When I lived in an apartment (more than once, actually), my green thumb didn’t quiet down just because I was short on space and absent of an accessible yard. Nor did my desire to continue to eat food I knew was organically grown simply by virtue of the fact that I’d grown it myself. That’s when I first investigated terrace gardening. Of course, with just a small terrace or shared porch – depending upon which apartment I’m recalling here – I couldn’t entirely feed myself out of pots and crates. But I got a surprising amount of yield doing terrace gardening, and I felt better for it (and had fun doing it). Along the way, I had my share of snafus. Here’s what I learned and how you can keep the mistakes minimal and the fresh, delicious yields coming!
Know Your Water Allowance
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: gardening does involve watering. If you pay for your own water, that’s one thing. If water is included in your rent, that’s another, so if this is the case with you, find out what restrictions your landlord has on water usage, as well as any city/county restrictions that may apply. If you’re restricted significantly, you’ll need to adjust the amount of veggies and/or decoratives you’ll be planting. Or you can choose plants that require less water so you can get a few more into your terrace garden plan. Don’t worry: you CAN garden while conserving water! Do your due diligence and you will absolutely find many, many garden varieties that can thrive with less water.
Watch Out for Leaks
Yes, I say this from experience (the actual event is too embarrassing to recall here). With that said, be very careful of overwatering, spillage, and of leaks that could impact your more southerly neighbors. Besides being an annoyance, dripping water can over time warp wood and other textiles, rust bolts and nails and cause damage you’ll be paying for later. Make sure you have this issue under control and have a good, dependable drainage system in place.
When Possible, Use Lightweight Containers
Whatever structure sticks out of the side of your apartment, house or condo should be strong enough to hold you, at the very least, and probably a few others…but you never know. If you have ANY concerns about the stability of a structure, particularly one above ground-level, ask your landlord to look into it immediately. As for your terrace garden, dirt/soil is heavy, which is why we mention checking the stability of the area before attempting this form of gardening. Because of this extra weight even on a solid structure, you’ll want to keep things as light as possible, while still supportive, when it comes to your containers. Find light-weight pots or crates and put more than one plant or crop into each container if possible.
Make Sure the Soil Stays Fertile
Your container soil isn’t mixing with other soils and probably isn’t gathering fallen leaves or other nutrient-rich debris, so be sure to fertilize your plants regularly to replenish what’s being lost in the growing process. If you have room to compost, so much the better; compost is usually very rich in nutrients for your plants.
We mentioned leaks, but there’s another reason you’ll want to watch out for overwatering: even with good drainage, it’s easy to oversaturate contained soil. Not all plants can tolerate a lot of water, even those that usually like moisture. If you’re noticing yellowing leaves, wilting or mold, you may be a bit too generous with the water. Cut back a bit until the situation rights itself. Being watchful of potential issues will make your terrace gardening experience less stressful and will increase your yields in less space. Terrace gardening really is rewarding, so enjoy!
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