You’re at home, the city is quiet in the morning and you’re looking out over your beautiful view of the cityscape. Is it green? Do you want it to be?
Recently I was asked to clarify a few rumors about balcony gardens and it turned into our next green tip: Gardening in the City.
First off, gardening, no matter how you do it, is ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA (unless you’re gardening people in some sort of futuristic slavery-agro-compound, that’s no good). But, there are certain methods you can use in order to garden a little more energy and water efficiently.
=== Plant Choice ===
Try to choose plants that use less water and require little maintenance (usually one comes with the other). How do you know which ones to choose? Generally water efficient plants have one or more of the following:
little fuzzy hairs on their leaves
succulent leaves (makes it look like it’s made from plastic, great for keeping water inside)
white, or lighter colouring in the leaves and stem
are perennial (come back every year) NOT annual (annuals die off every year)
have deep root systems made for looking for water in the ground
=== Watering Schedule ===
You can usually tell with most plants, when they need water. The leaves start to droop. This does not mean it’s already too late; it’s just your plant’s way of conserving energy. It’s a good thing! But, you shouldn’t let them droop too long or your plants won’t be healthy.
Remember, you can also teach your plants to need less water. When you first plant them, give them lots of water to make sure they set healthy roots, then start to water less frequently. At first, maybe 3-5 times a week, then back it off to 2-3 times a week and finally down to 1 time a week. Most plants should be able to live comfortably on 1 (deep) watering each week. If it can’t, then it’s made for a very water loving environment.
=== Soil ===
The question that gave rise to this Green Tip was “is it true putting coffee grinds in your pots helps?” The answer is, it only helps if you’re gardening in a real garden, not potted plants. In its normal environment (ahem, nature) plants have little creatures in the soil that eat fallen leaves and help make new soil to give plants more energy. Potted plants don’t have these creatures, but they still need more energy than just water can provide.
The first solution people think of is fertilizer…STOP THERE. Fertilizer is NOT NECESSARY. Fertilizer as you probably know comes from fossil fuels and requires a lot more energy to produce.
Instead, just change the soil in your pots now and again. A bag of soil half the size of you only costs $100NT and it’s much healthier for your plants, too. Watch the soil to see when it looks like it’s turning to dust on top. Rich, dark black soil is what you want. The closer it gets to sandy texture and colour, the sooner you should change the soil. You’ll know when it’s really needed if you plants start to look unhealthy, no matter how much water you give them.
=== Blankets of Love and Mulch ===
Soil, in the really real world, is almost never exposed directly to the sun, there’s always something on top of it. Think about it, you walk in a forest; there are leaves everywhere and a canopy to cover it. Open fields have thick grasses, which shade the soil. There’s good reason for this: evaporation. If you want to keep water in the soil and not flying off into the sunset, cover your soil with something. Some suggestions are:
Pretty white or coloured rocks
Old clothes or dish towels
Anything that lets air in and out is good as long as you can pour water through it into the soil. Experiment a little and watch your plants to make sure they’re comfortable.
Gardening is one of the best ways to connect yourself to nature, which we find way outside our huge, Taiwanese city.