Colour on balconies, decks and porches

Photo credit: Dallas News

Railing planters filled with colorful combinations add interest to balconies, decks and porches /Gardener’s Supply Co.

Plant variety of outdoor containers to enhance the view

Brighten up your patio, deck or front entrance with containers. They’re an excellent way to add color, fragrance and beauty where plantable space is limited or nonexistent.

Set a few containers on the front or back steps, in the corner of your deck or any location where they can be enjoyed. Try stacking and planting several containers to create a display with greater vertical interest. Check the views when looking from inside the house as well as when outdoors. Strategically place containers to be spotted from frequently used windows.

Save even more space by using railing planters. You can dress up the porch or deck by filling these planters with colorful flowers and edibles. Carefully inspect a product to make sure it is sturdy and will be easily installed given your property’s specifics. Reduce time spent installing and maintaining with easy-to-install self-watering rail planters, like Viva balcony rail planters from or metal English troughs at Home Depot and other local retailers.

Don’t limit yourself to flowers. Mix in a few edibles to bring some homegrown flavor to outdoor entertaining. You and your guests will enjoy plucking a few mint leaves for beverages, basil to top a slice of pizza or a sprig of dill for just-grilled fish.

Read the full article: The Dallas Morning News

Balcony gardening

Photo credit: Edrick Tobias Molina

(Tokyo – Balcony – cherry tomato)

CAROLE MCCRAY: Grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs on your balcony

No yard? No problem. Reach for a tomato from a container on your deck or enjoy one from a container on an apartment balcony.

As long as you have a space that receives about eight hours of sunlight during the day, you can have a container garden.

There are vegetables ideally suited to growing in containers.

• Tomatoes are one. Their tenacity and ability to grow in small spaces make them good container plants. Sunny, sheltered locations are ideal for tomatoes, but if the space is windy and exposed, choose smaller varieties such as patio and cherry tomatoes. (Patio tomatoes are the only type of tomato that can produce a decent crop in partial shade.)

If you keep watering and fertilizing a little, your tomatoes will keep producing throughout the summer.

• Bush beans can be planted in containers because they don’t require much staking and they ripen fast. Bush beans have the extra benefit of adding nitrogen to the soil, which helps the next crop planted in the pot.

• For colorful and ornamental vegetables, try chili peppers. If you plant them in a decorative container, it can be a dramatic touch and one you will enjoy looking at. Also, your container with chili peppers can double as an edible table centerpiece.

• Herbs do well in containers. Rosemary, any of the thymes, marjoram, various basils and parsley are popular culinary herbs that like lots of sun. It is nice to have them close to the kitchen where you can step outside and snip fresh herbs for your favorite dishes.

• A container plant that is both ornamental and has texture is kale. It can span the seasons, planting and harvesting as the season goes along since it is a good cool weather crop. Try grouping pots of kale with colorful potted flowers such as zinnias, impatiens or marigolds for a decorative touch, some contrast and interesting textures.

• Lettuce is a good container plant. However, in the hot summer heat, it will bolt quickly. When that happens, cut the entire plant and refrigerate it, making sure all soil, debris and insects are gone. Do not wash the lettuce until you are ready to eat it.

If you want lettuce throughout the season, plant several containers in stages to keep harvesting.


Read the full article: Indiana Gazette

The year of containers

Photo credit: Nha Hoan Le (Santa Monica, CA, USA)

Containers on a balcony

Cooperative Extension: This year, consider planting a container garden

by Carrie Murphy UD Cooperative Extension


Containers can make a garden when space is limited, in-ground growing is not an option, or accessibility and convenience are considerations. For example, plant herbs in containers near the door for easy access while cooking. Containers can also serve as accessories by adding additional dimension and flexibility to grow in spaces you normally couldn’t. If strategically planted and well-maintained, they can be highly productive, yielding fresh produce for your family, friends and neighbors.

Containers can be made from wood, clay, fiber, plastic, metal or stone, and vary in size and shape. Cost and durability also vary. Whenever possible, reuse and recycle appropriate items that are lying around your home that might be used for planting. Every container, whether recycled or not, must have holes to insure good drainage. You also need a good, nutrient-rich growing medium that will retain moisture and still drain well. Commercial container mixes are readily available in local garden centers, or you can blend your own.

