Organic Gardening Tips for Apartment Dwellers

Organic gardening is surging in popularity as more people seek the superior taste, nutritional benefits and lower cost of vegetables grown naturally at home. Growing vegetables in containers on an apartment balcony allows the apartment dweller to avoid the pesticides and fertilizers used to raise most commercially grown vegetables. By choosing the right plants and soil, those living in apartments can successfully grow healthy vegetables and herbs.

Choosing the Right Plants

Gardeners should choose appropriately sized plants that will not overwhelm the growing capacity of the containers. Many plants are suitable for apartment gardening.

• Green beans, spinach, leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, cabbages and cucumbers can be grown in one-gallon containers. Only one or two plants should be placed in each container, with the exception of lettuce, which can be planted in groupings of four to six plants.

• Eggplant, peppers, radishes, carrots and beets require three-gallon containers. Containers will hold one or two peppers or eggplants. The other plants should be thinned to two inches apart.

• Standard tomatoes require three-gallon containers and cages. Beans, squash and peas need trellises on which to climb.

• Herbs that are hardy and take up little space include parsley, mint, cilantro, rosemary and basil.

Compost

Gardeners should buy commercial organic compost and mix it with their own home compost for the best growing results. Commercial compost is generally made up of organic material that may include plant matter, mushrooms, manure and worm castings. Apartment dwellers may wish to avoid compost containing manure because of odor issues and opt for vegetable compost instead.

While small composting containers are available for purchase, householders can easily make their own inexpensive composting bins out of 32-gallon garbage cans or similarly large containers with locking lids. Layers of green or new waste should be alternated with brown waste. Compost must be kept moist, and turned daily or at least once a week.

The following items are suitable for composting:

• Vegetable rinds, stems and peels

• Coffee grounds

• Dead leaves

• Egg shell

• Newspapers

Items to avoid:

• Cooked foods

• Dairy products

• Meat

• Bread

Pest Control

Apartment dwellers should make sure compost is well-rotted in order to eradicate insects. Several natural materials are available to combat pests.

• Insecticidal soaps, available in nurseries and home and garden stores, work well to control aphids and some other pests.

• Pyrethrins are made from chrysanthemum-type flowers and work to kill soft-bodied insects.

• Rotenone, made from the roots of tropical plants, works effectively to kill many insects, including caterpillars, beetles and aphids.

Window Sills

Some would-be gardeners lack the luxury of a patio or balcony for growing vegetables and herbs. In these cases, the window sill can serve as a site for raising smaller plants. The motivated gardener should have no problem growing herbs, salad greens and small tomatoes in window pots. Not only will these gardeners experience the nutritional benefits of home-grown organic produce, they will enjoy improved interior air quality and additional moisture.

Chris Bromfield is a contributing writer at probiotics.org.

 


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