I thought it was appropriate to start this blog with recalling how I got to where I am now. In this, I simply mean how I ended up with an allotment, how I came to be planting what I am now in pots on the balcony and what I have learnt so far. This is what the next few posts are likely to be focused on.
I suppose it started with an interest in trying some gardening, and our opportune moving into a flat with some (although not much) outside space.
The small balcony provided a good platform for me to begin growing ‘a few’ plants and I recommend everyone with some outside space in which to put pots, does so.
I wouldn’t, however, recommend purchasing enough pots to fill the whole space at once and as many plants as you could lay your hands on (er…so I have heard…from a friend…). Do it in steps and stages (not only does this give you chance to try things and take your time, but it also allows you to spread the display of colours and flowers over a longer period). I didn’t and the result was disappointing. I began with 30 spring bulbs and a few (eight) herbs. I soon discovered this was slightly ambitious considering I didn’t have a clue where to start or what to do (e.g wondering which way up you plant the bulbs). The result? Six dead herbs, failed bulbs and plenty of brown foliage drooped over the pots I had spent time planting up. Where did I go wrong? There were several errors I made in this first punt into gardening and I have summarised a few key ones below:
- Don’t just stick compost or soil into a pot and hope. You need to add some form of crock. All this means is something such as stones, broken bits of pot, chunks of polystyrene etc in the bottom of a pot to aid the drainage of the soil on top. It doesn’t have to be a big layer (about 1/2 inch or 2-3 cms) but is necessary. If you don’t? The soil doesn’t drain well, it becomes waterlogged and essentially will rot the bulbs or roots of a plant.
- Don’t over-water. Or you will have the same outcome as above – waterlogged plants. Think for a minute, would you try and plant your bulbs in a puddle? If not, don’t try and create a sludgy puddle in the pot. Depending on the conditions, watering a pot every 3-4 days is sufficient in the cooler temperatures, and maybe once a day or once every couple of days in extremely scorching weather. This really depends on how wet the soil is, and how the plant looks – a bit of common sense here is needed (something which apparently eluded me!). Everything in moderation – not a whole watering can over 3 plants. It is just too much…apparently.
- Don’t over-firm the soil / compost in the pot. If you do, how is the water you are pouring on it meant to get to the roots? How are the roots meant to spread and establish if they are facing a concrete-like density of soil? By the same token, you do need to firm it into the pot a little, or each time the wind blows you will end up with the plant being ripped out of the pot, moving around too much and sadly, damaging the roots.
But I suppose most of all, despite the above, don’t be afraid to give things a go. You won’t kill a plant if you put too much water on it a couple of times, or if you forget to water it for a day or so. It won’t suddenly fly off in the wind if you don’t firm it quite enough, and won’t just die overnight if its too firm. You will be able to gauge this from how the water is taken into the soil. The plant may start to droop or look a little off-colour, but it is usually salvageable.
Don’t be afraid of trying things out and seeing what works. Just perhaps try it on some slightly less expensive plants first, not your wife’s favorite orchids and hyacinths…