The urban gardener’s guide

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Is your yard tiny or nonexistent? It does not matter: the techniques that we propose here will allow you to put a little greenery in your outdoor space.

Even if you live in a high-rise building and do not have access to any piece of land, you can still grow potted plants or hanging baskets.

Potted plants

Even if you have a small lot, it might not be big enough to receive a garden. In this case, growing potted plants is a good solution.

Give them the space they need to flourish

Use pots of good size so that your plants have enough space to grow. Your nurseryman should be able to tell you how much soil your plant (s) need. Note that although breeders have developed varieties of vegetable plants that require little space, some still need a good amount of soil; the tomato plant, in particular, needs a pot with a capacity of 19 liters.

Use potting soil

Rather than soil from your yard, use potting soil, which is lighter, drips better and is sterilized, which destroys weed seeds and diseases that may weaken your plants.

Use the right fertilizer

Use a delay fertilizer in the form of granules, ordinary fertilizers being eliminated too quickly because of the frequent watering required for growing in pots. On the other hand, an application of fertilizer-retardant granules will last several months, releasing the fertilizer gradually.

Do not drown your plants

Avoid over-watering your plants. Water them thoroughly, then empty the water that accumulates in the saucers so that they do not have “feet in the water”, a situation that favors root rot. Be careful not to be fooled by wilting, a symptom, among other problems, of rot. Before interpreting this sign as a need for water and watering a plant excessively, take it delicately out of its pot and examine its roots: if they are brown and viscous, it is a sign of rot. Reduce watering.

Use baskets and plastic pots

Even if you live in a high-rise building and do not have access to any piece of land, you can still grow potted plants or hanging baskets.

Think about watering

Balconies in high-rise buildings can be very hot and very dry because of the sun’s reflection, so you may need to water your plants every day. Since you will probably need to fill your watering can at the sink and carry all that water to the balcony, evaluate the task before deciding how many plants to grow.

Use plastic pots

In plastic pots, soil and plants dry less quickly than in clay pots, which are more porous. To further preserve moisture, put a 5-centimeter organic mulch on the soil of the pot, which will reduce evaporation.

Suspend intelligently

Before installing hanging baskets, ask yourself how you will water them. Can you safely climb on a stepladder with a watering can in your hand? Will you get tired of removing the basket to water it and put it back in place?

Use hydro-retentive crystals

If you travel a lot and are afraid that your plants will lack water, the water-proof crystals or “water crystals” are a practical and economical solution. These crystals absorb the water to release it gradually. There are various brands, including Water Crystals and WaterSmart Crystals, which you will find in garden centers. When you add water to these polymer granules, they absorb tens of times their weight in water. Just add them to the soil of the potted plants and water them; they will absorb the water which they will then gradually release for the benefit of your plants. You can leave with peace of mind.

Follow the directions on the label and observe the recommended quantities. Do not put more than necessary because these crystals expand when wet; too much could damage your plants and remove them from their pots.

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