Gardening on your balcony (Google Alert / China Daily)

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Google Alert for gardening

China Daily

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/citylife/2007-07/19/content_5439409_2.htm

Gardening on your balcony

All it takes to introduce a breath of the outdoors into your house is a balcony. Planting vegetables on the balcony is trendy among urbanites. Regardless of attitudes towards planting vegetables on the balcony, it demonstrates a desire for a slower pace of life amidst today’s urban rush. “The life of a farmer, springtime and a patch of grass are my dreams,” reads a real estate sign in the Beijing subway. It is difficult to make out the writing with the endless stream of people passing in front of it as they board and exit.

Live healthier

Urban residents have few opportunities to eat fresh vegetables every day. They usually go to the market and buy food to get them through the week. If they plant vegetables themselves, they could eat fresh ones at any time. Planting on your own is also a great way to skirt the chemical problems of market-grown vegetables.

Wang Xueyan, as part of Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), plants tomatoes and cucumbers on her balcony.”There are only two ways for humans to connect with the environment: one is to protect the environment, and the other one is to destroy it,” she said.”Planting vegetables on the balcony is a win-win activity, both for the environment and for ourselves,” she explains, “It can make our balcony greener, and contribute to a nicer city landscape. It also provides a source of fresh green food for our daily lives.””It is a healthy habit to have, and I think it will only become more popular among Beijng’s urbanites,” she added

Living the dream

Yu Jun’s wife used to love to plant flowers and plants on their balcony, but she was always disappointed with the results. “The kafir lilies never flowered on our balcony,and neither did the cacnea,” he husband said.

Last year, they found vines with yellow flowers wrapped around one of their pots. The vines eventually bore fruit, which turned out to be balsam pears. His wife picked up pears and made a cold dish. “It was fabulous. Since then, my wife has been fascinated with planting vegetables on the balcony,” he said. His wife bought some leek seeds early this year and planted them in a garden pot. “In the beginning, she used to get up and check how her leeks were doing every morning. In only half a month, they had shot up 20 centimeters. She has a lot of fun, and usually isn’t disappointed with the results.”Today, we have planted five pots of leeks. We can eat fresh leeks almost every day,” he said.

Choose vegetables suited to your balcony

What kind of vegetables you can plant depends not only on your preference and needs, but also on the direction your balcony faces.

If it faces to the south, it is the ideal spot for planting the vegetables. Anything can be grown easily on this balcony, including aquatic vegetables like lotus root, water caltrop and water chestnut.

If your balcony faces east or west, it is better for sun-loving and shade-enduring vegetabless, such as onion, leek, towel gourd, parsley and Chinese radish. If your balcony faces west, make sure your vegetables can endure high temperatures, because you are guaranteed to get a lot of sunlight.

If your balcony faces north, it will have little sunshine during the daytime. You should grow shade-loving vegetables there, like lettuce, asparagus and water spinach.

Proper containers are key

Almost any type of container can be used for growing vegetables. Try using bushel baskets, drums, gallon cans, tubs or wooden boxes. The size of the container can vary according to the crop selection and space available. Pots from 15 to 25 centimeters are satisfactory for green onions, parsley and herbs. For most vegetables crops such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, 5-gallon containers are better. They are easy to handle and provide adequate space for root growth.

Regardless of the type or size of container used, adequate drainage is a necessity for successful yields. Try adding 2.5 centimeters of coarse gravel to the bottom of the container to improve drainage. The drain holes are best located along the side of the container, about 0.5 to 1 centimeters from the bottom.

From Beijing Today

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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