Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lessons in Apartment Gardening

A couple months ago I planted peas, radishes, kohlrabi, and hollyhocks in pots and wrote about it here and here. Part of my goal was to see if, as an apartment dweller, I could grow vegetables in pots effectively enough to save money on groceries.

Here's what I learned.
  • It all depends on sunlight. I knew that my front porch would be shady by the summertime, but since I moved in in June last year, I wasn't sure exactly when I'd lose the sun. Well, I lost the sun by about mid-April. My radishes grew quickly enough that most of them matured as planned. Everything else, however, is just kind of limping half-heartedly along. SO: if you want to grow vegetables, the main point is to have them in full sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. Shirking on this doesn't work.
  • However, recently I read that if sunlight is an issue, you might have okay results with root crops or greens. Fruit-bearing plants or things that form pods or seeds DEFINITELY need their full six hours of sun, but you might be able to get decent, say, beets or carrots with less.
  • Think about pest control before you need to. You can see by the lovely leaf pictured that something's been munching on my vegetables, and I don't mean me! The sad part is that I let it happen. I was on the fence as to whether I wanted to use tried-and-true pesticides or research some greener, cheaper deterrents. I never actually decided which way to go . . . But one of my upstairs neighbors had an idea.
  • 1/4 laundry detergent to 3/4 water deters some kinds of munchers. I sprayed down my plants with this mixture, mainly because the idea was dropped into my lap and I didn't have to research anything or buy anything. (Not too sure about spraying laundry detergent on my vegetables, however....) but it works! The unidentified pea and kohlrabi muncher hasn't progressed any further.

All in all, I got about a dozen radishes, and I've been harvesting a pea or two a day for about a week. The kohlrabi were so thoroughly eaten that I don't expect them to recover in time to mature. So has this been a frugal win? No.

But I do think that if my pots were getting enough sunlight and I had managed to keep the pests off, they would have done respectably.

Now, my north window is getting the most sun—not much, but an hour or two before sunset—so I've moved some of my plants over to it.

How is your garden growing? Have you met any challenges?