Growing environmental awareness has turned interest in urban gardens into a collective phenomenon. But the unstoppable conquest of balconies and terraces faces an obvious difficulty: a horticultural community that is new to this. As newcomers to the world of cultivation, we make rookie mistakes. Having a small but healthy garden is much more than watering and harvesting, there are several factors that we must take into account and they will determine the success of the harvest. Small space grow experts are the best possible source of knowledge and experience to identify what these most common pitfalls are and how to get around them, so you don’t pay the hazing.
1 . Choosing a bad location
It is very exciting to come home with a new plant in your hands, but when placing it in a pot or planter, the question of where to put it immediately arises. Perhaps a balcony, a window or a point in the garden or on the terrace, some place where it receives the sunlight it needs to carry out photosynthesis. So far, all good. The mistake is to place the plant at one point in the house without thinking about its light needs.
“How many hours of sun does your balcony enjoy? What orientation is it? Spring and summer plants, nightshades such as tomatoes and peppers, need at least six hours a day”, is what Lucía Frere, co-founder of cultivando.es, explains with Irene Galicia, to new clients who want to start their garden. urban. The general advice is to avoid the north orientation and ideally look for the southwest. Although you have to be alert to the high summer temperatures, because an excess of sunlight and heat can affect the plants.
He youtuber Kevin Espiritu updates his channel, Epic Gardening, with gardening tips from her backyard in San Diego, California. He gives a clue, as simple as it is fundamental, to find the best location: observe. Pay attention to the path that sunlight traces on the surfaces of the house or garden to find the key.
2. Each floor, its space
It is normal to want to take advantage of the pots or planters that are already at home, but the size of each one must be taken into account. There are plants, like lettuce, that grow in small spaces, and others, like zucchini, that need tens of liters of substrate to bear fruit. “What fails the most is not providing each plant with the volume it needs,” says Ester Casanovas, author of city gardeners (Invisible Editions), a small manual that has helped many urban upstarts in their balcony crops. “You cannot put two tomato plants in a single planter,” Lucía Frere usually clarifies to her clients. The moral is that, before deciding to plant or sow a specific species, you have to check how many liters of substrate will be needed for it to fully develop.
3. Plant out of season
Another very common mistake resulting from a lack of planning is planting vegetables out of season. With a simple search on-line you can find tables and graphs illustrating the planting months of each plant. It is not possible to harvest many tomatoes in winter, it is a summer fruit, so the ideal is to sow them in early spring, well in advance.
However, there are plants that can be sown and harvested throughout the year. For example, those whose leaves are eaten, such as lettuce or arugula, or some root fruits such as carrots and radishes.
4. Do not fill the containers with substrate to the maximum
It is not uncommon to be stingy with the substrate. The general tendency is to leave several centimeters between the surface of the soil and the edge of the container. It is one of the errors that Casanovas cites in his book. “Fill the containers to the top and leave only an inch free so the water doesn’t overflow when watering,” he recommends.
5. Planting too many seeds with no distance between them
This is a stumble typical of the most pessimistic beginners. To multiply the chances that the seeds will sprout, the impulse is to sow a lot in a small space, leaving no gap. Then they sprout more than expected and start to grow wildly. To avoid this, it is best to deposit very few seeds in each hole, distancing them. One plant may need more margin than another. When the substrate is moist it is easier to control where to place them.
Only compatible plants should be placed in the same container. Some combinations are beneficial; others, no. Lucía Frere, from Cultivando, launches ideas. “There are plants that compete for the same nutrients, especially if they are from the same family,” she explains. “It is also not convenient to plant peas and garlic, or two nightshades together, but you can combine tomatoes with garlic, or leeks and carrots, which mutually repel pests.”
This error comes from the desire to sow only things to eat. Not everything in the garden has to be for human consumption, it is advisable to incorporate flowers into the garden. “The world of flowers is always a contribution,” says Frere. “They attract pollinators, scare off pests or attract them to themselves and prevent damage to the fruit.”
6. Take care of all plants in the same way
Not all plants should be watered the same. They have different needs depending on their species, the phase in which they are and the season of the year. Solanaceae are more demanding with water, not only in quantity, but also in consistency. Frere warns against possible failures in drip irrigation systems. You have to be constant in the frequency of irrigation and choose the best time of day, which is usually at dawn or dusk.
This care with irrigation must be extended to light and fertilizer. While tomatoes and peppers need plenty of sun, root vegetables, which often grow in the shade of others, do well with limited exposure. In the same way, the broad bean and the bean will not need too much fertilizer contribution compared to others, such as eggplant or melon.
7. Underestimating compost
Many aspiring horticulturalists do not give importance to this factor, which is, however, fundamental when it comes to providing the plant with nutrients that will help it to flourish and bear fruit. There are different types of fertilizer. Lucía Frere provides very useful advice when it comes to choosing the right one: “The most common ones for the urban garden are worm humus and guano, but it is also very important that the soil with which you start to sow is of good quality and has many nutrients, something that usually fails”.