Situate your containers for maximum sunlight and easy access to water. Most vegetables and herbs will need at least six hours of sunlight a day; however, others will need more to flower and fruit properly. Remember to harvest regularly to maintain productivity.

Start with healthy plants – disease resistant varieties if available – and maintain your plants well to prevent insect or disease problems. Monitor your plants regularly for any symptoms or signs of a pest problem. If you suspect a problem, contact your Extension office for help with identification and treatment recommendations.

Read the full article: Newark Post Online

Gardening on your balcony, patio or unused driveway (Google / SteubenCourier)

Read at : Google Alert – container gardening

Home Help: Balcony gardens

Gardening on your balcony, patio or unused driveway is a great alternative when you cannot raise produce in the ground.

When placing your container garden, look for a full-sun location. Produce needs full sunlight to collect enough energy for a good crop.

“Pots can also be placed on dollies or wheels to follow the sun if necessary,” said Nancy Pollard, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “An old child’s wagon will grow lettuce nicely and can be moved to where the sun shines. Taller plants may be too top heavy to move easily. Don’t have eight hours of full sun? Try some leafy vegetables in light shade.”

If a container holds soil and has drainage holes in the bottom, it can be used for the garden. Big containers are best. They must be able to stay upright with fully grown vegetables in them, unless it is of the hanging variety. Large containers also make it easier to keep the soil moisture from fluctuating.

In the container, use a potting mix, not heavy garden soil. Many have slow-release nutrients or fertilizers already added. The size of the plant determines how much soil it will need. A gallon container will grow about five leafy lettuce plants, but only one plant of Swiss chard collards or kale.


Gardening On Your Patio (Google / Gardeners World Online)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Gardening On Your Patio

Patio gardening is for everyone with a patio. Even if you have a yard, don’t forget your patio or balcony. These are great places for gardening in containers. A trellis with ivy or some other type of climbing vine can become a shield from neighbors. They can also provide a reprieve from an unsightly yard or street. Don’t have or like a trellis but still want to block a view, consider a large plant – Ficus or other large container plant. So remember to grow in containers, grow vertically with a trellis and downward with hinging pots. Hanging plants such as a spider plant or a fern can become a conversation piece. Soon your patio or balcony with become your own personal retreat from the stresses of the day. Continue reading Gardening On Your Patio (Google / Gardeners World Online)

Container gardening on Chicago windowsill (H. HOUGH / Willem)

A nice message from Heidi HOUGH (Chicago) :

I’m delighted to know that our little synopsis was helpful. We continue to enjoy your site and send grateful thanks for including our project, which is just getting underway in year two. In the meantime, I’ve got some cool-weather greens growing in plastic boxes (with drainage holes) up on our second-story window sills. Arugula, spinach, chard, French breakfast radish, and lettuces. I like to eat them right out of the box (like a grazing animal–I am shameless).Chicago windowsillChicago second story windowsill container with fresh vegetables.


 Vegetables in plastic trays high above the street

Young lettuce grown in the city


French breakfast radishes close to the kitchen

red lettuce

Lettuce on a windowsill can be decorative like flowering plants



On May 5th I posted the following message :

Some weeks ago I discovered that people in Chicago were growing plants in buckets. Bruce FIELDS, Heidi HOUGH and their friends developed a very interesting system. I asked them to receive more information on it and to be enabled to publish some of their marvelous pictures. Heide came up with a splendid solution : THEIR FLICKR PAGE. Here is her message :

“I have finally set to order my flickr page. I hope this helps you and others see how we set up our growing buckets. You may freely use any of my pictures at your site.

Here’s the link:

We are excited that it could be useful to people whose water supply is not as bountiful as our own, 20 blocks from Lake Michigan.

Heidi Hough & Associates Inc
1904 W Division
Chicago IL 60622

Text going with the Flickr Page :

Our homemade earthboxes–really earthbuckets–were created from food-grade buckets we had left over from the leaky roof years. We’ve shown a very rudimentary step-by-step series on how to build these buckets. This link is far more comprehensive:

Here’s a good video that shows the process: eurl=http://www.h…

Art built the trellis, which worked beautifully for tying up the climbing cukes and tomatoes. With neighbor Bruce down the street in Wicker Park, Chicago, we had a lot of fun during this first year growing veggies on our rooftops. Go see his pix and descriptive text for more on this Year One of the rooftop garden experiment.

