In November last year, a retired South Africa policeman made headlines when he decided to plant a vegetable garden on his pavement to feed the hungry. It all started when Johan Scott’s cauliflower was stolen. Instead of getting tough, he gave back and planted an even bigger vegetable patch on his pavement so that more of his neighbours could access food.
High-density living means that there is less space available on which to grow vegetables, but many different types of vegetables can thrive indoors in a simple container or planter box. Here are some tips:
Get the size right
The key to container planting is to make sure that they’re deep enough for the type of plants you want to grow. Yoghurt cups up to 20cm deep are good for lettuce, cherry tomatoes and round carrots. Deeper pots of up to 40cm are ideal for Swiss chard, chillies and strawberries and pots even deeper (50cm – 70cm) are good for growing peas, beans, squash, tomatoes, broccoli and cucumbers.
Before you add soil, make sure that there are holes in the bottom of the tubs you use so they can drain well. It’s a good idea to lift your containers up on blocks (just make sure they don’t drain onto a wooden floor or carpet underneath).
Find a sunny spot
Root-based plants such as carrots or leafy plants (like chard) can grow in partial shade. But plants that grow fruit (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers) need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight a day, with 10 hours being the ideal. Also, watch out for the wind. Find a sheltered place for your plants.
Potatoes grow really well in old tyres. To start, choose a sunny spot on your balcony and then stack 2 old tyres on top of each another and half fill them with compost mixed with dirt. Plant 4 – 5 potato seeds in the soil with their “eyes” facing upwards. Then, once the young plants break through the surface of the soil, add another tyre and more soil to support these growing vines. Some people stack as many as 6 tyres high. Remember not to cover the vine with soil completely – always leave a few leaves sticking out. The potatoes grow under the sand, so as soon as the vine starts to brown and die back, you will know its time to dig up and eat the potatoes.