Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gardening- Does it have to cost a lot? Does it need large space?

These days every gardening show I watch is either recommending a product or advertising a product or doing a stealth advertising of a product. Therefore it wont surprise me if a novice gardener with a small backyard or a balcony will think that they need to have either a large space or lots of products or both and give up on gardening before they can even start.

It does not have to be that way. I will show you how to have a garden literally with anything you may have at home, some potting mix and some fertilizer. One does not need more than that. Plants have been growing for 400 million years and they did not use all the products that are advertised on TV. This also has an impact where the products you use for gardening will be recycled products and since you will only use simple basic ingredients you really don't have to spend too much. 

Oil bottle being cut with a hacksaw

Cut bottle with conical top to be used as a funnel
What can you use to make pots? Any plastic drink bottle such as washed coca cola plastic bottles or washed oil bottles or any plastic bottle of any kind. These are cut at the neck using a hack saw blade. Remove the neck part which is conical and you can use it as a funnel for various purposes. Look at the plastic bottle pots below used for growth of small trees.

Now use a drill or a iron needle which is about 4mm in diameter and make 2 holes at the bottom sides of the bottle leaving about 4cm from the base of the bottle to the hole on the bottom side. This will help to retain some water at the bottom without draining it all out. To prevent water from dripping on the balcony or some other surface cut off the bottom of another larger bottle at the bottom to use it as a saucer. Do not throw away the top 3/4 part which is is now bell shaped and can be used as a hot house for young seedlings.

Use some potting mix to fill the bottle after making holes on the bottom sides. Pack tightly so that there is a strong base for the roots to grow. Place the root ball of the plant into the bottle-pot and pack more potting mix. The result will be as below where I have planted an Australian native tree into a bottle pot. so long as they are well watered and kept well drained you can keep slow growing plants for several months or 2 years in that bottle pot before transferring it into bigger pots. 

You can use similar bottle pots to grow young seedlings by planting seeds into it and covering it with either funnel part of the bottle to keep them warm in the early growth stages.

Now what else can you use?

If you want to grow tropical plants especially those with bulbs or rhizomes such as turmeric or ginger then you can use polystyrene boxes which are thrown away regularly either in pharmacies or medical centers as they receive vaccines etc in them. These are highly useful as pots. Do the same as with the bottle to make holes on 2 bottom sides about 4 cm above the base of the side. For polystyrene boxes you can use a small stick or a pencil sharp end to make hole gently without breaking too many bits.

Polystyrene boxes used as pots 
Lemon grass growing in a polystyrene pot 

When growing plants in these kind of recycled pots one can use acrylic paints or ornaments to decorate the pots and make them look decorative too. However ensure that you do not either over water or under water these as over watering will lead to fungal diseases which affect the roots and leaves and cause plant death and under watering will dehydrate plants and cause plant death too.

It is up to your imagination what to grow. generally in small areas one can grow ornamentals of about 30 cm height or vegetables such as dwarf beans, chillies, corinder, basil, turmeric, ginger, lemon grass, potatoes, onion chives very nicely in polystyrene pots so long as they get about 6-8 hours of sun light it will grow well. You can use some fertilizer for first few weeks after that once every month. In the west you can get powder fertilizer and use it as per label instructions. You now have no excuse to grow vegetables which give beautiful flowers and add ornamental value to your balcony. 

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