And our supportive friends helped us cook and eat the bounty.


I strongly recommend all the visitors of my blog to have a look at that wonderful series of pictures, explaining how the Chicago team build their bucket system.

My sincere congratulations to Heidi, Bruce and their Chicago team.”


Today, I received Heidi’s magnificent pictures of her “windowsill garden” (above). I believe that just a look at them will convince a lot of people to follow this splendid example, showing how simple and easy it is to produce fresh food in and around the house, even on a windowsill in a city like Chicago.

Did I recently hear food crisis ? Did someone mention high food prices ? Anyone of us, wherever we live, can partly solve that problem. Just grow your own vegetables and herbs (and some fruits) in containers in any location : balconies, terraces, windowsills, patios, platforms, open spaces around the house, flat roofs, etc. Even the cheapest containers, like plastic or PET bottles, yoghurt pots, buckets, sandwich boxes etc. can be transformed in mini-gardens or mini-greenhouses (see former postings on this blog). Give it a try and become a skilled gardener like Heidi HOUGH or Bruce FIELDS (see my former postings on their successes).

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis (Willem)

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis

Drought is described as a very important environmental constraint, limiting plant growth and food production. The World Food Program (WFP) has recently indicated drought in Australia as one of the major factors for the difficulty to deliver food aid to millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Drought is seen as the force driving up wheat and rice prices, which contributes directly to food shortage, social unrest and disturbances at the global level. Therefore, mitigating drought and limiting water consumption seems to be essential factors for resolving the actual food crisis and to find long-term solutions to malnutrition, hunger and famine, particularly in the drylands.

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

As the world’s population is growing by about 78 million people a year, it affects life on this earth in a very dramatic way. Droughts have caused a rise of food prices many times before, but the present situation is quite different, because it is based on specific trends and facts : the faster growing world population and a definite change in international food consumption trends and habits.

Some experts claim that “major investments to boost world food output will keep shortages down to the malnutrition level in some of the world’s poorer nations“, and that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields can create a lot of small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”.

It seems quite difficult to believe that “major investments to boost the food output” will be able to “keep the food shortages down to the malnutrition level“, wherever in this world. Indeed, the world’s most famous research institutes have already developed very effective technologies to boost food production in the most adverse conditions of serious drought and salinity. Yet, not one single organization has ever decided, up to now, to use “major investments” to apply such technologies in large-scale programs, which would most certainly change the food situation in the world’s poorest nations.

It seems also difficult to believe that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields” will be able to create “small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”. It is not by improving a farm’s infrastructure that one will manage drought. Although a number of technological solutions to boost farm yields have already been developed, only those tackling the drought problems are an option to create significant changes.

I do not believe that such changes can be realized at the level of large-scale farms. On the contrary, I am convinced that application of cost-effective, soil conditioning methods to enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and to boost biomass production in the drylands, is the best solution to help the poor rural people to avoid malnutrition and hunger, giving them a “fresh” start with a daily portion of “fresh vegetables”. These rural people, forming the group most affected by the food crisis, do not need to play a role in boosting the world’s food production. They simply need to produce enough food for their own family (“to fill their own hungry stomach“). Application of cost-effective technologies should therefore be programmed at the level of small-scale “family gardens” or “school gardens” and not at the scale of huge (industrial) farms, where return on investment is always the key factor for survival of the business.

Preferentially, major investments to boost the food output in the drylands should be employed to improve food production in family gardens and school gardens, in order to offer all rural people an opportunity to produce more and better food, vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins and mineral elements, mostly for their own family members or kids, partly for the local market.

