By Vina Medenilla

If you are a newbie in gardening and do not have the luxury of space to plant in the ground, container gardening would be a good start. This will enable you to save space and decorate your place, may it be indoors or outdoors.

Chef and urban gardener Abby Yu is a gardener who mostly uses containers when planting in her garden.

She plants in pots, old water gallons, and food-safe glue containers from her father’s factory. Crops that she usually grows are corn, radish, lettuce, eggplants, okra, tomato, mango, and various citruses. Since her parents have been avid gardeners for a long time, Yu said, “It was a fast learning curve for me, considering their strong influence.” When it comes to container gardening, here is what Yu has to say:

Containers

If you plant in ceramic or clay pots, though they may be heavy and bulky, it is good for the plants because it enables the roots to grow very well. Plastic containers can result in a proper rooting system as well.

When reusing containers, you must know what they previously contained because chemicals present in the containers might be carried over to the plants. This may cause harm to your plants and to the food that it will produce.

Fertilizer

Yu uses vermicast as fertilizer. Her mother also uses fermented fertilizers like FPJ (fermented plant juice), FAA (fish amino acid), and PSB (photosynthesis bacteria). Yu said that they use fertilizers depending on each plant’s needs. With a few ingredients at home, you can make fertilizers for your plants as well. You can easily learn how to do them by getting ideas from the internet, she added.

Crops

For newbies, she recommends eggplants as they are forgiving and they yield crops fast. Citrus fruit trees are also easy to care for, especially if your garden has proper light conditions.

Abby Yu’s herb collection planted in containers.

Plant care and maintenance tips

The challenge in container gardening is that the plants don’t really get a lot of nutrients from the soil. To provide them enough nutrients, you must constantly add soil or compost and fertilizer so they can sustain themselves. “Invest some time in learning how to make your own fertilizer, so that you know it’s natural and you won’t have any fears of unhealthy chemical intake,” Yu added.

In terms of watering, Yu said that there are no general rules for watering because each plant is different, so better research each plant’s needs before buying. Through this, you will also know if the plant you’re getting will thrive in the local climate and the conditions of your garden.

To prevent major damage caused by pests, keep an eye out for early signs of pest attacks like leaf spots or changes in leaf color. There are also many natural insect repellants online that are suitable for plants as well. By the use of the internet, you may also join online gardening communities that can help you answer your gardening questions, Yu said.

Lastly, if you consider container gardening as a beginner, pots and soil are crucial. Your chosen plants may be easier to maintain, especially in containers, but an appropriate size of the pot with good soil mix matters because this will allow the plants to have proper growth and rooting systems.

Photo courtesy of Abby Yu.

This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May to June 2020 issue.