Mini Gardening

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 02:21 PM.

Everyone knows that vegetable gardening is more popular today than ever before.  But, we usually discuss this subject in the context of the backyard garden.  That isn’t always fair to the growing number of Floridians who live in apartment, condominium and mobile home parks, places where there’s little to no backyard to be had.

Just because you don’t have a big yard and lots of room, doesn’t mean you can’t grow vegetables.  In fact, the home gardener who gets emotionally involved with a strawberry barrel, or half-dozen tomato plants, probably has more fun than anybody else.  My information was provided by Extension’s Emeritus Vegetable Specialist Jim Stephens of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

In addition to being an enjoyable activity, mini-gardening can be practical and ornamental.  Containers can fit almost anywhere in the landscape, on potions, porches, and balconies, even on roof tops.

Depending on the types of vegetables you plan to grow, there’s practically no limit to the kinds of containers you can use.  Old pots and pans, milk jugs, hollow concrete blocks, bushel baskets, trash cans, barrels and drums and even plastics bag have all been used.  Just be sure the container will hold the soil in, and let excess water drain out.

Once you have a container and have decided what to grow, it’s time to think about a growing medium.  Of course you can plant in ordinary gardens oil or a prepared soil mix.  With a container garden you also can consider soil substitutes things like mushroom compost or wood shavings.  If you plant in a lightweight soil substitute, it will be easier to move the container, should that become necessary.

A good choice is a growth medium mode of one bushel of vermiculite, a bushel of peat moss, one-and-a-quarter cups of dolomite, and a cup of 8-8-8 fertilizer, with trace elements all mixed thoroughly.  You could also use a bushel of sand or garden soil mixed with a bushel of peat, cow manure, or well-decomposed compost.  Either way, you need the dolomite and fertilizer.  These mixtures with plenty of organic matter and some fertilizer don’t need extra fertilizer very often.  Every week or two should be adequate.  You can drench with a fertilizer solution, or spread common dry fertilizer on the soil surface and water it thoroughly into the root zone.  Just don’t apply too much, or you may cause fertilizer burn.

If you choose a more porous growth medium, such as sand or gravel, which will dry out faster and won’t hold nutrients very long you’ll need to water and fertilize more often.  Normally, you should drench the container with a fertilizer solution once or twice a day as money as five times a day, if it’s especially hot and dry.

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