thistle and small seeds. Hopper feeders work well for Blue Jays, Cardinals, House Finches,  Purple Finches, Tufted Titmice and Buntings—a favorite is sunflower seeds and cracked peanuts. Suet cages work well as a companion feeder and will attract Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and Nuthatches. If wanting to attract Orioles, provide fresh slices of oranges.  Thinking thrifty? Even a shallow dish filled with seed, peanuts, or meal worms will attract birds—they aren’t picky. Any seed mix containing the large, brown, round millet should be avoided as birds do not readily eat it.

The Hummers

A petite, colorful hummingbird is always an exciting and welcomed visitor. By placing a hummingbird feeder on the balcony, you’ll be sure to attract the small bird. The syrup is easy and quick to make at home. Boil 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water—the syrup will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. Change the syrup regularly in accordance to outside temperature—hummingbirds will refuse spoiled syrup. This tiny, flying package will be full of attitude and provide a viewer with countless hours of its antics.

Splishin’ & Splashin’

By also providing wild birds with a source of fresh water, they will be assured that your balcony is the place to be. A traditional bird bath will work, but they also make hanging bird baths. For a more cost-effective solution, wild birds will be just as pleased with a shallow dish filled with water.

Go Natural

By growing certain plants, you can provide a natural source of nutrition for wildlife. This is beneficial as it provides wildlife with the proper nutrition and encourages natural survival skills that are not reliant on people—if you’ve ever had a hoard of House Finches at your bird feeder or would like to find out, then you’ll know what I mean! Plant flowers that are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

A few balcony friendly plants:

  • Petunia
  • Fuschia
  • Salvia
  • Lantana
  • Beebalm
  • Snapdragon

More than Novelty

Enthusiasts of colorful caterpillars and butterflies may also grow host plants for caterpillars. Providing the host plant of a favorite caterpillar will attract not only the colorful caterpillars that rely upon them for food, but also the butterfly looking to lay eggs.

By growing a variety of plants and providing a food source for varying wildlife, your balcony will soon be thriving with its own wildlife oasis. For every garden pest I’ve found, I had a garden predator that preyed upon them—from hungry birds looking for juicy, fattened caterpillars to colorful predatory insects looking for a sticky slug.


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