It’s planting season for fire escape gardens here in Brooklyn, and I spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon elbow-deep in dirt. Here’s a little tour of this year’s crop, plus my five must-do tips for growing a successful container garden, no matter where you live!
Select container-friendly plants that are right for your climate and light level. I get strong light from the north at the beginning of the day, and I’ve had especially good luck with hot peppers, strawberries, nasturtiums, and mint. If you’re new to gardening, the plant tag or seed packet will tell you when to plant and how much sunlight is needed.
Ready to get started? TLC has a great list of fruits and vegetables that thrive in pots here.
To avoid having to re-pot plants mid-season, make sure you buy containers that are large enough and deep enough to accommodate the root system of your full-grown plant. If you’re planning to put more than one plant in the same container, make sure there’s room enough for both to grow. If you don’t, there’s a good chance that neither plant will thrive. (I’ve definitely been guilty of over-crowding in the past—just ask me how much I hate to thin seedlings—so I’ve learned the hard way that squished plants mean sad, small plants.)
Make sure you check the plant tag or the back of the seed packet to see how deep the dirt should be and how far apart each plant should be spaced.
No matter how big that hole in the bottom of your pot is, add a drainage layer to the bottom of your pot before adding soil and plants. Plants without good drainage can’t thrive, and the roots might even rot.
Think of this tip as a really good excuse to take a hammer to some of your old cracked and chipped pots. It’s fun, it relieves stress, and it makes your plants happy!
Water your plants regularly—especially when the temperature rises—and use a fertilizer that promotes growth and supports flower and fruit health.
If you’re planting an edible garden, don’t skip this step! Since you’re already going to all this trouble, you want to give your plants every opportunity to thrive and produce a healthy, tasty crop, right? I generally use a seaweed-based fertilizer, but you can find a good list of other options over at Life on the Balcony. (See my strawberry flower up there? It loves seaweed!)
Please note that the seaweed fertilizer link provided above is an affiliate link, and I will be compensated if you choose to make a purchase after clicking through.
I don’t use pesticides, so I rely heavily on the benefits of companion planting. Companion planting can help your garden in several ways, including improving soil nutrition, boosting the immune systems of other plants, providing natural pest control, and enhancing flavor.
On my fire escape, I’ve combined the following: basil and tomatoes (flavor), strawberry and thyme (pest control), dill and cilantro (pest control), and oregano and hot peppers (pest control, flavor)
Golden Harvest Organics has one of the most thorough companion planting lists that I’ve found yet. There’s also a helpful chart on Wikipedia.
That’s it for my garden! What’re your go-to gardening tips?