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Organically Grown for City Dwellers: Container Gardens

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For city dwellers who wish to grow their own organic vegetables, it can easily be achieved with a container garden.

Place the container on a rooftop, fire escape, front stoop, back stoop, balcony or patio. Since containers are portable, they can be turned to face the sun, brought indoors during a threatening storm, or even take along on a vacation.

Even the most ordinary container garden is stop-and-look handsome and who doesn't like to say to friends and family members, "Come and see what I'm growing." And of course there is something special about treating oneself to a homegrown vegetable full of flavor. Come winter, it's hard to go back to store bought produce.

So here are some tips on choosing containers and which vegetables to grow.

Container-grown vegetables dry out in a wink because their root systems are confined to a limited amount of soil. So sometimes they require watering more than once a day. Repeated watering will both compact the soil damaging its root structure, and wash away nutrients, robbing the plants of the food they need to flourish.

What you need to do:
Feed once a week. Add potting soil when needed.

Container-grown vegetables are well worth the effort as long as some forethought goes into selecting the plants and pots, and the maintenance is unfailing. The most successful plants have modest root systems, such as, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, herbs and cherry tomatoes.

There are some special things to consider in container gardening, particularly the pots themselves and the relation to the plants grown in them. Container-grown vegetables kept outdoors drain so quickly that a larger pot is an advantage. You can use any type of container or repurposed container: wooden crates, tin cans, clay tubs, window boxes, bowls, buckets, plastic or whatever you might have in your apartment.

Clay, although, attractive isn't the best choice for outdoor container gardening: they're heavy, which is an advantage in the wind, but if they tip over, they shatter. More significantly, clay breathes moisture through their porous sides, making watering a constant chore. So if you're going away for a summer weekend, be sure to have a neighbor water for you. Plastic and metal pots are less beautiful, but don't dry out as quickly and are lighter in weight. Regardless of the type of container chosen, they all need drainage holes. They also need super soil with added nutrients. Group pots together so while they are in direct sunlight, the foliage from each pot will shade one another. (Sometimes the soil becomes too hot for healthy plants.)

Lastly, the three most important things to keep in mind with container gardens is a constant eye and watering is critical. Water whenever the soil is dry. The only other chore is fertilizing. In addition to a slow-release fertilizer, feed once a week.

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