Splendid examples of long-term combating food shortage with family gardens can be seen since 2006 in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project). One can only hope that such a success story will soon be duplicated in many similar situations, where hungry people wait for similar innovative and well-conceived practices, with a remarkable return on investment, laying solid foundations for further sustainable development.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance urban gardening space, not only with allotment gardens, but also with “guerilla gardening” and transformation of open, underused spaces into small-scale garden plots for downtown dwellers, apartment dwellers and even for university students like those at the McGill University in Montreal. Many poor urban people are very keen on harvesting their own crops in such small gardens or applying container gardening on balconies, terraces, rooftops or other unused open spaces. Support for urban agriculture or urban gardening can be seen as a priority for decision-makers to reverse the world’s food crisis.

Food aid, be it with billions of dollars, can only be very effective if priority is given to local food production for the poor rural or urban people, who can not afford to buy the expensive commercial food products in shops or supermarkets. Small-scale family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and urban gardens in unused open spaces should be our strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis.

New homeowner without a garden (Google / Concrete Gardening)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Tales of a new homeowner without a garden

I realize I’ve been quite slack on the blog front, but I also just bought a house (without a garden) and my days have been spent unpacking, walking around saying “I can’t believe this is ours,” and finding interesting quirks about our new abode. (Such as – after five minutes in the shower the water turns lukewarm. Great for water conservation I guess. Bah Bum.) The first night we took a crash course in garbage disposal design when we learned that our dishwasher wasn’t draining. (It’s amazing what you can do with the help of online forums, a hammer, and a screw driver.)

Now we’re settling in, using the dishwasher (heavenly after three years of hand washing dishes), and it’s really starting to feel like home.  (Even though we have no furniture on the third floor. We might leave it like that for a while – it makes for an awesome yoga room.  Minimal design to the max!)

The street is phenomenal. The neighbors are ridiculously nice. Our next door neighbor said “It’s like a mature college dorm, without the shared bathrooms.” And it really is. Everyone knows everyone. Kids play in the street after work. People hangout their second story windows to chat. Neighbors drink wine on their stoops on Friday nights. It’s what city living is supposed to be about. All the neighbors say the same thing, “You’ve bought on the best block in Philly.”

And most importantly – I’m doing OK without my in-the-ground-garden. We get full sun to our kitchen window, so I have a herb garden growing right on the window sill. (And I’ve used it heaps!) Our tiny alley gets full sun, so I’ve converted an old birdhouse I made with my dad when I was a kid into a petunia basket to hang on the fence. (I love petunias. Yes, they’re everywhere, but they’re so damn cheery!) Our front stoop has been adorned with potted plants. (Once we start to build our finances back up, we hope to put in a more permanent, raised flower bed.)

Another fantastic aspect of this house is that my indoor garden will thrive. In our old apartment we had one tiny window that received sun. I crammed as many houseplants in that window as humanly possible. My friends used to say it looked like a mini-jungle. Now I have a few large windows that get baked with sunlight. My houseplant space has quadrupled. (I’m also going to start making use of indoor hanging houseplants. More on that later.)

The roof deck is blasted by the sun all day.


Spanish Gardening (Google / Round Town News)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Spanish Gardening – Hints & Tips
Written by Clodagh & Dick Handscombe



e read recently in the UK press that the Scout movement has updated it’s range of achievement/skill badges by introducing new ones related to 21st century skills such as karting, quadbiking, parascending and thankfully one related to healthy eating and what we assume is still the motto of the scout movement ‘Be Prepared’. However the listed essential tasks for the latter included making a fruit salad, two different sandwiches, making an omelette and homemade meat balls, listing some unhealthy foods but not – but may have been omitted in the article – experiencing the growing of some organically grown vegetables or fruit and then preparing a meal with them. And how easy their growing would be in a large container even for the Beaver Scouts living in apartments. Un fortunately today’s ethos is too often don’t get your hands dirty. When we suggested during a talk on growing vegetables to the Agronomist students at the Polytechnic University in Valencia that they grow some vegetables in containers on their apartment terraces for healthy eating during their four course  professors informed us that they were educating agronomists who would work in agricultural/food  laboratories or as quality control advisers and not training agriculturalists. Likewise many articles in the newspapers and magazines comment on the need to eat healthier fresh chemical free vegetables and fruit but fail to suggest that one grows ones own. Continue reading Spanish Gardening (Google / Round Town News)

Vegetable garden in pots (Google / Chicago Tribune)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening,1,4081972.story

Vegetable garden in pots: How to get started

|Special to the Tribune