What all gardening enthusiasts know and that you too will soon learn is that “there is no balm to the soul greater than planting seeds”, as Charlotte Mendelson sul New Yorker, wrote on The New Yorker, praising the positive effects of gardening at home. In the last period, many individuals have discovered themselves growers, to remember the beauty of having vegetable garden and the satisfaction, doing it almost at zero-cost of self-production. The vegetable garden has proven to be one of the most useful pastimes and, at the same time, invigorating and energizing for the soul, capable of helping us recover that relationship with nature that we often miss in the city.
Let’s see together what we can cultivate, how and when.
Home garden. What to grow?
On your balcony, even in the city, you can really grow (almost) anything. The most common cultivations that are easily adaptable are the aromatic herbs, essential ingredients in the kitchen such as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, chives parsley, tarragon, marjoram and hot peppers. In all these cases, you can take and transplant the purchased and already grown seedlings, or proceed by using plant cuttings: keep a sprig of mint in the water and, in a few days, it will produce roots that you can then plant.
Generally speaking, almost everything that can be grown in a standard vegetable garden can be cultivated, with some precautions, even in pots.
The only vegetables that do not grow well in pots are those that need a lot of space, such as squash, potatoes and tubers in general. Asparagus and artichokes are not highly recommended unless you are experienced, because they are perennials and very challenging for beginners. The only thing to keep in mind is that each vegetable has its own time of the year to be planted, so some planning is needed before choosing the right plants.
Home gardens. When to grow?
Strawberries are easy to grow on a terrace. They need little space and are one of the most commonly plants used to introduce children to gardening. The best period in this case is spring.
Arugula, collard greens, chard and turnip greens can be planted from April to late June, but be careful of the space in your vegetable garden as they produce small amounts with each harvest.
April is also the right month for green bean planting because the pods are eaten too. Legume plants have the advantage of being natural soil fertilizers, therefore they can be used to feed some soil you already have, perhaps in preparation for a later planting. Most types of cabbage (in particular green cabbage, savoy cabbage, black cabbage and broccoli) can be planted in the fall, when the other plants give way to low temperatures. Tomatoes and eggplants need very large pots, at least 50 centimeters in diameter and 40 in depth, and require exposure to plenty of light and abundant water, but they are very popular on balconies because they provide very considerable crops. For those who have a balcony or a terrace with little exposure to sunlight, chicory, cabbage, chard, basil and parley do not require much light.
Fruits like avocados, oranges, apples, berries and lemons are a must in the garden too. In the case of lemons, you will just need some seeds and proceed as before. Actually, lemons can also be reproduced by air layering, a citrus fruit propagation method which generates new plants identical to the mother one from the branch. However, be aware that fruit trees begin producing fruit after a few years! Thus, you will need large pots and, most of all, a lot of patience.
Home gardens. How to grow?
Each plant has its own needs when it comes to sun exposure. It is best to choose a southwest or southeast facing balcony. North-facing terraces will remain in the shade for most of the day, which will cause some distress to your plants. On south-facing terraces, the risk is that the sun exposure might be too intense. In addition to orientation, the presence of architectural obstacles (walls, etc.) should be taken into consideration. Additionally, keep in mind, that a vegetable garden should generally receive at least 7 hours of sunlight per day.
The perfect time to water plants is when the sun goes down, so that the water does not evaporate right away and has all night to be absorbed. As a general rule, we recommend watering little bit at a time and very often. This is to prevent the water from stagnating, possibly causing the plant to suffocate and rot. It is better to pour the water directly onto the ground, preferably around the edges, allowing it to gradually reach the plants, thus avoiding possible water temperature shock.
Remember that a vegetable garden on the terrace should not be thought of as something only according to your needs and benefits. It should also be a personal contribution to help the environment and the biodiversity of the animals that depend and live on it, such as bees and birds that will come to visit you!