Here at Gumtree, we’re always interested in ways to save money and be healthy at the same time. Currently we’re discussing sustainable food, and today we’ll talk about growing our food in potted soil. If you’re interested in sustainable food, check out our post on Growing Sustainable Food in Containers, or just read on!
Potted plants are an excellent way to improve the appearance and air quality of any interior space. They’re also a really easy and low-cost way to grow fruit, veg, and herbs, indoors and outdoors. Self-contained growing containers, especially of modular design, are great ways to take advantage of vertical space, even in areas like a small balcony. But don’t discount the utility of potted plants even if you have a large garden with good soil; the ability to relocate exotic plants to preserve them during inclement weather or seasons really expands the range of what you can grow.
The first consideration is what kind of pot to use. Generally, you’ll want a pot with good drainage (many small holes) and a lipped saucer to retain excess water. Pots can be made of almost any material, although with inexpensive plastic pots, it’s best to choose darker colours, as these are better for blocking light and roots love it dark.
For use under a roof, pots with hooks are great to hang from rafters or any other convenient point. Bear in mind, you’ll need to select plants that tolerate shade. Root and fruit edibles will generally want plentiful sun, but herbs and other leafy plants will generally do fine given a few hours of sunlight a day. If your interior space is fully shaded, you should consider spearmint, parsley, and chives – or supplemental lighting. A fluorescent tube, compact fluorescent bulb, or (on the more expensive side) LED lighting will enable you to grow even the most light-hungry plant. Vibrant plants below tasteful lighting can create some very inspirational interiors.
Finally, the watering of your “hanging gardens” can literally be a stretch, but the good news is shaded plants will require far less frequent watering.
Along a windowsill is another good spot to grow potted plants. Aromatic plants for the bathroom and ornamental plants and flowers for bedrooms and living rooms are especially good choices here. For the kitchen, potted herbs and fast-growing edibles like wheatgrass are easy and cheap ways to enhance the flavour, freshness, and nutrition of your meals.
Larger indoor potted plants are worth a mention. There are plenty of attractive plants to improve the look of your home, but for air quality, you can’t beat a rubber plant. They have a proven ability to remove toxins and harmful bacteria from the air you and your family breathe. English ivy and the unfortunately named but very pleasant snake and spider plants are also good choices.
On a stoop or balcony, what work very well are growing vining edibles (like beans, peas, mint, and strawberries) from a pot and either up or down a trellis. You can also purchase a modular set of cascading pots, or hook hanging pots from a series of horizontal rods, to create a “wall of green.” Placing vertically stacked potted plants in vertical order of soil (from sandy to loam to clay) and leaving the lids off the bottom of the pots creates a simple, work-saving, “drip- through irrigation” system.
In a garden, place pots to take advantage of sunny spots that lack suitable soil or to grow plants you can easily move around. Large pots can be good for growing smaller trees in areas where spreading roots could cause problems – paved areas and near water lines, for example. You can use large, heavy stone pots to block off areas you don’t want people to park in or drive through.
Wherever you intend to grow your potted plants, if you keep many in a single location, it’s well worth considering an automated watering system. These are especially helpful if you’re often away from home (or forgetful) and thus unable to water your plants regularly. These systems are also useful for watering plants hung in inaccessible areas.
Finally, a word on soil: Different plants will prefer different soil consistencies and pH and nutrient levels, so be sure to make up your soils accordingly. If you’d like to save money on expensive potting mixes or additional fertilizers and amendments, why not start a compost bin or worm farm to produce your own rich soil?