Today I’m so pleased to have a guest post from Becca Wray, whose site http://www.thefamilychi.com helps black thumb gardeners like myself find their way. And yes, I realize it’s shameful that I’m a black thumb gardener since my grandparents ran a flower and vegetable farm as did their parents and cousins. Sigh. Sad, but true. When I was a kid, I even helped out on the farm for a salary of $1 a day and managed not to kill anything.
But I digress.
With Becca’s tips, I hope to transform my own garden (a definite case of low light and relatively small space) from a dying garden into a thriving one.
Becca Wray is a Holistic Health Coach and avid gardener who has been gardening for years, everywhere from Alabama to Delaware. She has grown varieties of fruits and veggies in her own gardens and has learned from her MANY mistakes along the way! She writes from experience and loves working with others as a both a Holistic Health & Gardening Coach, identifying plants and problems and helping others become confident gardeners in the time and space they have.
Full sun and rich soils are the ideal conditions in which to grow vegetables, but we don’t all have ideal circumstances in which to grow vegetables! Is it possible to grow fresh vegetables in a city apartment with a small balcony, or on a deck that only receives a few hours of sunlight all day? Can vegetables thrive in containers when there’s no open ground available? The answer is… YES!
Although, some veggies can thrive in less sun, it’s important to remember that no vegetable can grow in full shade. In order to decide what you can grow, you need to know how much sun do you have. The best way to find out is to clock the sun’s presence; most of us make mistakes when we rely on memory. Start by making a sketch of your space; be sure to include anything that might cast a shadow, also remember that your sunlight will be different during the different growing seasons, so be sure to make sketch for each growing season.
Once you’ve drawn your sketch, every 1/2 hour make a note where the sun hits and how long the sun stays in that spot. (Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be done in one day – you can spread it over 3 or 4 days) For a healthier harvest, it’s important to remember that southern exposure is best; however, limited amounts of eastern and/or western light over the course of the day can add up. Even northern exposure will do if the path of sunlight is unobstructed and lasts sufficiently. You may be surprised where your best spots for growing are. Keep in mind, the more sunlight your plants receive, the more productive the plants will be!
Once you know the light you’ll be working with, we can break vegetables down into 3 indoor growing categories: Fruits, Roots, and Foliage.
- FRUITS: plants that we primarily harvest the fruit, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and squash. These require the most sunlight and warmth. Unless you have at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, it’s unwise to attempt growing any of these.
- ROOTS: Vegetables grown primarily for their roots and flowers, such as radishes, beets, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. These require a little less sunlight; with as little as 4 hours of sunlight a day, these will be able to grow.
- FOLIAGE: plants that grow leafy vegetables, such as radicchio, arugula, spinach, kale, chard and mustard greens. With as little as three hours of sun, you can successfully grow leafy vegetables.
Once you know where and what you’ll grow, you’ll need to decide how you’re going grow your vegetables.
All vegetables perform best with rich, well-drained soil. (Be sure to enrich your existing loam with compost and fertilizer.) I like to use an organic slow-release formula. If you plant in containers, mix up to half compost with any potting soil you use. In addition, after your plants start to flower, put diluted fertilizer in the water you give your plants through the season.
It’s important in small spaces to Plant Close & Use Vertical Spacing. You can maximize both available space and light by going up. Training plants that vine to grow vertically increases available space on the ground for other crops. It’s also likely that vertical supports will enable plants to reach more sunlight. Whether planted in containers or in the ground, keep in mind each plant’s eventual height. Always situate everything to make the best use of all available light, so taller crops don’t cast shade on shorter ones.
As many low space, low light gardeners before you, you will find that your limitations will only enhance your creativity! You’ll find ways to grow in spaces you never imagined!