Have you been wanting to grow your own produce, but you’re not sure what or how? Or you’re not even sure if you have enough space? Don’t worry, with these simple tips, in just in few square yards, you’ll soon be able to start bringing your own produce straight to the table! 😉
1. Choice of species
The first thing you need to do is choose what you want to plant in terms of their resilience and growth vigour, which may or may not be kept in check by picking, for example, such as with rosemary or basil. A moderate growth vigour will be needed to keep your chosen plant in a pot or box, or on a trellis or balcony. The little soil made available to it must be enough for its root system. So plant species with shallow root systems, which can easily adapt to the container they are placed in, are particularly recommended.
Naturally, another advantage of choosing more slowly growing species is that they don’t take up too much room in terms of footprint.
Plants suitable for a home garden include:
– Lettuce (Lactuca sativa): almost all species
– Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum): almost all species, with certain growth patterns. Datterini and cherry tomatoes, which have indistinct growth patterns, will need some form of support
– Radish (Raphanus sativus)
– Strawberries: all species of the genus Fragaria
– Chilli pepper: almost all species of the genus Capsicum
– Aromatic herbs, such as:
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Mint: almost all species belonging to the genus Mentha
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
– Other species with moderate growth vigour.
Plants characterized by a creeping or shrubby growth pattern, however, are not suitable for a small home garden.
2. Seeds or seedlings
The use of seedlings is recommended because it is the fastest way to obtain pickable produce. Also, since the critical seed germination phase is over, the seedlings need far less attention.
3. Choice of pot
Your choice of pot should be dictated by the plant species, to allow for the proper development of its root system. It’s always better to take a slightly larger pot, as a smaller one could impede its development. For example, tubers will need deeper pots than strawberries. As for the choice of material, there is no general rule. The important thing is that they can maintain soil moisture without allowing water to stagnate. It is therefore better to opt for pots that have at least a small hole in the bottom.
In order to avoid competition and conflict between plant species, in most cases, you should grow only one per pot.
For planting seedlings, you can use a universal soil, preferably rich in organic matter.
For optimal drainage, you can also lay 2-3 cm of expanded clay aggregate or gravel at the bottom of the pot.
It is recommended to add some new soil every now and again, since topping up and oxygenating the soil will give the plants all they need to grow healthily, while avoiding disease due to fungi, nematodes and other plant pathogens.
Exposure is a fundamental aspect in helping plants grow better. A southern exposure is particularly good, as it can guarantee up 6 hours of sunlight needed for photosynthesis, the vital biological process of all plant species. However, not all plants fare well with too much sun. For example, while aromatic herbs need quite a lot, lettuce needs far less.
Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that your plants may need protecting on the driest, sunniest days to avoid sudden damage and wilting.
Wind also plays a key role in exposure. Remember to keep your plants in a well-ventilated environment that allows for air and humidity to re-circulate, while protecting them from strong winds and gusts.
Last but not least is frost. Remember to cover your plants in winter or move them to a sheltered place.
Once planted, your plants will need watering. This is certainly one of the most complex aspects to manage. Abundant, frequent watering is to be avoided, as it may cause various pathologies, such as the rotting of roots. It’s common to think giving plants more water means they’ll be better off and grow faster. Nothing could be more wrong! Watering in the wrong way can lead to catastrophic consequences for the plant. The most important advice is, “Don’t be in a hurry”, and then you are bound to see your plants grow naturally and healthily 😊.
Watering needs to be managed not only quantitatively, in terms of litres of water, but also qualitatively, such as in terms of frequency.
It goes without saying that the soil must be neither too dry, nor too wet, as both cases can lead to negative consequences.
The watering quantity and frequency is determined by various factors that need to be considered for the proper management and health of your plants. The main aspects to consider are:
- The species: some species may require more water than others.
- With the same species, the phenological stage: newly planted seedlings will need a different watering regime than the same plant in vegetative or budding phases.
- Sun exposure: the more the plants are exposed to the sun, the more they will need water.
- Temperature: the hotter it is, the more watering will be needed.
- Humidity: the more humidity, the less the plants need to be watered.
- Wind: the stronger the wind blows, the faster water will evaporate.
- Soil type: a clayey soil will retain more water than a sandy one, and, therefore, will need less watering.
Given all these of considerations, the ideal time of day to water is the morning, or the late afternoon, especially on hot days, as watering is more efficient and avoids potential damage to the plant. The advantages of watering in the coolest hours of the day are:
- Watering is more efficient: in the cooler hours, the soil is cooler, and this limits the effect of evaporation.
- Plants lose a lot of water in the hottest hours through transpiration: in the cooler hours, the stomata are not fully open, and this allows the plant to optimize water demand.
- You can avoid the scalding effect: if you have a surface irrigation system, in the hottest hours of the day, the water can reach high temperatures inside pipes, and, if you irrigate you at such times, you will risk scalding the roots of the plant.
- You can avoid the lens effect: droplets of water that remain on leaves reflect the sun’s rays, and may scald the leaves at the point of contact.
Be careful to water only the soil, and not the plant or leaves.
To know exactly how much water you need to give and how often, the best method is to install soil moisture sensors.
Your home garden plants should not have any particular for fertilization. Good planting in a well-suited pot, with good soil, exposure and irrigation will allow for robust and healthy growth.
But, if you want to give your plants a little extra helping hand, we recommend a universal organic fertilizer.
It is important not to overdo fertilization, as too much may damage your plants. Remember that fertilizers are made up of various minerals that, in excessive quantities, may even poison seedlings! The advice is, therefore, to read the fertilizer dosage instructions carefully, and make sure you know the nutritional requirements of the particular plant. Indeed, each and every plant has its own unique nutritional needs, which also depend on the particular state and stage they are in.
8. Othert tips
Keep your plants clean, well-aired and spaced adequately apart from one another. Remove any dry or diseased parts.
Aerate the soil from time to time, to promote a good gas exchange between the soil and the air above.
Remove any weeds, and also plant a flowering species nearby, so that it can attract insects, which are essential for pollination.